Geri Halliwell May Appeal to Six-Year-Old Girls, but That Doesn't Make Her the Right Person to Relaunch the Women's Unit
Riddell, Mary, New Statesman (1996)
The relaunch of the Women's Unit got hijacked by Geri Halliwell. Despite some good initiatives on income, employment and domestic violence, the headline topic was Ginger Spice. In fairness, Halliwell cannot be held responsible. She was not present at the event, having departed to stitch rice sacks, sort out the Balkans, or whatever retired Spice Girls do when they join the UN.
Nor does anyone seem to have asked her whether she was happy to be commandeered as the new government role model for teenage girls, a notion that scandalised the high feminists of the Sun. "Has the world gone mad?" the paper demanded, Teen icons, it decreed, should be barristers or doctors or teachers. Or even, presumably, someone like Baroness Jay, whose sensible ideas had regrettably been eclipsed by a one-time Turkish game-show hostess beloved only of socially repressed six-year-old girls and the Prince of Wales.
Halliwell's conscription therefore remains a mystery. One explanation is that someone at the Women's Unit considers teenage girls - like chimpanzees or bottlenose dolphins - to be divisible into tribal coalitions, each eager to fall in behind Halliwell or other showbusiness pack leaders nominated by the unit.
New tribalism is not confined to youth policy. The Sun, counter-balancing its feminist crusade with some topical gay-bashing, advanced the idea that Britain is being run by a velvet mafia of homosexual "politicians, lawyers, Palace courtiers and TV bigwigs". Evidence of such a cabal is naturally non-existent. Among gays named by the Sun, Nick Brown is not close to Chris Smith. Neither likes Peter Mandelson, whose views on the career-enhancing influence of Matthew Parris are probably on a par with those of Ron Davies on ageing Rastafarians in striped jackets.
The Sun knows this; choosing its text in the knowledge that it would be tut-tutted over and publicised by commentators outraged, as if to order, by the paper's temerity not only in demeaning gays, but also in insinuating the concept of hate implicit in tribalism. Still, however bogus its line on highplaced mafias, the Sun did touch on a half-truth.
Whatever their sexuality, Palace courtiers have emerged - in the lead-up to the Prince of Wales' 50th birthday - as the brand-leaders of new tribalism. …