Cameron's cabinet - spot the difference

by Lynne Miles // 12 May 2010, 10:59

Tags: election, Politics, women's representation

Update: err, oops. I seem to have been writing this at the same time as Jess was writing hers, but she pipped me to the post. Sorry, Jess!

Update #2: (what I think is) the full cabinet has now been announced and it is a sea of white people. The single minority representative is Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, who becomes the first Muslim woman to serve in Cabinet as Conservative Party Chairman. The Cabinet has 4 female representatives out of 23 posts (that's 17%, folks). There's another 6 white men attending cabinet, so the meetings will be 14% female and 3% minority ethnic. For the record, the most recent national population estimates put us at 16% non White British. The full cabinet line up is here.

So women's representation in parliament may have inched up, but so far Cameron's cabinet seems woefully lacking in any diversity whatsoever.

Obviously the situation's moving quickly but, as of Wednesday morning, the posts which have been announced (and they're the most important ones) have gone exclusively to white men. Step forward: Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg; Foreign Secretary William Hague; Chancellor George Osborne (yes, he's taking charge of our recession stricken economy with a degree in history and never having held a proper job); Defense Secretary Liam Fox; Health Secretary Andrew Lansley; Business & Banking Secretary Vince Cable; and Energy & Climate Change Secretary Chris Huhne. At time of writing the BBC also expects David Laws, Danny Alexander and Michael Gove to have some cabinet role yet to be announced.

cabinet.jpg

White men the lot of 'em. All but two of them graduated from Oxbridge, and the majority of them went to private schools. I can see Cameron really meant it when he promised 'change'. Where is Theresa May? Caroline Spelman? Sayeeda Warsi? Are they the ministers who will to 'fall on their swords' to make space for the white men the Lib Dems are putting forward?

Cameron's shadow cabinet was pretty sorely lacking in diversity, but his actual cabinet so far is worse still. I suppose that's not entirely surprising given the profile of the people from each party doing the negotiating (the title of that article says it all). Let's hope that things pick up rapidly as new announcements emerge from No10.

So far, none of the female shadow ministers have been displaced in the announcements but some relatively senior white men have been, and it seems possible there could be some 'bumping down' through the hierarchy of portfolios until the women (including the single Asian member) of the shadow cabinet get bumped into junior ministerial positions.

For a whole host of reasons we should be keeping a beady eye on Cameron's government. This is just the first.

Comments From You

Joanne // Posted 12 May 2010 at 11:46

Ha! I am not the only one who has spotted this. I blogged on this only this morning:

Leaving aside for just a second how we may feel about the merits new Tory/Lib coalition, I just checked out the site above and was dismayed - though not surprised - to find not one single person on the proposed new cabinet who is not a middle-aged white male. Yawn. Sigh. This is so damn boring. Not to mention exclusive, patronising, depressing, and I could go on. I don't know these politicians well enough to judge them and they may well be very good at their jobs, but this cabinet doesn't represent me fully, not to mention all the many other people who look at them and see an old boys' club which they are not - and possibly never have been - members of. Never mind electoral reform, why do I feel like UK politics is stuck in the dark ages? Having attended debates in the European Parliament I am almost embarrassed when I watch our lower house on television. A rowdy rabble of bully boys intent on shouting one another down, possibly in the most insidiously insulting fashion they can find. Thick Nigel Farage and his recent comments to the new EU President. It feels to me that our political traditions, and debating traditions, favour those who have been brought up in the arrogance that they are better than everyone else. So little wonder then, perhaps...

Kez // Posted 12 May 2010 at 12:11

Apparently Theresa May is to be Home Secretary.

Debi Linton // Posted 12 May 2010 at 13:04

The final Great Office of State went to Theresa May, who is combining it with Equality Minister.

THERESA MAY who voted for a reduction in the abortion time limit, for a 'need for father' clause in IVF and against adoption for single woman and gay couples, is to be MINSITER FOR EQUALITY as her part time job after home secretary.

I'd rather another man, if that's who we're getting.

kez // Posted 12 May 2010 at 13:13

She also voted against the repeal of the appalling Section 28 and against gay couples being able to adopt.

Equality, hmm....

JoJo // Posted 12 May 2010 at 13:14

Does anyone know of groups that provide form letters for lobbying MPS on women's rights and so on? I know that Abortion Rights do this but are there any others that might provide me with a place to start writing to my MP? I decided that if I have to deal with a newly elected Tory MP I am going to make my views known to her, so some inspiration would be useful.

sianmarie // Posted 12 May 2010 at 13:19

jojo i think i am going to start one up within BFN.

what i don't get is why they've given theresa may the job of equalities officer and home secretary. well, i do get it. it's to sideline women and equality issues as something not important. as something that doesn't need a lot of importance.

and it's soo stupid! just because she's a woman doesn't mean she cares about equality, as her voting record clearly demonstrates.

Jeff // Posted 12 May 2010 at 13:29

JoJo,

I'm sceptical of the value of the form letters that are put forward by campaigning votes. I'm of the opinion that MP's would probably pay more attention to an individually written letter.

The following website allows you to easily find and contact your MP using your postcode.

http://www.writetothem.com/

Kate // Posted 12 May 2010 at 13:30

JoJo, personalised letters tend to be better than form letters if you're not lobbying for a specific ask. If you want to make your views known just put them down on paper.

Lynne Miles // Posted 12 May 2010 at 13:38

Teresa May presumably gets equalities because she was the shadow minster for women (not sure if that included other elements of equality). And I have to say I'm surprised and disappointed by her voting record. I saw her talk at two hustings on women's issues (the one organised by Eaves early on, and the more recent one by Fawcett/LSE). At both I was fairly impressed by her, for a Tory. That is to say, I disagreed with her a lot, but I thought she sounded smart and thoughtful and like she actually cared about women's issues. How odd to see her record - I find it hard to reconcile with the person I quite warmed to in person.

LonerGrrrl // Posted 12 May 2010 at 17:14

I'm with you Lynne re. Theresa May. I too always got the impression she wasn't 'too-bad-for-a-Tory' but her voting record suggests the opposite. We shall see I guess. I'm really quite ambivalent about how all of this has turned out, it could be a whole lot worse & at least the Libs seem able to stave off the implementation of some of the Tories' more regressive policies. But then we did have Cameron going on about 'responsibility' and 'family' on the steps of 10 Downing Street last night & I didn't like its tone.

Elmo // Posted 12 May 2010 at 19:04

Personally I feel Sayeeda Warsi would do more harm than good in the cabinet.

A homophobic woman who was wheeled out by the conservatives as their token ethnic during the BNP question time, and made the Tories look like the second most hateful party in the room. Still, its like Thatcher I suppose-only the nastiest women seem to be able to get anywhere.

If she was in the Cabinet she'd be representing both women and Asian-British people-and doing it very badly.

Elmo // Posted 12 May 2010 at 19:06

Personally I feel Sayeeda Warsi would do more harm than good in the cabinet.

A homophobic woman who was wheeled out by the conservatives as their token ethnic during the BNP question time, and made the Tories look like the second most hateful party in the room. Still, its like Thatcher I suppose-only the nastiest women seem to be able to get anywhere.

If she was in the Cabinet she'd be representing both women and Asian-British people-and doing it very badly.

Soph M // Posted 12 May 2010 at 19:27

Don't see what everyone's complaining about. 2 female ministers out of 24 is quite close as a proportion to ...er, the majority of the UK population. Makes me even angrier than I was at Simon Schama the other day who, when asked about the lack of women in the election campaign, said, "you don't seriously think that would have affected the result do you?" and sat back in his chair with a smug grin on his face. Where can we emigrate to?

Chris // Posted 13 May 2010 at 01:24

With the deepest recession in 70 years and a massive public debt, George Osborne, who has a degree in history, is in charge of the economy. Meanwhile Dr. Vince Cable, who has a PhD in economics, is in charge of business innovation or something.

sianmarie // Posted 13 May 2010 at 09:20

i just want to cry!

agree about warsi though, elmo, she came across terribly on QT and wouldn't trust her far with supporting women or equality.

and yeah, theresa may. always had a grudging respect for her as a tory who seemed pro woman (for example supporting female short lists) but her voting record is appalling and putting her in charge of equality when she so clearly has voted against equality in the past makes me feel very frightened.

JenniferRuth // Posted 13 May 2010 at 09:36

I think there is value in form letters. I agree that they may not have the same impact as a personalised one but not everyone is articulate or confident enough to write one. A form letter can be adapted and is a great starting point for people who want to say something but don't really know how to get started on a political letter.

Jeff // Posted 13 May 2010 at 09:42

Chris,

Right on. I hate George Osbourne and his uselessness with a passion, he might turn out ok but I know my history degree would be worthless if I tried to run an economy, so I doubt his is any better.

Cable, on the other hand, has been placed in charge of Business and Banks, and certainly knows what he's doing. I honestly think that this may be a case of the Tories asserting their majority in the coalition government by nabbing the Chancellor spot (and, assuming they manage to improve the economy, taking the credit), whilst making sure that the best man for the job, I.E. Cable, is safely parked in the office next door, pulling all the strings.

I'm on my new iPhone // Posted 13 May 2010 at 09:58

The Tories are a load of useless bunions -who are definitely going to be looking to Cable to run everything. They sit round that long table swinging penises like it's suddenly the 1950 again.

Lynne Miles // Posted 13 May 2010 at 10:04

(what I think is) the full cabinet has now been announced and it is a sea of white people. The single minority representative is Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, who becomes the first Muslim woman to serve in Cabinet as Conservative Party Chairman. The Cabinet has 4 female representatives out of 23 posts (that's 17%, folks). There's another 6 white men attending cabinet, so the meetings will be 14% female and 3% minority ethnic. For the record, the most recent national population estimates put us at 16% non White British. The full cabinet line up is here.

Nessum // Posted 13 May 2010 at 12:04

Having followed your election from abroad, I got the distinct impression that the only women in British politics are … the wifes of the party leaders!

And watching the first post-election press conference, I got the distinct impression that the British media too consists of … white males only!

rsnook // Posted 13 May 2010 at 12:23

I'm really surprised that you haven't noticed something else about the cabinet. Go to http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/election_2010/8675705.stm

Read the political biographies and compare those from the men and women. Notice that in most of the female biographies they include some irrelevant personal information. For example, I now know that the Home Secretary (only the second female one in british history, right?) has "an exotic taste in shoes", that Baroness Warsi is married with a young daughter and that in Cheryl Gillan's spare time, "she keeps rare Buff Orpington and Black Rock hybrid hens". None of the male biographies include such twaddle. What suit maker does David Cameron prefer? What does Nick Clegg get up to in his spare time (30 women perhaps)? And note that these biographies are not solely taken from the MPs websites. For example, there is no mention on Theresa May's website that she likes exotic shoes.

So it's not just lack of representation - it's also the way female politicians are being represented. It's the way we are all being represented.

Lynne Miles // Posted 13 May 2010 at 12:27

Yep, you're totally right. Yuk. Treatment of women in politics by the media - be it the politicians themselves or leaders' wives - is v. problematic.

aimee // Posted 13 May 2010 at 14:42

Wow. Looks like four years of backwards progress for women. Great. *sigh

Hazel // Posted 13 May 2010 at 15:30

I have complained to the BBC about their potted biographies and while I haven't had a reply (which is not a surprise) it is worth doing because all comments are logged and senior people read them. If there are enough comments they might get that this sort of unconscious sexist writing is a problem. Well, maybe.

Hazel // Posted 13 May 2010 at 15:33

Stop the Press! re http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/election_2010/8675705.stm

The shoes and the Buff Orpingtons have been removed! And so has the second unnecessary reference to Warsi being a married mother.

Good.

Elmo // Posted 13 May 2010 at 15:47

Well done Hazel!

Lynne Miles // Posted 13 May 2010 at 15:55

Yes, definitely well done Hazel.

You know it occurs to me that we've (I've) been directing all of the wrath at the Tories so far. But none of the people the Lib Dems put forward for their seat were anything other than white males. There are only four women and one Asian person, but they're all from the Tory party. And, of the three parties, the Lib Dems have been the least proactive at getting under-represented groups into Parliament.

Sian // Posted 13 May 2010 at 16:38

Teresa May is just awful and I'm not happy with her being Equalities minister. However, Ruth Kelly was just as awfully homophobic so both parties were pretty dire there.

I am an 'Anything But Tory' voter for loads of reasons but at least Cameron got positive action (with much opposition from his party) to increase the number of Tory women MPs from 6 to 18-they can't immediately enter cabinet as new MPs (credibly) but maybe in a couple of years, if he's as serious as he says he is (and the women MPs prove themselves), he can increase on the 4 that are in.

Plus, although I'd love a more representative Parliament, some of the Labour women were awful awful people when it came to other peoples civil liberties (Smith, Blears, Kelly, Harman..) so there are other things I consider. My own new female MP looks to be blase on human rights (former director of Labour Friends of Israel) so I voted against her for a man.

I'm not holding my breath here though cos the married tax break is just a patronising waste of money and I just hope against hope it isn't a sign of things to come...

Kez // Posted 13 May 2010 at 16:51

As far as I can see, the Lib Dems have very few women with any degree of seniority (Sarah Teather is the only one I can think of, and she's nowhere to be seen in the cabinet) and I don't think they have any black or Asian MPs (the Tories have about 10 out of their 305 seats, Labour has the most).

rsnook // Posted 13 May 2010 at 17:00

Meant to originally put in my post that I did complain to the BBC last night. Perhaps a few more complaints (thanks Hazel!) did the job!!

Lynne Miles // Posted 13 May 2010 at 17:02

The marriage tax break got dropped in the coalition deal, so a ray of sunshine there ...

Kate // Posted 13 May 2010 at 17:10

The Lib Dems have no-ethnic minority MPs and very few women. To their credit they have a unit in the party designed to help push it towards "gender balance" which has identified many of the reasons why they struggle. Some of these are true of all political parties and some are unique to the Lib Dems. I'm not convinced how much buy-in there is from the top though, some of it may stem from a philosophical objection to all-women shortlists etc, but I think a lot is apathy or worse. Sadly I'm not surprised at the dearth of women they've put forward for government so far, this coalition seems to have worked very well for getting a certain clique into power.

Kez // Posted 13 May 2010 at 17:22

Lynne, I don't think it has been dropped. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/8677088.stm (down to the bottom under Families)

Lynne Miles // Posted 13 May 2010 at 18:02

Urgh, yuk, I thought they were saying on Newsnight last night that it had gone. Bad times :/

Jeff // Posted 13 May 2010 at 18:03

Lynn

Hate to ruin your day, but the marriage tax break has not been dropped. It has been agreed that the Lib Dems will abstain from the vote, effectively making Parliament a 590 seat chamber that the Tory's, with their 306 seats, will command a majority in. So that particular issue will in all liklehood still go ahead.

Source;
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/8677088.stm

Scroll to the bottom

Pat // Posted 13 May 2010 at 18:55

I'm not particularly keen on seeing Baroness Warsi in any position of power, considering her views on homosexuality.

A J // Posted 13 May 2010 at 20:36

Lynne, I make the non-white percentage to be 11% in England and Wales, not 16%, from the figures you give. It will be lower than that across the UK, because Scotland and NI have much lower percentages of non-whites than England. And it's worth bearing in mind that a fair proportion of those non-whites will not, in any case, be eligible to be members of the Government, because they are not British citizens. So the final figure may be rather closer to 3% than you would think. While we could definitely do better, fair representation is unlikely to involve quite as many minority representatives as you might initially think.

I'd be interested to know why there are so few Lib Dem women MPs. They don't seem like a party that would deliberately discourage women. Obviously all-women shortlists are an anathema to their values, which I understand (I'm not really a fan anyway, even if they are well-intentioned), but I still struggle to understand why things are so bad there.

The marriage tax break (which to be fair to the Tories, does at least include civil partnerships too), might not have been formally dropped, but I can't honestly see it happening any time soon, given the financial situation, and the agreement that the £10,000 tax-free allowance is to be the priority in terms of tax cuts.

As for Theresa May, well lets judge her by how she does in office - and not *just* on women's issues. Jacqui Smith might have been positive in that one area, but that was sadly massively outweighed by the terrible assault on civil liberties which Labour instigated, and which she was a huge part of.

At the moment I'm still relatively hopeful for the new coalition. The alternatives were probably a lot worse!

Hazel // Posted 13 May 2010 at 21:05

Yes, rsnook, I didn't think I was the only one who complained to the BBC but I am glad we made a difference.

Anna // Posted 13 May 2010 at 23:36

She voted in favour of Section fucking 28. Isn't that enough?

cim // Posted 14 May 2010 at 09:32

A J: "...and it's worth bearing in mind that a fair proportion of those non-whites will not, in any case, be eligible to be members of the Government, because they are not British citizens."

Do also bear in mind, of course, that many of the white people wandering around the UK are also not British citizens. Given that the main source of non-citizen residents for the UK is the mostly-white EU, that will bring the proportions back the other way.

"I'd be interested to know why there are so few Lib Dem women MPs."

Essentially because the way one becomes a Lib Dem MP outside a few safe seats in the South West or Scotland is 12 or more years of solid work at constituency level slowly building up the Lib Dem proportion of the vote over multiple local and general elections. Naturally this incredibly favours the white middle-class non-disabled men who are more likely to have the spare time and energy to devote to it, because the attitude of a lot of the Lib Dems for too long seems to have been "if we don't directly discriminate ourselves, structural privilege and inequality can't get us".

gadgetgal // Posted 14 May 2010 at 16:36

Hi cim - good points on the lack of women LibDem MPs. It occurred to me the other night when I was watching Question Time and they were answering an audience question about why most MPs are white, male and middle-class. The worst response was from Melanie Phillips, who said the reason why was that they keep picking the "wrong" women and people of colour so that puts people off voting for them(!!). But one thing that never seems to get mentioned is the most obvious reason for this - it takes time to become an MP, time where earning money doing anything else is almost impossible. Basically it seems in order to make any real political headway you have to have cash in the bank already to take the time out not working at a salaried job, and most of us would find that impossible without very rich backers. To attend a public school you have to have money, and once you go those people surrounding you will be the ones in the positions to help you gain a political foothold when you leave. So it seems that the ex-Eton boys' club will be carrying on for a long time until their hold over the economy and top positions shifts too!

Michelle // Posted 15 May 2010 at 11:23

Yesterday on the world at one Kirsty Allsopp (from location location location! why is a question in itself) was asked whether it 'matters' that there are not many women in the cabinet. If someone else can also listen to share my anger!
http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00s8k9h
No it doesnt is her answer as 'politics is a mans game' arghhhhh

Karly // Posted 15 May 2010 at 13:03

Yeah Michelle that reaaally annoyed me.

That's the whole reason we *should* have more women in politics, to get of these 'women shouldn't fly/ discuss politics/ operate machines' scarestories.

In other news, isn't it great news there's a new equalities minister in the cabinet from the lib dems? Lynne Featherstone rocks by the look of it - she also plans to get rid of page 3, the big fat elephant in the room IMO as it's been tried to got rid of from as early as the 70s, inside and outside of parliament, as well as within The Sun itself. Why is it still here with so much objection?!

I think she had a point about the 'male and pale' thing. Males were negotiating who should be on the teams, they chose only men...

Kristin // Posted 16 May 2010 at 16:39

Re. the incandescently belligerent Melanie Phillips on last week's Question Time - I will never understand how so many women can be so much more sexist than a lot of men. Can someone please explain all-female shortlists to her ONE MORE TIME! No, Melanie, of course no one wants to be picked for a job just because of their gender. But they also don't want NOT to be picked for a job because of their gender either. It still isn't a level playing field. Can she and others who think like her (or don't think) really not get that?!

And Theresa May as Equality Minister? Bloody hell.

It would be great to get rid of Page 3 and The Sun. But I'd love to see the end of the Daily Mail.

Michelle Gordon // Posted 17 May 2010 at 16:15

Just had my response back from the BBC to my complaint about Kirsty Alsopp. Turns out the producer thinks i (and all of the other people who complained) misunderstood what Kirsty said.
It must be my little lady's brain playing up again......

rsnook // Posted 17 May 2010 at 16:45

Hi Michelle Gordon - how did you complain to the BBC and when did you complain? I sent an email complaint about the BBC online coverage of the cabinent descriptions for women on Thursday (13th) night and still haven't received a response from the BBC.

This question also goes to Hazel who complained about the same issue. Hazel - how did you complain and have you received a response yet? If so, what was it?

The reason why I am asking is that if we knew the most effective way to send in complaints (email, phone, time of day, other factors???), then as a community we could make much more of a difference. On this issue and any other.

Can anyone address this?

Michelle // Posted 17 May 2010 at 17:45

I complained directly via the world at one page 'contact us' on the radio 4 website. I think particulaly for BBC programming they are very good at getting complaints directly to producers of shows, it is then up to the producers directly to respond.

In my experience though sometimes you do not get a response or response times can vary quite a lot.

Harry // Posted 17 May 2010 at 18:18

I was once told that the process for complaints in the BBC is that they are compiled and on a weekly basis (so keep your complaint short as it will be edited down to the salient points and entered into a database)and then circulated to ALL BBC producers. As such, even though you may complain about sexism on a specific programme, all producers get to see this complaint so it's well worth doing!

Hazel // Posted 17 May 2010 at 22:51

At the bottom of the BBC News front page there is a Contact Us link which takes you to the NewsWatch page. I then chose Website and then made a general complaint (http://news.bbc.co.uk/newswatch/ukfs/hi/feedback/). These types of complaints tend not to get a reply.

However, if you definitely want a reply you have to make a more formal complaint via the BBC Complaints website (http://www.bbc.co.uk/complaints/homepage/).

Harry is right. All complaints (via telephone, letter and e-mail) are logged and circulated to all BBC management.

LibDemActivist // Posted 30 May 2010 at 13:18

Scarcity of women & ethnic minority LibDem MP's is not for want of trying. Equality is in the preamble to their constitution.The SDP & then LD were the first parties to require both sexes to be in first 2 positions on PPC short-lists. We've had an ethnic minority Party President. A third party has plenty of obstacles without adding foreign names, etc., in a very nationalistic macho nation. Sadly, our female MP's have a higher re-election failure rate (latest, very good MP, Susan Kramer) for unclear reasons (too much time helping other constituencies, or whatever?).

cim // Posted 31 May 2010 at 11:21

Equality is in the preamble to [the Lib Dem] constitution.

There seems to be a belief among the party that "if we don't directly discriminate, then structural inequality won't cause a problem".

While there are those fine words in the preamble, actually putting them into practice seems very optional for the party.

A third party has plenty of obstacles without adding foreign names, etc.

Case in point. The preamble says that they're supposed to "oppose all forms of entrenched privilege and inequality" not "accept its existence and perpetuate it".

The Lib Dems can say what they like, and they have some excellent pro-equality policies on paper (and some that are the opposite), but I've never been convinced that their hearts are really with it.

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