Its a man’s world in government after this reshuffle

by Sheila Gilmore

Watching Maria Eagle open an opposition day debate for Labour on rail fares on Wednesday, with a woman shadow transport minister sitting alongside, I couldn’t help contrast that with the phalanx of men on the government’s new transport team. Four ministers all men.

When he was modernising and “detoxifying” the Tory party, David Cameron made much of getting more women into Parliament. And to be fair the 2010 intake of MPs showed a step change for the Tories in terms of women on their benches. Further Cameron said he wanted to see that one third of his ministers were women by the end of the Parliament.

Half way through it is just one in six. That includes some peers – the situation in the House of Commons remains overwhelmingly male. A lot of press attention was paid to the cabinet (one woman less) but the interesting thing to look at is the junior ministers, those from whom future cabinet members may hope to come. What do we see?

In the treasury there are now five men. The only woman there before, Chloe Smith, has been shuffled off to the cabinet office, doubtless on the back of her now notorious Newsnight performance. But she was only trying to defend the indefensible, with Osborne, as is his habit, happy to hide behind his junior ministers at such times.

And it continues. Defence – five men; foreign office  – five men; local hovernment  – four men; energy and climate change  – four men; and environment – four men. A few of the smaller departments are all male as well, but these bigger ones should have given Cameron at least some scope for gender balance.

Yet the women, especially the women elected in 2010, have been widely seen as being effective and talented. I may not agree with what they say but see them being active in the chamber, in select committees and running various campaigns. Scanning quickly down the list I came across one man whose name was so unfamiliar I had to look him up. Turns out he’s been undercover in the whips office for the last two years. A few months ago I overheard a couple of male Tory MPs saying that whips’ threats about promotion were meaningless now because they were the “wrong age and gender.” They can breathe again. Their party has reverted to type.

The 2010 intake (both men and women) have been particularly rebellious on Europe and the House of Lords, and few prime ministers would quickly forgive that, especially with the House of Lords scars being so raw.  But there are a number of loyalists among the women who have been inexplicably overlooked, especially if Cameron was serious about bringing the proportion of women up by 2015.

But then like “the greenest government ever” it is doubtful he really believed in it.

Sheila Gilmore is MP for Edinburgh East

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4 Responses to “Its a man’s world in government after this reshuffle”

  1. Rallan says:


    This article would be more credible from a party that had elected a woman leader and had never picked a man (senior party members husband and union paymaster) on an all woman shortlist!

  2. Vern says:

    What is your point Sheila? I am guessing that you think there should be more women – perhaps an even number of men and women?
    Me, i just want the right person. i don’t care if its male or female. The last government went for the “window dressing” option and suffered from having the wrong people in wrong roles just to make the numbers stack up

  3. BenM says:

    “Me, i just want the right person. i don’t care if its male or female. The last government went for the “window dressing” option and suffered from having the wrong people in wrong roles just to make the numbers stack up”

    To be honest, I can’t see anything in this misogynist Tory set up that marks out men having any greater skill or talent.

    Affected High minded Tory activists claiming to just want the best person in role is intended to divert from the fact that in general conservative politics puts off many women. And this is no surprise.

  4. Vern says:

    Ben M-you are so far off the mark here with your contrived opinion that it is laughable. Next, you’ll be telling us that those nasty Tories secretly desire an all male cast.
    Personally, i think many women (and men too) may well be put off politics due to its rotten image, sleaze, lack of values and use of spin.
    It is these behaviours that i shall remember Blair and Co for most whilst they were in power – destroying politics and faith in politicians for the average Joe-or high minded Tory activists as you like to refer to them!

    will be remembered for most as PM

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