THE BLOG

Bishops and Pawns, Keiretsu Style

17/07/2014 14:59 BST | Updated 16/09/2014 10:59 BST

It has been quite a week for women.

On Monday, the Church of England finally voted to allow women bishops, belatedly coming good on equality. A huge step forward, yes, but a long overdue one.

There are deep roots of female influence in the very origins of the Church of England. King Henry VIII split from Rome in 1533, establishing the Church of England and triggering the Reformation, solely so he could divorce his first wife Catherine of Aragon and marry his pregnant mistress Anne Boleyn. Anne gave birth, not to Henry's son and heir, but to a girl who would eventually become Queen Elizabeth I, Supreme Governor of what later evolved into today's Church of England. Almost 500 years later, we finally have women bishops. Progress for some. Long overdue reforms (maybe even 500 years overdue) for others. The odds are that England will have its first female bishop within the year.

Fittingly for a week in which we had the 156th anniversary of the birth of political activist and suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst (nicely typified by a Google Doodle) was David Cameron's Cabinet reshuffle on Tuesday, heralding a notable advance for Tory women and a discarding of the traditional 'male, pale and stale' Tory cabinet. Out of 27 Tory ministers attending Cabinet eight are now women (with five of these running departments in full cabinet roles), which means that Cameron will meet his target of appointing 30% females at least at the highest level of the government.

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Pankhurst herself eventually went into politics, and was selected as a Conservative party candidate for Stepney in 1927. Her death in June 1928 came weeks before the Conservative government's Representation of the People Act (1928), which extended the vote to all women over 21 years of age in July 1928.

The Church of England once used to be described as the Conservative party at prayer. It's been a week where both institutions have made welcome strides towards equality, whether long overdue or not. Elizabeth and Emmeline would be proud.