It’s ability that should count – not age or gender

The reshuffle shows that ‘middle-aged man’ is now a very vulnerable condition

Share

What's so terrible about middle-aged men? Why have they become such a derided demographic group that no self-respecting institution can have any truck with them? On the front pages of our newspapers, it appears to be perfectly all right to talk about "culling" them, as if they were badgers. Middle-aged men - in the main - have experience, knowledge and have maybe gathered a little wisdom, but, in a world where appearances matter, the male of the species has, I'm afraid, a built-in obsolescence.

You might expect politics to be above such superficiality, but this is clearly not the case. So out of the Cabinet go a whole slew of middle-aged men, to be replaced by people with more hair and better shoes. No one knows whether they're more capable, but they are certainly women. Of course, government should be - as much as possible - representative of the population it serves, but it's demeaning to all concerned when the debate about David Cameron's reshuffled Cabinet is framed in terms of gender and not ability. Who knows where this will all end? We'll be having women bishops next. And then we'll have a World Cup final where the Prime Ministers of the winning nation, the losing finalists, and the host country are all women. Oh, we had that on Sunday.

I have never understood why command of the brief is rarely discussed when it comes to a Cabinet reshuffle. Overnight, someone who's been knee-deep in Ofsted and exam timetables becomes the single most important person in the country as far as the environment is concerned. How do we know this person knows all about renewable energy, or cares about the dwindling population of Britain's kestrels (down 61 per cent in the past 25 years, incidentally)? Ministers go from the treasury to education. This state of affairs is unlikely happen in industry. Your main experience is as a bank manager, so you're just the person we need to become headmaster of this failing comprehensive.

Read more: Gove gone: the utterly obvious decision, once it is made
After the reshuffle, the Tory front bench is about to become more feminine

When it comes to know-how and worldly wisdom, however, Ken Clarke fits - or rather, squeezes - into a category all of his own. Having just marked his 74th birthday, he can't really be considered middle-aged, although he's definitely a man, or, more specifically, a bloke. His departure from government in this reshuffle removes another splodge of colour from the Westminster palette, and his interview on the "Today" programme this morning illustrated it. I absolutely love the fact that he referred to politics as a "trade" and his polite refusal to get sucked in to the nonsensical, never-ending debate about Europe was characteristically masterful. "I'll leave that to Nigel Farage," he said.

Ken was a director of The Independent while I was the paper's editor, and he was a welcome ally at board meetings, and, more pertinently, at corporate social functions. As the editor of a pro-European paper for a Eurosceptic proprietor, the discussion often got heated over the gin and tonics. I relied on Ken to help me fight my corner on this issue. He was always fair, reasonable, and receptive – and he never talked the gobbledygook of spin doctors. Such a shame he turned out to be a man.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer - Junior / Mid Weight

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: To support their continued grow...

Recruitment Genius: Marketing Data Specialist

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are the go-to company for ...

Recruitment Genius: Search Marketing Specialist - PPC / SEO

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join the UK's leadin...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This caravan dealership are currently recruiti...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Errors & Omissions: Hang on – that’s not how it’s supposed to be written

Guy Keleny
Rafael Nadal is down and out, beaten by Dustin Brown at Wimbledon – but an era is not thereby ended  

Sad as it is, Rafael Nadal's decline does not mark the end of tennis's golden era

Tom Peck
Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test