Congratulations are due to Nicky Morgan and Elizabeth Truss, as to all those promoted in David Cameron’s reshuffle yesterday. Hopefully their pride in joining the Cabinet won’t be too dented by the fact that the first quality attributed to them by many commentators was not intelligence or expertise but the lack of a Y chromosome.
It has to be a good thing that the gender balance at the top of government is now marginally more reflective of the real world. (Five out of 22 full cabinet members are women, plus others with attendance rights.) But the fact that this hardly overwhelming progress attracted so much attention is a little depressing. Let us not forget that two new men joined the Cabinet yesterday too, so the reshuffle was only what you’d expect in a modern, equal society.
That the Prime Minister has bolstered his female ranks only now, with less than a year to go before the election and with most of this Government’s major policy work behind it, smacks of gimmickry. That may be frustrating for Morgan et al, as it makes it hard for them to avoid the implication that whatever their talents, they are being brought in as electoral window dressing.
But talk of Mr Cameron’s need to fix a “women problem” with this reshuffle is also frustrating for me. Being female does not make you representative of my views, and while I will reserve judgement on Morgan and Truss in their new roles, I certainly do not agree, for example, with the former’s stance opposing equal marriage. I will be casting my vote next year based on which party has the best policies, not which leader has secured the most gender-balanced photo op.