Is this reshuffle really going to persuade women to vote Tory?

The UK still ranks below Iraq, South Africa, Zimbabwe and Afghanistan in terms of the number of women in government

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The Independent Online

Politics might be agog about a particularly sweeping cabinet reshuffle, but I’m afraid I just can’t get excited about the replacement of one Tory for another. Yes, Michael Gove – scourge of schoolteachers – has left, but he’s been replaced by Nicky Morgan, an opponent of equal marriage.A reshuffle of a predominantly Tory cabinet is a bit like watching a posse of line-dancers. Yes, everybody has changed partners, but the routine is still the same.

I must also confess to cynicism regarding the much-vaunted “Rise of the Women.” Austerity is disproportionately affecting women, provisions for women in violent relationships have been removed, childcare costs are spiralling out of control – and that’s before we address the calm-down-dear mentality of the boys’ club in power: does this government really think that women are stupid enough to note a couple of extra female ministers in cabinet and think, “Oh well, I’d better vote Tory now”?

This is what the “Rise of the Women” boils down to: a couple of extra women in cabinet; namely Nicky Morgan and Liz Truss. Esther McVey will be allowed to attend cabinet, like a teenager on work experience, but she hasn’t actually been promoted. I suppose this is what a Rise of the Women looks like to a party of less-than-brilliant privileged men. The fact that that one paper breathlessly describes the reshuffle as a “bloodbath” perhaps gives us an insight into how alarming the replacement of two men by women is to a certain demographic of male set in his ways, but feminist revolution it ain’t.

Of course the newly-appointed women are just as qualified as their predecessors (which is a backhanded compliment if ever I gave one), but to think that their promotion was about competence alone is a little naïve. If it was, these women might have been promoted earlier than the year before an election. The Government wants to be seen to be promoting women, and perhaps that explains why so few ended up getting promoted: women should be seen to be getting promoted, but men should keep the power. The UK still ranks below Iraq, South Africa, Zimbabwe and Afghanistan in terms of the number of women in government. It will take more than a hasty pre-election reshuffle to fix that. It needs genuine political will, and that’s what’s lacking.

As the lobby gossips about who’s in and who’s out of the cabinet, a Bill is being rushed through parliament which will allow the government to access our emails and texts. But I’m sure the fact that it’s getting passed on the same day is nothing more than a fortuitous coincidence.