Cabinet so far, so white, so male

// 12 May 2010

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UPDATE: Theresa May named as Home Secretary… and Minister for Women & Equality (@newsaboutwomen quips “I wonder why she’s expected to do two jobs? Is she going to be Minister for Women in her spare time, when she’s not Home Sec”). Also see May’s abysmal voting record.

boysown.gifDavid Cameron is beginning to name the Cabinet for the Tory-Lib Dem coalition. Thus far, only white men have been named to any of the posts. And the BBC’s list of ‘others expected’ to make it into the Cabinet are similarly white and male.

There are still some posts to be announced, but it’s not looking good so far. The inclusion of the lefty Lib Dems in the coalition is not going to make much of a difference on this score, given their own lack of women in senior ranks.

As the Centre for Women & Democracy just tweeted:

Women in European cabinets: Spain 53%, Germany 37%, France 33%, Neth 33%, Italy 27%, Greece 26%, Belgium 23%, Portugal 13%, UK so far 0%

Since Gordon Brown’s resignation, all the contenders for Labour party leader also seem to be … wait for it… white and male (Harriet Harman has ruled herself out of the race).

The overall representation of women increased, but slightly this election. The Conservative party saw Helen Grant elected, the party’s first Black woman MP.

Shabana Mahmood (Labour) and Yasmin Quresh (also Labour) became the first Muslim women MPs.

Meanwhile, “one in eight new MPs in the class of 2010 have a background as a private sector consultant”, the Guardian reports. Among the Tory MPs, 3% has a background in education, compared to 22% in business. “More than half (54%) of elected Tories in 2010 attended fee-paying schools, compared with 40% of the Lib Dems and 15% of Labour.”

When it comes to policy, on the ridiculous ‘marriage tax break’, the BBC reports:

The Conservatives will recognise marriage in the tax system, but Lib Dems will abstain in Commons vote

On spending cuts:

There will be a “significant acceleration” of efforts to reduce the budget deficit – including £6bn of spending reductions this year. An emergency Budget will take place within 50 days

Comments From You

Hannah // Posted 12 May 2010 at 12:07 pm

Re: the newsaboutwomen comment on Theresa May taking on two jobs, I think the criticism is kind of unwarranted since Harriet Harman also had this post at the same time as being Lord Privy Seal and Leader of the Commons. Not that there aren’t plenty of other reasons to criticise the Tory-Lib Dem cabinet.

Kate // Posted 12 May 2010 at 12:10 pm

It’s encouraging to see May as Home Secretary, hopefully she’ll continue to champion violence against women as a priority. But depressing to see her appointment already being written of as tokenism. (Although I have to agree it is a surprise considering she’s never shadowed the post).

Plus, since when was the workload at one of the “great offices of state” so slack that the holder could take a second job? Is Cameron really saying he has no one else who could be minister for women?

Kez // Posted 12 May 2010 at 12:13 pm

It does seem to suggest that the role of Minister for Women & Equality is regarded as a pretty insignificant one.

Kez // Posted 12 May 2010 at 12:49 pm

Theresa May as Minister for Equality seems ironic given that she has largely voted against gay rights.

Kate // Posted 12 May 2010 at 12:54 pm

Although if May is women and equalities, pinknews has just reminded me that her record on gay rights is pretty poor.

micearenice // Posted 12 May 2010 at 1:08 pm

From the BBC website RE Theresa May: “A passionate moderniser with an exotic taste in shoes”

Vital information about our new Home Secretary and Minister for Women and Equality methinks :(

Lauren // Posted 12 May 2010 at 1:35 pm

I have a strong feeling feminists (and society’s other underdogs) are gonna have more and more reason to be upset. Just the general tone of things – introducing something as controversial as the marriage tax break before even in power… then straight onto a complete male cabinet (how embarrassing for our country).. this from wives being hung up like frilly show puppets during the campaigns.

I’m not surprised no women – the media hounded women out of this election just like it hounded Gordon Brown out -getting everyone up to mumbling ‘broken britain’ like zombies.

It’s the media behind everything make no mistake (a very sexist media) – which the Tories are lapping up.

Kate // Posted 12 May 2010 at 1:57 pm

Lauren I don’t think you can criticise the Tory’s for introducing the idea of the marriage tax break before they were in power. By all means criticise the substance, but as you say its a controversial measure and one that needed to be in a manifesto so people could vote on it. Turns out people weren’t overwhelmingly convinced by it!

Jennifer Drew // Posted 12 May 2010 at 3:16 pm

BBC’s news report concerning Theresa May sets the tone very nicely with regards to equalities. Of course Ms. May’s choice of shoes is a vital piece of information readers need to know.

I’m still waiting to learn what the male cabinet ministers’ tastes are in respect of suits and ties. After all wearing the correct male apparel is most important when undertaking such vital roles, which of course cannot possibly be accorded to mere women!

Hence only one woman so far in male-dominated and male-controlled cabinet. Is feminism really necessary? What a silly question!

Francine Hoenderkamp // Posted 12 May 2010 at 4:01 pm

I can’t wait to ask Theresa May again about banning Page 3, since she categorically stated at the Fawcett debate that she would not be. How can you have such a weighty title when it comes to women’s equality and categorically state there is nothing wrong with Page 3 in society? This will be interesting.

Nadia // Posted 13 May 2010 at 12:11 am

Why has Harriet Harman ruled herself out of the race??? Surely the fact that she has made it to deputy implies that she has her eyes on the no.1 job! Does she not have a responsibility, nay the inclination to put herself forward?

As we have seen the “new” government have no desire to represent the British public by appointing women or people from an ethnic minority. How much longer will we have to wait for there to be any sign of real change, not the “change” that Cameron and his party of white, upper class, all male tory toffs claim they will provide? And can it be believed that the Liberal Democrats are more right wing than they are left?! It seems that anyone for voted for them was being ripped off big time!

I think that Harriet needs to be supported to show her that there is support from the public in her ability to do the job and not allow that pair of dosey Milliband brothers to swabble over it.

It seems like we can’t win: we’ve got Theresa May and before her Maggie Thatcher, two conservatives with right wing views but at least they are women. If this is all we can commend them on then it’s no wonder women don’t have strong female role models and show no inclination to beat the boys at their own game.

Lindsey // Posted 13 May 2010 at 8:37 am


My guess is that Harman sees a reasonable chance that the leadership will change again before the next election, and would rather wait in the hope of running for PM.

sianmarie // Posted 13 May 2010 at 9:27 am

i’m quite a fan of harriet harman and her feminist policies. she’s a woman politician who isn’t afraid to call herself a feminist and her work on sex trafficking and DV has been good. i’m not sure of her voting record beyond other issues so should look it up really but as an outspoken feminist politician i have always respected her.

however i don’t think any other woman in politics (thatcher excluded! and she deserved criticism of her politics) has received more hateful press than harman. criticism of her looks, constant sniggering from the daily mail about calling her ‘harperson’ (guffaw!), quentin letts saying she was ugly (because he truly is the hottie of political journalism?) and the storm that completely erupted when she last year said that women should be better represented was absolutely ludicrious. the only sensible article i could find on that furore was by kira cochrane who pointed out that harman was talking the truth and hadn’t actually said anything controversial.

as i say i don’t know much about her voting record but the bile directed at her surely has not been deserved when as far as i can see she has worked to get equality law through in the face of daily mail opposition and has stood up for women’s representation in a male dominated ruling class.

Jess McCabe // Posted 13 May 2010 at 10:26 am

@sianmarie I agree, although I’d like to see Harriet Harman at least stand, on one level I can see why she might hesitate given the misogyny she has experienced in the press, etc.

Kate // Posted 13 May 2010 at 10:36 am

I’m a massive fan of Harriet but I think she knows she can’t win. Her position as deputy leader owes a lot to second preference voting. Plus I think she knows that she alienates too many people of the type Labour now need to win over. Sad but true.

Personally I’d love to see Yvette Cooper standing, but unfortunately it looks like the old ball and chain called first dips on this one. It did annoy me that Yvette was the only Cabinet member asked not if she’d be standing but would her husband stand.

Lauren // Posted 13 May 2010 at 1:08 pm

I don’t think Harriet Harman could take another brutal disturbing beating by the media in talks of being PM! She was definitely scared as she immediately dismissed the idea. This woman was stabbed a thousand times over by the Daily Mail because she spoke about domestic violence :/ Our backwards country (aka the media) sent her flying.

Labour was scared to do a deal as a ‘loser coalition’ too, because of the media attacking them pre- the election.

I really hoped the new govt would put down laws for a socially responsible media. I think this is the most crucial step in the future of this country as the media alone gets away with evil. Socially accepted bullying on a large and unavoidable scale. It doesn’t look like there’s a chance at all with the tories. I was hoping Lib Dems would put women on a priority list, but with only four in a cabinet of 27 it doesn’t look likely.

I agree with someone else, the constant emphasis on marriage and family when Cameron first became elected as Prime Minister was slightly nauseus. Maybe it’s just me… but I got the feeling with how much marriage was emphasised during debates etc, and his talk of ‘change’ with no substance or stats, … that Cameron was trying to get us to picture the 50s of women in the kitchen, and that was supposed to suffice for the mysterious ‘change’.

I’m probably paranoid but I don’t trust Cameron and the media working together – I think they had talks about how to get women ‘back into the kitchen’. At the end of these five years I wouldn’t be surprised if women ended up either in mental health hospitals with attacks from the media and govt. combined or left the country.

The first sexist law and I well and truly fuck off – basically anywhere but here and Iran.

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