When I was 10 years old, it mattered to me that Britain had a female prime minister. I had no concept of her political affiliations, her party’s policies or any other party’s policies. In 1979 I was blissfully ignorant of all but the fact that was a woman.
Until that time, the only women that I was aware of doing jobs as important or as fun as the jobs I saw men doing were Virginia Wade and the Queen. So it was a seminal moment in my career education: If Margaret Thatcher could be the prime minister, I could be the prime minister.
It was a childish, simplistic and overly optimistic conclusion; but I believed it.
Fast-forward 37 years, and now Britain is to have another female prime minister (, 12 July). She is no more likely to achieve social equality or tackle gender discrimination and sexual violence, hate crime, the refugee crisis, corporate corruption or exploitation of vulnerable workers than her male predecessors.
And since I am no longer 10 and now have a modicum of understanding of political affiliations and party politics (and a hugely expanded list of female role models), does it matter to me whether the prime minister is a man or a woman?
Yes, it matters to me. Women’s progress in politics, like our progress in the judiciary or the boardroom, has been at a snail’s pace. So this is progress, albeit slow and Tory.
(Barrister, specialising in employment and discrimination law), London
• While the comments by Andrea Leadsom linking one’s ability to serve as an effective prime minister to also being a parent undoubtedly generated controversy (, 12 July), they arguably did not bring about debate.
It is the very difference between controversy and debate that underpins the persisting social inequalities for women. Views Not Shoes, run by the Fawcett Society, is one example of a campaign that seeks to address the pervasive ways in which women continue to be shoehorned into certain personas. It highlights how the asking of loaded questions regularly feeds into the primary characterisation of women as caregivers, not to mention an even less satisfactory objectification based on clothing.
The tendency to ask women questions related to the circumstances that surround their roles as political actors rather than ones that directly address their political opinions undermines their legitimacy. The link between the asking of such loaded questions and the exigency for campaigns such as “equal pay for equal work” is painfully clear.
• I wonder if Theresa May realised the sad irony when she announced her agenda and early plans to unite the country (, 12 July). She wants to focus on fighting inequality and injustice and sticking up for workers’ rights. Respect for individual rights and equality in all areas are fundamental principles of the EU. The EU has issued directives (agreed by the UK) to protect people from discrimination, and to support equal pay, workers’ rights and countless other protections that we enjoy today. The EU has helped safeguard our rights in treaties, charters and legislation agreed by the UK and incorporated into UK law. The new Tory agenda is entirely compatible with, and indeed bolstered by, EU membership.
So why is May adamant that leaving the EU must go ahead, instead of at least suggesting that there may be another way forward? At the very least, even if she supports implementing Brexit, why can she not even express some regret and acknowledge how far the EU has supported individual rights and non-discrimination? Where have all our principled and visionary leaders gone?
• Now that Cameron (who started the business for personal party reasons), Farage, Johnson, Gove and Leadsom have all thrown in the towel, evidently reasoning that the problem they started is much too big for them, why is May so certain she must lead us into leaving the EU, which will also break up the United Kingdom and has offered (so far) no benefits whatever?
The EU has repeatedly stated that there is no more bargaining to be done: we leave or stay. Once the party in power – that is, May’s – finds what the terms and consequences are, we must have a new election to vote on this. Till now people voted in ignorance of most of the factors, upon lies and against a hated government rather than for anything specific. It is horrendous that “democracy” should accept this, which is why we delegate to MPs.
• I just need to ask: will you refer to Theresa May’s father’s occupation (, 12 July) as frequently as you did Gordon Brown’s? If so, it will get rather irritating.
• Theresa May’s “genuinely innovative speech” (, 12 July) contained a commitment to . This is very timely, coinciding as it does with the Committee on Climate Change’s warnings that the UK is inadequately prepared for dealing with expected temperature rises, plus the fact that their findings have to be acted upon by law by the UK government in developing its adaptation plan (, 12 July).
Fusing these strands together, then, infrastructural renewal is clearly the key. One proposal that meets Theresa May’s new objectives is that of the of making the UK’s 30 million buildings super-energy-efficient, dramatically reducing energy bills, fuel poverty and greenhouse gas emissions. The housing crisis should be tackled by building affordable, highly insulated new homes, predominantly on brownfield sites. Such a programme would provide jobs and business opportunities in every constituency in the UK and require finance of the order of £50bn a year.
Theresa May’s proposed “project bonds” could, for example, be funded by green quantitative easing (QE). Between 2009 and 2012 the Bank of England e-printed £375bn of QE and as saying that QE could possibly be used to fund such a green approach.
As replaces David Cameron, such an initiative could enable her to truly take on the mantle of leader of the greenest government ever.
Convener, Green New Deal Group
• We have just completed a sequence of three discredited prime ministers, while four of the main leaders of the leave campaigns which achieved a narrow majority in the recent referendum have resigned, also been discredited or worse. We now have an unelected prime minister who has explicitly opposed the view of the referendum majority, but undertakes to honour its view.
Has there ever been a clearer need for a general election? And an equally clear need for a new centrist political grouping to present its case without embellishment, dissimulation or worse? The tired old parties, consumed by internecine struggles, require to be challenged in this way.
Only by a general election can we ensure that the views of the entire country are fairly represented in parliament. This is the guarantee of our parliamentary democracy.
And this time everyone in their right minds will turn out to vote, for better or worse.
• These extraordinary claims stand one against another: the people have spoken; the parliament is sovereign; the government can exercise the royal prerogative freely; the court knows exactly where to find our constitutional rules (, 11 July).
But when the situation is unprecedented, the only constitutional convention applicable is to make it up as we go along. Time for a written constitution.
Dr Kaihsu Tai
• Join the debate – email [email protected]