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Not a witch, or a dictator, but a PM

19 April 2013

ONLY a woman can be a witch. Wizards are potentially attractive - see Harry Potter, or all those financial ones who are so admired. Lady Thatcher was called a witch before the song from The Wizard of Oz was manipulated into the charts to sour her funeral.

Much of the hatred expressed against Lady Thatcher, both in her lifetime and after her death, comes from pure misogyny. One thinks of Jonathan Miller's judgement on her as odious and repulsive, and (worst of all) suburban, as though this were a crime against humanity. I remember a magazine feature in which some of the great and the good vied with one another to express contempt for her wardrobe, her hair, and her voice.

It was not only misogynist, it was deeply snobbish. The contribu- tors were the predictable opinion-formers; those who naturally disdain the Radio 2 working-class voters whom she had assiduously courted throughout her political career.

Only a woman can be a witch. Politically correct women are not witches. They are consensual; they know where they are to stand; they do not lead from the front; and above all they do not wear hats and dresses; nor do they wield handbags. A man is forgiven, even applauded for being tough-minded. But women are still expected to defer and appease.

In the television archives, there is some footage of Margaret Thatcher in her early days as Secretary of State for Education. She is in a floral-print dress, surrounded by civil servants - grave, suited uncles who clearly believe that they can pull the wool over her eyes. The eyes flash, the voice rises, the body is taut. Eventually, she has her way. The cost was ferocious. Angela Merkel and Hillary Clinton are received more easily, although it has taken time.

When I saw the film The Iron Lady, I found it powerful. But I also thought it outrageous that it should have been shown while she was still alive. As I watched her shopping anxiously, chatting to the dead Denis - always feminine - I realised that no one would have dreamed of making such a film about Harold Wilson or Ronald Reagan, both of whom suffered dementia. The witch must be seen to suffer.

The hatred expressed this week has been a phenomenon that should make us shudder. Lady Thatcher had no magic. She was not a tin-pot dictator. She was a democratically elected Prime Minister; she held office for 11 years; and when her policies became unacceptable, she had to leave office. That's it.

The Revd Angela Tilby is the Diocesan Canon of Christ Church, Oxford, and the Continuing Ministerial Development Adviser for the diocese of Oxford.

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