“To promote a woman to bear rule, superiority, dominion or empire, above any realm, nation, or city, is repugnant to nature; contumely to God, a thing most contrarious to his revealed will and approved ordinance, and finally it is the subversion of good order, of all equity and justice.” These words of John Knox, leader of the protestant reformation in Scotland find, I imagine, little favour outside the realms of those mad mullahs whose idea of settling a problem involves rather more lashing, stoning to death and beheading than is typically considered de rigueur in polite society. Which is why, given the reaction to the Polish Democratic Left Alliance’s (SLD) candidate for the forthcoming presidential election, one might be forgiven for forgetting that Poland has a female prime minister and has had a female head of the National Bank of Poland (NBP), to name but two.
Magdalena Ogórek, who is 35 years old, a historian, and a former soap-opera actress, presented her presidential manifesto on Sunday to a chorus of criticism uniting – something you don’t see often in Poland – all sides in bemoaning her lack of suitability and experience. Well-known journalist and political commentator Tomasz Lis wrote that the candidate (the SLD is the third largest opposition party) had bitten off rather more than she could chew given her lack of political experience.
Ogórek, who holds a doctorate in religious history, began her press conference by saying that she had gained work experience in the offices of both the President and the Prime Minister, and that she had also worked as a consultant for the NBP. However, as Newsweek pointed out, this does not mean she has necessarily gained the political experience needed to occupy that position, although given the mess of which even experienced politicians are capable, this might not be a disqualification after all.
Nothing if not enthusiastic, Ogórek said: “I want to rework the legal code by working with the Presidential Codification committee.” “The committee will have clearly defined tasks. Firstly, the law is to be simple. Secondly, it must be unambiguous. Thirdly, it must be strictly necessary, and fourth it must serve the people.” And why not? As anybody who has had to deal with Polish law for any length of will tell you, these would be welcome improvements, especially the second.
Needless to say, the coalition of the thin-skinned and allied trades were quick to spread peace and goodwill. Feminist activist Agnieszka Grzybek tweeted that this was the campaign of a painted doll and that she does not like women who can be “moved around like an aspidistra”, referring to the Polish practice (not one I have noticed) of decorating interiors with ferns. Which seems a little pulchritudophobic to me, but that’s the irony of militant feminism for you, always judging women by their looks! After all, as I remarked in a different context (The Gravy Train), not only is this not France, nor is it (alas) Italy either. However, I am persuaded: cucumbers beat ferns in the decorative stakes.
Be that as it may, I have no idea whether Magdalena Ogórek’s suitability for the job extends beyond the purely decorative, but there is serious point lurking beneath the surface. And that is that politicians are generally too young these days. First, the young lack the experience and maturity of thought necessary to exercise the degree of judgment necessary to take rational decisions when faced with difficult choices. Which is why high court judges in England must be at least 45 years old and not straight out of training as is the case in much of continental Europe (and it shows).
Second, if you are able to cast aside your cynicism, it was generally the case that folk, certainly in the UK, went into politics with a desire to serve and to do some good. They typically had other interests in life and came into politics towards the end, and not at the beginning of their career, with little thought of further advancement. Today’s “professional” politicians know nothing else beyond the job and all too often see politics as a stepping stone, which could call into question their motives. If, for example, I can move from being a minister to being head of another large international organisation or company at many times the salary, do I take decisions in the best interests of my country or, where there might be a conflict, in that of the organisation (or company) which I expect to join? Am I really serving my country or building up contacts to be exploited later?
But back to the election. It’s not goodbye Mr. President since President Komorowski will win. Which means we shall not be able to test the words of the UK’s first woman M.P. Nancy Astor: “I can conceive of nothing worse than a man-governed world – except a woman-governed world.”