Saturday, 1 April 2017

Harriet tells it

Here is the short review of Harriet Harman's memoir 'A Woman's Work' I published on goodreads recently.

This is readable and engagingly written, which is more than can be said of all, or even most, political memoirs. It's also less self-serving than most of them are. At times I was a little exasperated that she was so down on herself. Yes, she was sacked from the front bench, but most government ministers get fired in the end, either by the prime minister or by the electorate. She did it all for the cause of women, and has been utterly honest about that throughout, which again is more than can be said for most politicians.  She is of the same generation as me - I am four years younger - and she is a better and more dedicated feminist and politician than I have ever been. Harriet I salute you.

She writes: "the reality is that an MP who gets in with the help of people higher up in the party is not as good an MP as someone who's fought their own way in. You'll never be up to the task of standing up for your constituents if you can't stand on your own two feet to get selected." And on all-woman  shortlists: "it was definitely one of those things when the end justifies the means". In later years, as she herself has aged, she has begun to take up the cause of older women, and notes, interestingly; that "often, as older women, we are invisible even to ourselves". The younger front-bench women are much more noticeable, not just to the media but to their own colleagues, than the older ones even though the younger ones are in a minority.

I would say to any young woman who is considering going into politics, read this book. Harriet Harman was clearly mercilessly and misogynistically bullied throughout her career, and this is quite likely to happen to you too. But Harriet Harman has been instrumental in some of the cultural changes that make life better now for women in politics. We push this boulder up the hill, and at times it falls back on us and threatens to crush us, but with each new heave it gets a little further up that hill.

No one said it would be easy. But it has always been easier for men.

No comments: