Jo Swinson appointed new Equalities Minister

In an email to party members this evening, Nick Clegg delivered the following news:

Tonight I’ve been hosting a reception to celebrate the Coalition’s commitment to equal marriage, an issue I’m very proud that Liberal Democrats are delivering on in Government.

I was delighted to be joined at the reception by Jo Swinson MP – who I’m pleased to announce is our new Equalities Minister, in addition to her role as Minister for Employment Relations and Consumer Affairs.

This news, I suspect, will be greeted with a very deep sigh of relief by many Lib Dems, not only because it means a Lib Dem will remain in charge of pushing through the coalition’s equalities agenda, but also because that Lib Dem is the highly-regarded Jo Swinson.

On the question of why this appointment was announced a week after the main reshuffle, I’m sure we can all take an educated guess at the answer. I’ll leave you to speculate on that in the comments below…

* Nick Thornsby is Thursday Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs here.

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  • Giles Goodall 11th Sep '12 - 9:01pm

    Great news – this appointment will safeguard the Lib Dems’ strong reputation as defenders of equality and make sure that we follow through on the Coalition’s commitment to equal marriage. Jo’s record on equalities is second to none.

  • Good news…

  • This seriously needs clarification. Presumably when Nick says ‘equalities minister’ he means Parliamentary Under Secretary for Equalities, not actually Minister for Equalities. However there already is a PUS for Equalities, Helen Grant, who replaced Lynn Featherstone. So, since I presume she has not been sacked after a week in the job, are there now two Parliamentary Under Secretaries, and how can this be justified in such a small department with only a single minster?

    I’m sorry, but I’m not at all convinced this news is going to be all it seems. I am however keeping my fingers well and truly crossed for luck.

  • Zoe O'connell 12th Sep '12 - 12:17am

    Whilst welcoming the news, I second Simon’s concerns. It’s definitely positive, proof that if we complain loudly enough there is somebody listening, and Jo is an excellent choice but it’s as yet unclear exactly what post she’ll be taking up.

  • I think we’d all like to know what Nick Thornsby’s “educated guess” about reasons for the late appointment (and the general confusion over the equalities role or roles).

  • James Sandbach 12th Sep '12 - 9:16am

    Pleased for Jo, the party and the equalities agenda – but it does feel as if ‘equalities’ has been stuffed into her job title post resfuffle afterthought to placate libdems, in a rather ‘in the thick of it’ cock-up type way – life imitating art perhaps! The key issue is which Minister does the Government Equalities Office actually report to? And it may not fit well with the rest of Jo’s job at BiS (the overall approach on employment relations for example is to water down the equality act obligations on employers as an example of red-tape). I for one am disappointed by what’s been done on the equalities agenda in Government – the EHRC and the Equalities Act have both been radically defenestrated.

  • Keith Browning 12th Sep '12 - 10:33am

    Seems the LibDems are being fobbed off with the ‘nice to have’ social departments and being gradually excluded from the mainstream parts of government that make a difference to the majority – finance, defence and home office. I didn’t vote LibDem to support minority interests and running a party on that basis has no future.

    Cameron, now under the control of the hard right, is throwing out a few crumbs to his coalition partners but the fillet steak and champagne is going to the nutters who want to concrete over the country and make it one large runway, float Britain off towards New York and then deny this will have any effect on the climate.

    Nick and co – get a grip. You have nothing to lose by being ultra tough and squaring up to the Tories at every opportunity. At present they are walking all over you.

  • Jo now has a lot on her plate, and with Duncan now taking up additional work too they are going to need additional support, both in Westminster and in their constituencies.

  • If I was Labour I would be putting down some PQs on this I suspect that it will be Helen Grant and Maria Miller who will be answering the questions.

    @Simon Beard there isn’t an Equalities Department as such the Minister who has that brief is responsible for co-ordinating those policy areas across government alongside their departmental role. Harriet Harman had the brief while Leader of the House and Terressa May whilst Home Secretary.

  • Paul McKeown 12th Sep '12 - 11:41am

    Great news! Jo Swinson has the very precious ability to put difficult issues into simple language; even Michael White (not an obvious friend of the LDs) praised her recently for this in one of his columns. That ability to communicate should really see this issue pushed through.

  • @Simon you are right, there is no Equalities Department, hence why there is no Secretary of State. However the Minister for Equalities and the Parliamentary Under Secretary do head up the office for Equalities, which is mostly seperate from the Home Office, which is its ‘host department’ so to speak.

    On the other hand wikipedia (at least) says “The Government Equalities Office (GEO) is a United Kingdom government department.” I think it is fair to say that the office is somewhat anomalous in many respects.

  • @Simon Beard the office will now be in Culture with Maria Miller and Helen Grant (although she is shared with Justice) plus presumably Jo Swinson looking in from BIS…

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