RICH MOTHER OF EIGHT FIGHTS FOR FAMILY
Lady Pakenham tells us why
MANY people dislike the phenomenon of the Woman in Politics. Their J-v-Lreasons may range from steadfast faith in the ancient canon that Woman's place is in the Home to deep disapproval aroused by her single-minded advocacy of equal pay (writes Andrew Boyle).
I thought of this popular fixation the other day when I called on Lady Pakenham, wife of the Minister of Civil Aviation, who is contesting Oxford City under the Labour banner.
Mother of eight children, an obvious home-lover with nearly everything to keep her there, she is now willing to shoulder new commitments which may take
her soon into the noisy heat and merciless glare of the political arena. I naturally wondered why.
"And my conversion to Socialism is neither recent nor simply a pass
ing phase. I was a Labour supporter before my husband, and I stood as Labour candidate in the Tory stronghold of Cheltenham in 1935," she told me.
Lord Pakenham entered the Church before her and the Labour Party after her. She became a Catholic only two years ago. Here was a woman with a rather definite mind of her own.
" My real reason for supporting Labour through thick and thin is a fundamental one," she said. " I have always been materially well-off. but I was not very old before the plight of other people gave me a good deal to think and worry about. Under Tory rule there were social evils which seemed to flourish unchecked.
" I decided that this was not the Party to tackle them. The Labour Movement alone appeared anxious and determined to recognise that every human being is of equal importance and value."
I wanted to know whether she thought that nationalisation, as a prescription, was capable of curing anything. She retorted that too many critics were deliberately confusing means with ends.
" I hate the absurd emphasis that is laid on the word • State ' today,"
she said. "The State is only the servant of the people. It is undertaking new and big responsibilities merely to guarantee that every citizen will benefit.
" I realise that it's going to be hard to substitute the ideal of service for narrower motives; but a beginning could be made by speaking more about the ` people who benefit. and less about the impersonal State."
The greatest merit of the Labour Party. in her opinion, is the swiftness with which they have " faced the certain fact that we are living in a new kind of society. with nroblems that never arose before. The Conservatives are just waking up to the truth."
In Lady Pakenham's eyes — and here she was on sure. home ground —another of Labour's signal triumnhs has been its championship of the family.
" It wasn't the Church which gave me my ideals about family life." she said. " I have been brought up a tremendous believer in the sacredness and dignity of the family as the very root of a healthy, sane society.
" It may sound a little false coming from me—a mother who wants for
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