Julia Gillard became our first female Prime Minister barely two months ago and within three weeks announced a federal election. Did her short period in the top job before calling the election contribute to the fall in support for the ALP? Were there lessons to be learnt from the Baroness?
Marian Simms, a political historian was interviewed on RN’s Life Matters 23rd August. Simms has studied the careers of female leaders such as former PM’s Margaret Thatcher and Helen Clark.
Both of these women became leaders of their parties when they were in opposition giving them time to establish themselves within the public gaze. Are there lessons to be learned from ‘the iron lady‘ of British politics- Baroness Thatcher and New Zealand’s Helen Clark.
Margaret Thatcher came to power as a ‘stop gap’ leader of opposition party – it was thought that she would be ‘a quiet mousey thing’ and ‘maleable’. Thatcher used her status as a woman to achieve a level of consensus over many controversial policies. Simms says Thatcher was able to convince the public to ‘take the medicine’ assuring them they would feel better in the morning.
On the subject of authenticity, historian Simms claims that Helen Clark and Margaret Thatcher developed their image over many years- they were unusual women- Clark was accused of having a sham marriage but the electorate soon tired of this and Clark remained a popular and effective leader. During the recent election campaign Gillard flip-flopped over the ‘real Julia’ and her authenticity was lost.