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Iron Ladies: Why Do Women Vote Tory?

Beatrix Campbell

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Prose: non-fiction, History, Political ideologies

'I'm not a woman. I'm a Conservative.'

Edwina Currie's startling claim is in sharp contrast with another Tory woman's view: she too was a Thatcher supporter but precisely because 'women are stronger than men and have a different approach'. The voices of 'iron ladies' like these ring out everywhere, trenchant, anxious, determined, dutiful. The issues that concern them - sex and morality, law and order, defence, education, the family - are widely thought to unite them. Yet is there a representative Tory women's view

Tracing back to the first women active in party politics, Beatrix Campbell describes how the female members of the Primrose League, established in 1883, canvassed and campaigned so vigorously for their men that they were often thought 'unwomanly'. And through the inter-war years to the present day they've continued to work tirelessly for a party at once dependent on their dedication and support yet resistant to their asserting a clear agenda for themselves within it. Theirs is a state of responsibility without power. It is this issue which lies at the heart of Beatrix Campbell's exploration of Tory Party women - living under a politics of paternalism which appears to give women and their concerns a central place but denies them the possibility of real change.

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