Where’s the coalition of the sexes?

With most of the key cabinet posts now announced, and other positions coming at a trickle, the new government so far looks overwhelmingly male.

The exceptions so far are Theresa May (Home Secretary and Minister for Women and Equality) and Baroness Sayeeda Warsi (Conservative Party Chairman). Reports of a role for Caroline Flint are unconfirmed.

There’s been no word yet about any of the talented female Liberal Democrat MPs being offered a role in the new government. However, I can’t help noticing a correlation with the Lib Dem (all male) negotiating team, with all but Andrew Stunell getting cabinet posts.

I dislike tokenism – the best person should have the job. But I’d be surprised if all the male Conservative MPs were better qualified for cabinet posts than all the female MPs, whether Conservative or Liberal Democrat.

The Liberal Democrats now have a smaller pool of women MPs to draw from – we had a net loss of two women MPs. The loss of Susan Kramer is keenly felt, but we still have seven excellent women to choose from.

After all the media focus on the leaders’ wives during the election campaign it would be especially fitting to see elected women making a real difference in government.

As Ceri Goddard, Chief Executive of the Fawcett Society said today:

It’s as though feminism never happened. It seems the default response of politics in political crisis is to revert to type – a men-only zone. This is not only bad for women, it’s bad for everyone as we all lose out and our democracy is just plain flawed without women’s vital contribution.

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  • The appointment of Theresa May is obvious tokenism. She is utterly useless and seems to have survived simply by being one of the only women in the Tory party since 1997. It’s symbolic of the complete lack of talented female politicians in the Tories’ ranks (historically; I hear there are some good ones recently elected) that she was in the shadow cabinet at all. She certainly should not be Home Secretary: there are several people, both Lib Dems and Tories, who are more qualified for that job. Sadly, all men.

    There’s a distinct lack of women available amongst Lib Dem MPs too, of course. And why? Well, it doesn’t help that some of the best ones lost their seats last week – all to the bl**dy Tories who are now your new best friends. It makes me weep.

    A question about one of the Tory women appointed: I’ve asked this elsewhere, but what the hell is the Chairman of the Conservative Party doing sitting in a Coalition cabinet? That is absolutely outrageous, in my view.

    Of course governments of “the two old parties” have usually had a party political person sitting in Cabinet without portfolio, as the “Minister for the Today programme”. But this is the “new politics”. So, can the LDs have a party representative in there too? If not, what is their relationship with Warsi? Are they going to leave the room when she has her say?

    This deal looks less and less good for the LDs the more I hear about it. Less a coalition, more like a takeover. Nick Clegg looks like being the Ramsay MacDonald of the Lib Dems.

  • Looking down the list looks like 4 Conservatives in senior posts (Baroness Warsi as party chairman in addition to 3 cabinet ministers), so 4 out of 19 senior Cons appointments (and one of those is minority too), but 0 out of 5 Lib Dem ones.

  • We’ve still got our ministers of state to come – and I’d be very surprised if Jo Swinson, Sarah Teather and Lynne Featherstone weren’t included in there somewhere.

  • Nick Clegg has reverted to type and committed an act of historic betrayal. No one should be surprised he doesn’t seem remotely bothered to have joined a mostly male, mostly public school, mostly Oxbridge cabinet. I’m sure he loves it – it’s his milieu and you’d better get used to it.

    It’s also academic – progressive voters will NEVER forgive what the leadership have done, and there will be far fewer LibDem MPs of either sex after the next election. It’s a tragedy for our country that Clegg seems to believe his own propaganda. No amount of “new politics” is going to help him at the ballot box now.

  • It saddened me to see so many comments, presumably (perhaps) from supporters or even members of a party who wanted collaborative politics complaining we’ve got it! This isn’t PR but its a simulation, we can’t choose who else is elected.

    The joint policy document seems pretty good to me, not perfect but not awful.

    I say give it a chance and trust Nick.

  • Aren’t Gillan and Spelman women?

    But yes, it is unacceptable how few women are in (a) the Cabinet and (b) the House of Commons.

  • Nick – Progressive voters should be pleased to see the end of imprisonment of children in immigration cases, the cancellation of the third runway at Heathrow, reform of the House of Lords, steps towards fair votes and many of the other liberal policies that Labour failed to deliver and that this government is now committed to.

    Labour lost its claim to be a truly progressive party some time ago. Sadly many of its tribal supporters were so seduced by being in power they didn’t realise its incremental transition into authoritarian centralism.

  • I am sad too that we haven’t got more women on the team. It clearly won’t work to appoint newly elected MPs straight to ministerial posts – will need to give them a chance to find their feet. We urgently need to get more women elected. There were some really disappointing losses, Susan Kramer, Julia Goldsworthy and several near misses, Sal Brinton, Bridget Fox, Sue Doughty, Terrey Teverson. Apart from PR helping, we are going to have to look at positive assistance in the shorter term.

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