Maria Miller’s appointment: have you forgotten what was said when Theresa May got the role?

Maria Miller’s appointment to, amongst other things, the Women and Equalities brief has received quite a lot of criticism from non-Conservatives today.

One part of that is wrong, but understandable – a simple mistake in not realising that the role she’s taken on isn’t the one Lynne Featherstone had but rather the one Theresa May had. As the BBC got this wrong, it’s no surprise many others followed in also getting it wrong, even though the accurate information is readily accessible in many places such as in Theresa May’s own write-up on the Home Office website. Not double-checking something the BBC reports is understandable (and I certainly don’t always do that!); it’s noticeable how long the erroneous information did the rounds on Twitter however.

Another part is a deeper mistake – and that’s the classic error of not comparing like with like. Judge a new appointee on their past voting record by all means, but it makes sense when doing so to all remember what the past voting record of their predecessor was at the time of appointment too.

Because if you do remember when Theresa May was appointed to the Women and Equalities brief, it was hardly without controversy. Take this from Liberal Conspiracy:

Outrage against Theresa May’s appointment grows
Outrage has been growing online over the appointment of Theresa May as the minister of equality despite her voting record.

All sounds very familiar, doesn’t it? Any sensible discussion wouldn’t therefore put Maria Miller’s voting record in the context of her predecessor’s voting record. Good thing we’re all sensible, isn’t it?

* Mark Pack has written 101 Ways To Win An Election and produces a monthly newsletter about the Liberal Democrats.

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  • Stephen Bradley 4th Sep '12 - 6:48pm

    I think you completely missed the point with this article – this story did the rounds on social media sites because it’s pretty shameful that the government has appointed a minister for “equality” who has voted in this way, clearly showing they don’t believe in the principle of equality. The fact that they’ve done this twice in a row is even more bizarre. Plus the fact that there are two ministers with equality in their title, and many people have got the wrong one doesn’t seem to be relevant! I think this is nothing more than an attempt to divert attention from the appointment itself.

  • Jessica Woolley 4th Sep '12 - 7:09pm

    Erm… I can still think that Maria Miller’s voting record is appalling – ‘putting it in context’ by comparing it with the equally drastic voting record of Theresa May doesn’t nullify this point. Or are you arguing that we shouldn’t complain because all women and equalities ministers are just as bad as each other? Logic like that won’t win many votes.

  • Mark, you’re forgetting that Theresa May publically announced that she had changed her mind about things she had previously voted against (such as gay adoption and the equality act), after she got the position. Assuming that this is unlikely to happen again, people are right to be very concerned.

  • ‘Assuming that this is unlikely to happen again’. It really sounds like you have given this woman a fair chance at expressing her current views Travis. If only you were in charge of equality, you seem like a very careful and balanced individual.

  • Simon Aplin 5th Sep '12 - 11:03am

    Are you trying to suggest that a minister’s voting record being entirely at odds with their posting is negated as a complaint because another minister who has held the position was also demonstrably unsuitable for the role? This sounds like an absurd position to take.

    Rather, you seem to be inadvertently highlighting that appointing demonstrably unsuitable ministers for the Women and Equalities brief is a pattern, which isn’t something to be lauded or a reason to ignore current mistakes.

  • Why do we need to compare Miller to May? You may as well debate the relative merits of suffocation vs drowning.

  • Matthew Wilkinson 5th Sep '12 - 1:01pm

    Ok, there’s no disputing the fact that this factual error has been mad by media outlets. Theresa May was her predecessor. Theresa May had a terrible voting record on these issues. Agreed. The point is that Cameron has not used this reshuffle as an opportunity to put someone more appropriate in the role. In that sense it is a step back: it is a missed opportunity. Frankly, I think the tone of your argument is misguided and pedantic.

  • James Sandbach 5th Sep '12 - 4:14pm

    Having any Minister (tory or lib dem) with a specific equalities brief in the Government seems to be tokenistic – the tories flirted with the equalities agenda in 2006-2009 but now seem to have reverted to quite hostile positions, seeing any anti-discrimination or equalties legislation as burdensome red-tape and attacking any equalities initiatives as ‘political correctness’. Am all for the social mobility agenda that has replaced it, but it is not the same thing. Having said that I really welcome Helen Grant’s appointment to the role – Helen has done fantastic work for domestic violence victims.

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