The cabinet reshuffle is grinding to a close, with everyone viewing Cameron’s latest personnel decisions as an indicator that he intends to move further to the right.
Except the Liberal Democrats, who have promised that this won’t herald a shift away from the centre-ground. Glad to see Nick Clegg’s on the same page as everyone else, as ever.
However, if you happen to be a woman, you’ll find that what we’re getting is less a swing to the right, and more a gigantic step back to the Dark Ages.
So, read up on feudalism and change your hobbies on Facebook to cottage thatching and general concubining (yes, I’ve turned concubine into a verb - what?), because we’re getting the hell out of the 21st Century.
Apart from the fact that there are now only four women in the cabinet, down from five (which I’d be less concerned about if I thought all the men in the cabinet happened to be wildly competent, in touch with what was happening in the real world and in possession of massive brains), the total shocker is Cameron’s appointment of Maria Miller as Minister For Equalities and Women and Jeremy Hunt as Minister for Health.
Earlier this year I wrote about abortion rights in the UK, compared to the US. I noted that with MP Nadine Dorrises’s proposal to amend the health and social care bill to prevent abortion clinics from offering counseling to women, and her prolific and public calls to reduce the upper time limit on abortion, we shouldn’t be complacent about abortion rights in Britain.
Now I’m even less complacent, in fact I’m downright skittish. I could think of worst people to place in charge of the Women and Equalities brief than Maria Miller (Dorries springs to mind), but not many.
As the women in charge of the equalities brief, Miller’s voting record is terrifying. As well as voting for Nadine Dorries’s proposed amendment to the 2011 Health and Social Care bill, she is ranked on theyworkforyou.com to be ‘moderately against’ gay rights. Notably, she absented herself from the 2007 Equalities Act (sexual orientation) Regulations vote. She also voted against giving fertility treatment to lesbian couples.
So, our new women and equalities minister isn’t so keen on gay rights or women’s abortion rights. Excellent, glad we’ve got that straight.
To be fair, her voting record is fairly unremarkable for a Tory loyalist, however, that still doesn’t mean she’s the woman I’d want for the job.
But wait, David Cameron’s not done messing with us yet, he’s also put Jeremy Hunt in charge of health. Apart from the dubious wisdom of appointing a man who appears to exercise no common sense whatsoever to be the guardian of the NHS, Jeremy Hunt also voted to reduce the legal time limit on abortion to 12 weeks in 2008.
I can only presume that either David Cameron has massively taken his eye of the ball in the past few weeks (I hope not, given that he’s the man in charge of the big red shiny button), or that he really hates women.
Actually scratch that, I’m sure he doesn’t hate women. What has probably happened is that women’s issues, women’s health provisions and equality of women are more than midway down our Prime Minister’s curent To Do list. He’s got the economy to worry about, stupid.
As Ceri Goddard, the Chief Executive of the Fawcett Society noted yesterday:
Prior to the 2010 General Election, David Cameron pledged to make a third of ministers in his first government women but in one fell swoop he has cut the number of women at the top table of politics by some 20 per cent. We now have a Cabinet where men outnumber women five to one, making some of the biggest budgetary decisions of this era.
Despite near universal acceptance that we need more - not less - involvement of women in building our economy, the Prime Minister has chosen to further marginalise women’s influence on politics.
What I’d like to know is whatever happened to that nice lady who was appointed as Cameron’s Senior Female Advisor after No 10 realised that 'there are a range of policies we have pursued as a Government which are seen as having hit women, or their interests, disproportionately.’ Word.
Maybe she’s been on holiday and has missed all the reshuffle shenanigans. Or maybe our Prime Minister decided that in this time of austerity her wages could be better spent elsewhere. On a really shiny coffee machine for George Osborne, with lots of buttons and a milk steamer.
Either way - like it or not Mr Cameron, we’re still here, we’ll still be voting in the next election, and we’re still watching you. Just something to bear in mind.