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Former U.K. Prime Minister Says Electing Women Could Help Combat Wave of Populism

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Electing women could be the answer to rising populism and extremism, former U.K. Prime Minister John Major told a summit of young leaders at the Hague on Thursday.

“Women think about politics in a different way – more pragmatic and more cautious,” he said at the One Young World conference in the Dutch city.

The former Conservative leader, who served as prime minister from 1990 until May 1997, said he believes strong British women are at the front line of many important sectors within the U.K., calling the transformation a “revolution.”

Major, who succeeded the U.K.’s first female prime minister, Margaret Thatcher, said his country is currently on the front lines of the “revolution” in female political leadership.

“In my country, we have the Queen who is, self-evidently, a woman. The prime minister is a woman. The head of the Metropolitan Police is a woman. The commissioner of the London fire brigade is a woman. The first minister of Scotland is a woman. The first minister of Northern Ireland is a woman. That is an enormous sea change over the last 20 years,” he said.

The 2018 One Young World Summit focuses on human rights. The annual meeting aims to bring together almost 2,000 of the brightest young leaders from around the world to discuss pressing global issues.

Aware of his audience, Major also emphasized the power of the “young, single and open-minded.” Major said he felt age brought a degree of selfishness, which he believes to be a natural human trait. He asked young leaders to embrace their selflessness in their youth and seize “the most enormous opportunity to shape the way the whole world actually lives and acts and thinks.”

Major also criticized the U.N.’s current structure. “The five permanent members no longer represent the five most powerful nations in the world, and the permanent members need to change,” he said.

The former leader of the U.K.’s conservative party was interviewed on a panel by four leaders, all awarded the title of Young Politician of the Year. They asked him about U.N.’s sustainable development goals, which he believes “can only be met if the world gets it act together.”

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