Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Karen Bartlett

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Karen Bartlett

Article excerpt

Byline: By Karen Bartlett

It's a tantalising thought but in a few short days I'll be visiting a country ruled by a woman Prime Minister.

This time I'll be in New Zealand where the New Labourish Helen Clark has just embarked on another term in office. The last time I was in this position it was Margaret Thatcher's tear-stained departure from Downing Street that brought a lump to my throat.

Can it really be 15 years, and why have women been the lesser spotted species of world politics ever since?

It seems like heresy to say it, but I have mixed feelings about Mrs Thatcher. I wish I could hate her with a clear head.

Growing up in the North-East I remember just how much suffering there was in those years. They were not the kindest of times, and compassion definitely did not sit next to Conservative on her agenda.

But the truth is I suffer from more than a touch of the Stalin syndrome when it comes to our former leader.

It's a little bit like the documentary of the small girl who was filmed handing the Soviet dictator a bunch of flowers. Years later she could admit that he was a monster, but like her father at the same time.

It makes no sense, but it probably explains why Mrs Thatcher will never be just Maggie to me.

For those of us who remember no other Prime Minister, waking up one day to find out that she was gone really was like emerging from the end of a dictatorship.

Whether you agreed with her policies was not the point.

She was the woman who ran Britain and the epitome of adolescent rebellion. She was always there to argue with, but as reassuring as a domineering parent who would impose her authority in the end.

In other words, every time she walloped us with her handbag she annoyed me, but made me feel safe. On the day she was kicked out of office I remember being secretly worried that we couldn't carry on without her. …

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