Last summer, Ken Clarke was caught on camera in the Sky News studio, gossiping about Theresa May. He said May was "good" but "a bloody difficult woman" and too "narrow" and "ignorant" about foreign affairs. His short, sharp assessment was spot on, but incomplete. For Mrs May is also secretive, bull-headed, ambitious, inconsistent and totally ruthless.
Her acolytes and image makers project her as the new Mrs Thatcher, a woman in total command of her brief and cabinet, who is unbeatable – our very own St Georgia.
In Bolton on Wednesday, when launching her election her election campaign, she looked as stylish as ever and had followers faithfully holding mass produced Tory placards. I found it all scary. I find her scary. Behind the woman we see and hear is someone icy, calculating and unyielding.
In the spring of 2010, I chaired a public meeting in Westminster Central Hall to discuss the female vote and women in parliament. It was organised by the gender equality organisation the Fawcett Society, named after the non-militant suffragette Millicent Garett Fawcett, whose statue will be going up in Parliament Square, the first female to be allowed into that space.
Over 900 people turned up to this meeting, many of them enthusiastic young women. Green Party leader Caroline Lucas, Lib Dem's Lynne Featherstone, Labour MP Vera Baird, now the Police and Crime Commissioner in Northumbria, were all on the panel. So was Theresa May, who never got into the subject or the concerns expressed by the audience. She spoke robotically and seemed not to understand anything about gender equality. Or maybe didn't care.
Just go look up her voting record. She voted against the smoking ban, against equality and human rights laws, for the war in Iraq, against the right of EU nationals to remain, for reduced payments to people on benefits, against increasing taxes for the rich.
The way she played Brexit should give us the shivers. Why was she the most invisible Remainer in the Cameron team? Was she a closet Brexiter? Seems so, watching her now bang the drums for hard Brexit. She promised there would be no early election – but now there is.
Yvette Cooper is right to ask how she can ever be trusted. The reasons she gave for this snap decision are disingenuous. Britons, like Turks, are split. They cannot be ordered to come together. May says the election is about unity, but it is not. She is forcing dissenters to fall in line. I knew a chap who worked at the Home Office during Theresa's reign. He moved elsewhere because the department was run like "a military camp". It appears May wants to run the country in this same authoritarian way.
A time will come when people will miss Margaret Thatcher. The brilliant writer Christopher Hitchins found her "surprisingly sexy"; Francois Mitterand said she was beguiling. At the funeral of Labour MP Eric Heffer, Tony Benn saw Thatcher weeping. I can't see Mrs May ever being beguiling or emotional.
We will also miss David Cameron, who, for all his many faults, was an authentic liberal and moderniser. He did get us into the referendum chaos, but he promised Britain would take in more refugees, mostly children, particularly from Syria. Theresa May did not honour any of those pledges. In the Home Office, these humane policies were ignored. Now they are binned. Does this woman have no empathy?
Margaret Thatcher took in boat people from Vietnam; Ted Heath before her sacrificed his career to let in Ugandan Asians who had to flee from Idi Amin's Uganda. The Tories once understood the meaning of refuge. Not any more, not under the captainship of Mrs May and her lieutenants David Davis, Liam Fox et al.
Almost as disgraceful is the expected Tory U-turn on foreign aid to the most deprived humans in the world. In order to win her landslide victory, she will placate the hard right and small Englanders by cutting, perhaps demolishing the aid budget. How they will cheer! Money, they will shout, has been handed out to "bloody foreigners" for too long.
Only it will not go to severely disabled Dorothy down the road who has just had her benefits taken away from her by the Department of Work and Pensions. Nor to those who have to queue up at foodbanks to get basics.
Doom and darkness await us all as under Mrs May as the UK turns ever more right-wing, inward-looking and callous. It will be a challenge for feminists who believe powerful females deserve only accolades. Feminism should be about caring, more ethical leadership. Otherwise what is the point?
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