Cameron’s pledge on women ministers unlikely to be met
David Cameron seems, in effect, to have ditched his long-held pledge that one third of the members of his government will be women by the end of this parliament. Ministers, government advisers and spokesmen all insist the target still stands, but the striking evidence from this week’s reshuffle suggests that’s ludicrous.
Of the 121 government posts – ministers and whips – just 23 are now held by women. That’s only 19 per cent, well short of the 33 per cent target.
Five women departed in the reshuffle: four Tories – Caroline Spelman, Cheryl Gillan, Angela Watkinson and Baroness Wilcox, and one Liberal Democrat – Sarah Teather.
And eight new women came into the government: six Conservatives – Helen Grant, Esther McVey, Anna Soubry, Elizabeth Truss, Nicky Morgan and Karen Bradley, and two Liberal Democrats – Jo Swinson and Baroness Randerson. That’s a net increase of just THREE women.
Many people – me included – expected there would be a disproportionate number of women among the new people appointed to the government, and that if you were a male backbencher your chances of promotion were virtually non-existent.
Far from it. Of the 31 new people appointed to the government, only eight were women, or just under 26 per cent. So even in his new appointments Cameron has failed to reach his target of one third women.
And even if you leave out the Liberal Democrats, and peers, David Cameron failed to hit the target among MPs he promoted from within his own ranks in the House of Commons. Sixteen male Tory MPs got new jobs, and just six women Conservative MPs, a rate of just over 27 per cent.
And the strange thing is that there are several other women on the Tory backbenches who were widely tipped for promotion, and well-qualified for office – Margot James, for example, Mary Macleod, Claire Perry, Harriet Baldwin and Jane Ellison. All of these were steadfastly loyal during the two big controversial votes of the last twelve months – on an EU referendum last year, and Lords reform this summer.
It’s reported that David Cameron plans only one more reshuffle before the end of this parliament. If he’s to reach his target at that point, he will need to bring 18 more women into the government, and that’s assuming he loses none at all.
On the current rate of progress, he won’t reach his target until about 2027, by which time I suspect he will no longer be PM.
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