I have a sister. Although we have chosen very different paths in life – we have both had successful careers. My sister (and her husband) had a small business in the West End for many years – and I had a small design business and then became a design consultant and then a politician. I know – a bit of a change of direction – but I’d been a campaigner in my students days and then later on got so furious with Haringey Council and the parking havoc they were unnecessarily creating in my road that instead of getting mad – I got even!
Anyway – the point of bringing in my sister and our twin tracks through life – is that I have always thought that it is because neither of us ever experienced comparison with a male sibling that we never considered for a moment that there was any difference or different future because we were girls rather than boys. And because my father died when I was fifteen and my sister was twenty-three – and my mother worked to raise us and keep on what was then a small business – there was never a question about having to work and strive to succeed. Gender was never an issue.
Until I found out whilst still a child – and was utterly outraged – that if Anne had been born before Charles – she would have been shoved out of the way for him to be king. I was incandescent with the unfairness of this.
Finally with the recent meeting of Commonwealth heads – this anachronistic tradition is ended. |Not surprisingly – this change is supported by the overwhelming majority of people in the UK. One of YouGov’s post-Royal Wedding questions was about this and 76% of people thought the rules of accession should be changed, 14% were against and 10% did not know.
Some people argue that this is ‘not important’ as it affects only one family in the land. I beg to differ. It is this fundamental endorsement of inequality at the highest level of our land that has set the tone for discrimination to be acceptable throughout history.
In fact – that legacy of outrage when I found out as a child that girls were not as valued as boys – meant that one of the first things I looked at when I went into politics was the law of accession. At that point it seemed a distant prospect – and I was in no place to push that agenda – having only just joined the LibDems.
But – hey – you never know when opportunity will knock. After three years as an MP Nick Clegg made me Equalities Spokesperson for the Liberal Democrats. It was an issue that I pushed and raised whenever I got a chance. Google my name and male primogeniture and you will see that history. There are several of us MPs over the years (all parties) that have pushed for this change to be made. Last time when I raised it in the Commons – whilst all sides agreed it should be changed – there was still an air of it was all too difficult with the Commonwealth having to agree and of course – there are always ‘more important’ things to be doing in government.
I am delighted that all the pushing from all of us over all these years resulted with David Cameron’s success andthe announcement that when William and Kate have a child – whether it is a boy or a girl – it will be the next monarch.
So given my theory – that subliminally where there are boy and girl siblings there is an undercurrent of differential treatment from the mores of society being based on male primogeniture ……..
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MP for Hornsey and Wood Green.