YASMIN ALIBHAI-BROWN: Rebel women silenced by sexism

PUBLISHED: 01:00 27 July 2018

Former education secretary Justine Greening. Photograph: Ben Birchall/PA Images.

Former education secretary Justine Greening. Photograph: Ben Birchall/PA Images.

PA Wire/PA Images

Sexism is a malevolent force within the Tory Brexit right, says Yasmin Alibhai-Brown.

I am feeling twinges of pity for our beleaguered PM. On Monday, she attempted to present a human face to ‘the people’. She went off to meet workers on the shop floor at a factory in Newcastle. They were free to ask questions. Most were men who sat stony faced with folded arms. She visibly panicked.

In the Home Office, this leaderine was unbendable and ruthless. That old resolve has been weakened lethally by tyrannical Brexiteers in her own party who are mostly men. She has, I believe, been undermined by brazen and insolent sexism.

Christine Ottery from Desmog, a media outlet which corrects misinformation, recently interviewed Eloise Todd, CEO of Best for Britain, the pro-EU campaign group. Todd told the journalist that EU debates had created a “very male orientated space in general… it does feel like there is a gender divide within the high politics like Brexit”. Absolutely.

Funders, lobbyists, backroom movers and shakers, plotters, advisors and spokespeople and most prominent media champions are all men. Men who do not like women opposing their views or slowing down their plans to make Britain a regulation-free profiteers’ paradise.

No one is spared. Journalists, dispassionate researchers, educators, artists, activists must all expect to be viciously punished by the masters of Brexit. When Professor Roberta Guerrina, of the University of Surrey, published a research paper on how Brexit imperils women’s rights, she faced abominable abuse from (ageing) anti-EU Mods. Carole Cadwalladr, who has tirelessly investigated the practices of the Leave campaigns, has to endure hellish, verbal onslaughts.

As dreadfully victimised are rebel women or agnostics within the Tory party. When Justine Greening sensibly suggested a second referendum (mainly because both the government and parliament were in disarray) the Brexit band of bros were furious. They dismissed her as a has-been and also (illogically) accused her of undermining the ‘will of the people’, that tedious anthem they play over and over.

Men who oppose the ‘no-deal’ madmen also get punished. Dominic Grieve described to me recently, the aggression he has had to suffer because he won’t quietly go along with Rees-Mogg and co. But female Tory dissenters are made to suffer far more. Heidi Allen, honourable and highly intelligent, is seen as a witch within. So too Sarah Wollaston, a doctor who started off a Leaver and became a Remainer during the referendum campaign. Brexit Mods went for her. And Nicky Morgan, another female MP who dare to speak her mind and take on no-deal Brexiteers. The most ostracised of them all is Anna Soubry. I hate the Tories, but love this MP. She speaks against Brexit with passion, truth, integrity and a real understanding of what a representative democracy means.

She is far smarter than, say Davis or Fox. Her last speech should go down as one of the greatest in political history. You can see why Tory Brextremists want her gagged.

Sexism is a malevolent force within the Tory, Brexit right. It has humbled May, and is looking to tame other female upstarts.

For the first time ever in my life, I declare my support for these rebel ladies. Sometimes gender matters more than politics.

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