We could do with more ‘jobs for the girls’. It would at least be a start

Merely breathing the world ‘tokenism’ in relation to the job world suggests one believes the current dispersal of power to be just and fair


David Cameron is expected to shuffle the Cabinet this autumn, with Tories including Amber Rudd, Nicky Morgan and Karen Bradley tipped for top jobs.

Amateur detectives among you will notice these names to be female. Imagine? Actual women sitting up at the big table injecting their ancient and mystical female energies into the sleepy mix of mothballs, testosterone and old-school pride that is our current Cabinet.

Actually, let’s not celebrate too soon as here comes aid minister Alan Duncan banging the big drum marked “BEWARE: PROGRESS”. Cameron, he says, should avoid “tokenistic” gestures in an effort to boost women in his top team. “I never wanted to be a token gay,” Duncan said, “and now things have progressed so there is no need for it. Nobody should want to be a token woman; it should all be based on merit.” Gosh, I had no idea homophobia had been wholly banished from politics and public life outright, but I’ll take his word for it. Alan, after all, due to meritocracy, is jolly clever. He’s much smarter than me, you, or anyone within the United Kingdom, or thanks to the stiff rules of fairness within Westminster he would not be a top dog.

Alan, as a white male Oxford graduate who attended Harvard, worked in the oil industry, and by the 1990s was firmly entrenched within the daily Conservative hubbub alongside William Hague, Michael Howard et al, must be wholly certain that in 2013 he has his job via pure merit. Or perhaps, just perhaps, occasionally, Alan considers that if Westminster jobs were doled out purely via a series of stiff written exams, blind interviews and vigilant cronyism weeding, he might have been replaced several years back by a 35-year-old British Sikh woman with a Master’s from Loughborough.

I don’t wish to pick on Alan Duncan unduly. His rise to power is no more remarkable or privileged than several dozen other government faces. Alan’s “tokenism” concerns over prising a little power from male hands and handing it to women only echo the views of many terrified souls when the age-old apple cart is rocked. Excuse me while I splutter about a word as innocent as “tokenism”, but merely breathing it in relation to the job world suggests one believes the current dispersal of power and wealth to be beautifully just and fair.

These people must examine the FTSE 100 and notice only two female FTSE 100 chief executives, or see only 9 per cent of executive director appointments during 2012 were women, and think: “Well, there were clearly no women available. Perhaps they had their feet up watching My Life with Peter Andre on ITV2 or discovering the magical world of macramé.” And then when we do appear, a side head tilt and, “Oh, there must have been some pressure from the PC brigade to have a woman. One of them women-only lists. Tokenism. I’m sure there was a better man for the job”.

“Nobody should be the token woman,” quips Duncan. This is utter balderdash. Women should, in fact, squeeze power out of the hands of men in any way possible, rise above the tedious labels thrown at them and have the last laugh handing idiots their P45s. Cameron has taken a drubbing from all sides in recent years for making only four women Cabinet members; then following a stiff day of abuse for upholding the patriarchy, it seems he returned home to Sam Cam bending his ear. “My wife likes to say,” he admitted in Mumbai earlier this year, “that if you don’t have women in 50 per cent of top positions, you are not missing out on 50 per cent of the talent, you are missing out on more than 50 per cent of the talent and I think she’s right.”

The idea that Cameron’s strident feminist pronouncements are more than hot air is marvellous. Let’s hope he stands firm in the face of friends and colleagues who realise that jobs for the girls means a decrease in “jobs for the boys”.

Where there’s a will...

Leaving one’s entire estate, as Joan Edwards did, to “whichever government is in office at the date of my death for the government in their absolute discretion to use as they may see fit” is one of the most priceless acts of posthumous pass-agg recorded. This blows my deadpan promise to my nieces to leave everything to the Cat Protection League – “so every little lost puss shall have a pilchard” – right out of the water.

Joan had stashed £520,000 away. If she had wanted her cash to be diverted to something specifically wholesome like a church roof, a children’s ward or distant relatives cluttering up the Disneyland resort, she had the opportunity to say so. In her prime, Joan, among other things, was a school nit nurse. These formidable creatures aren’t typically backwards in coming forwards.

And when Joan died, the Government (the Coalition) spent it as it saw fit (on party funds to buy lots of lovely paperclips, photocopier toner and other electioneering bumf), leaving an almighty Westminster fuss and numerous family members at war. As of lunchtime yesterday the money was quibbled back into the hands of the Treasury. I wonder if this big, cross fuss is secretly and rather deliciously what Joan rather wanted.

Take back control and embrace the selfie

A survey this week claims that Britons are now taking 35 million “selfies” every month. For those in the dark, a “selfie” is the art of snapping a picture of oneself or, more accurately, 10 or 12 pictures at a time, selecting the most flattering and posting it on Twitter, Facebook or your social network of choice, for the world to behold your aesthetic splendour.

A sickening example of humanity’s slide into vanity? Far from it. Hooray for selfies, I say! For too many years I gave photo-control to friends and family members, only to be presented with scandalous, wholly inaccurate photos of a red-nosed, tipsy, northern-looking fishwife character with wilting hair and a tummy.

Now, with only 17 goes to perfect my pout – and a modicum of cropping, bleaching and highlighting – millions of us can finally be seen for the visions of perfection we really are.

Twitter: @gracedent

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