You Just Don't Have The Presence
by Kate J.

1983. Annie Lennox, Boy George, and Michael Jackson singing about Billy Jean King. It should have been a good year for queers.

Well, AIDS, and so on. Maybe I should have said: it should have been a good year for dykes. Either way, while Annie (well, I've always thought she ought to have been) and Billie Jean might have been having a lovely time, 1983 wasn't a good year for me and Margaret.

Margaret will deny it, of course. She'll deny that that morning after the election was a bad day for her. We'd won! We'd won in style! And she looked me in the eye and said that it was just because Whitelaw needed the job, because he'd been that election's sacrificial lamb. She said it was because I "had turned out not to have the presence to lead the Lords effectively". And it was when those very words turned up in her memoirs that I was finally sure. She'd spent all night turning the phrase over and over in her mind, fine-tuning it to push me as far away as possible.

"Janet, you just don't have the presence."

I was present enough for her for two years. The two of us, twin figureheads for each House of Parliament, together in her study late into the night- she slept for four hours a night. It's famous, how little sleep she needed. Nobody ever asked: what do you do, Margaret, in the watches of the night, when everyone else is asleep? When Downing Street is dark, and you're awake, what do you do?

She did me.

For two years. Until finally, a journalist worked it out. A word in the right ear, at the height of the election campaign. Everyone was in a frenzy, because we were going to win. Margaret and I- well, nobody noticed. Because we were flushed with incipient triumph, weren't we?

On the carpet. A whole different meaning in 1983 than in 1982. I'm up in front of the headmistress, and this time it's not a game.

"You just don't have the presence."

That's when I started to hate queers.


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