A hidden reason for Mrs Thatcher’s victory in 1975 was that lots of older Tory backbenchers fancied her. She was 49 and made the best of it without obvious strain. She was not disturbingly sexy, and she behaved with absolute propriety throughout, thus preventing any filthy old wretch from taking liberties, but she appealed to the chivalrous instincts of the knights of the shires. If today’s Labour selectorate knows the meaning of the word chivalry at all, it is only to denounce it. On the other hand, there is an understanding that no leader — especially, despite the age of equality, a woman — can look grotesque on television and win a general election.
So what are the right looks? Possibly Ms Cooper has them — there is something quite appealing about her slightly French crop and black and white dresses, especially when she is being so boring that one looks rather than listens. But she is so contrived and cautious that there is no touch of appealing vulnerability. Ms Kendall looks like a nice person, but not in a distinctive way. I sense that the right woman leader to win a general election for Labour today would conform to one of two physical types. She would either be a more lower-middle-class version of Clare Balding — reassuring, competent, well-rounded, possibly lesbian — or more provocative and sassy, like the wonderful one with a strong northern accent whose name I have forgotten who talks about money and business on BBC Breakfast. Her feminism would be of the ‘Show, don’t tell’ variety. The public would like that, but of course Labour party members, who make the selection, wouldn’t. They are still so 20th-century that they prefer a man with a dull beard.
This is an extract from Charles Moore’s notes. The full article can be read here.