Why the Spice Girls inviting Theresa May to their reunion show is not girl power

The Spice Girls say its all about people power now. But their endorsement of the prime minister suggests they have really, really, really forgotten their original message

Back in the 90s, we had girl power. In 2019, according to Emma Bunton, we have people power. So she told The Sun earlier this year, when the Spice Girls announced their long-anticipated reunion tour: Were about equality and bringing everyone together. In the same interview, Geri Horner heaped praise on Theresa May, insisting: We dont have to agree on politics You can just support a woman doing the best she can. This week, Horner doubled down on her support of the PM by personally inviting her to the Spice Girls London shows. Downing Street says May is considering the offer.

If youre feeling deja vu, it might be because the first the Spice Girls are Tories! scandal was more than 20 years ago. When the Spectator interviewed the group in 1996, Victoria Beckham came out as a Eurosceptic, saying: The Euro bureaucrats are destroying every bit of national identity (opinions she has since denounced), while Horner, most notoriously, declared Margaret Thatcher the original Spice Girl. Earlier this year, in the Sunday Times, Horner bestowed that mantle on a different figure: Winston Churchill.

Whats disappointing about this is not so much the revelation that a mega-rich star has conservative views (surprise!), but that these views water down a sentiment that felt radical to so many young girls growing up in the 90s. Girl power was such a cultural moment precisely because it wasnt people power. It was specifically about uplifting women not a vague, unthreatening platitude about uplifting everyone.

Horner keeps asking that we put politics aside, and says her invitation to May is a show of support for a woman facing verbal assassination for her job. But it is also a political gesture, and an act of endorsement for a politician whose austerity measures have hit women hardest.

A report by the thinktank Womens Budget Group in 2016 found that women especially low-income women would shoulder 85% of the financial burden of Tory changes to tax and benefits. Thats not to mention the closure of domestic violence refuges under Mays government, nor the fact that, as home secretary, she presided over injustices at the womens immigration removal centre Yarls Wood.

Girl power was never a feminist manifesto, but it was a joyful riposte to the establishment. If people power is about accepting the establishment as it is, the Spice Girls can keep it.

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