Rachel Cunliffe

Politics can be sexist, but Arlene Foster was wrong to play the misogyny card

Let’s say you’re a rising minister put in charge of the department for enterprise. You have the great idea to incentivise businesses to invest in low-carbon energy by offering a subsidy for renewable fuel used. Unfortunately, something goes wrong in the planning or execution of the scheme, with the result that claimants are paid more for low-carbon fuel than the amount the fuel actually cost them. Market forces kick in, businesses use as much fuel as possible to gain the maximum profit, the fancy renewable energy scheme ends up £490 million over budget. The opposition, the media, and most importantly the public are understandably very upset, and call for you to resign. Do you:

A) Apologise profusely, take responsibility, and stand down

B) Find someone else in the department to scapegoat and fire them

C) Accuse your critics of being misogynistic for demanding your resignation

Arlene Foster, the First Minister of Northern Ireland, has gone for option C. In her defence, she has also apologised, and I’m sure her team are searching behind the scenes for someone else to blame as well. But her main response to the suggestion that her mistake disqualifies her for higher office has been to cry sexism. People aren’t furious at her because she oversaw a scheme that paid recipients to waste as much government money as possible heating empty buildings, according to Arlene. No, it’s because she’s Northern Ireland’s first female leader. The whole £490 million debacle is just a smokescreen for misogyny.

Foster’s panicked reaction has got to be one of the most far-fetched, and therefore hilarious, political excuses of recent time. It’s right up there with Nigel Farage blaming

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