Reshuffle: David Cameron Sacks Three Women From Cabinet - So How's That Women Trouble Going?

'If Women Aren't At The Table, They Aren't On The Menu'

David Cameron sacked 60% of the women in his Cabinet on Tuesday morning.

At the top of government, Welsh Secretary Cheryl Gillan, Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman and Conservative Chairman Baroness Warsi all left their posts - with two ministers, Maria Miller at DCMS and as minister for equalities and Theresa Villiers at Northern Ireland, being promoted.

Warsi will still attend Cabinet in her role as Foreign Office minister - but what does the number of women at the top table tell us about the prime minister’s women problem?

Shadow equalities minister Kate Green told The Huffington Post UK it was unlikely to “change people's views on the kind of government this has been for women.”

"There's no sign we're going to get new, radical, female-friendly policies from the new line-up... People who have either been downgraded or the number of women who were previous Cabinet ministers who have been demoted I don't get the impression it's a driving consideration,” she said.

“We've lost three women from the Cabinet but it's not just about who's in the Cabinet but the policies.

Down but not out: Baroness Warsi will still attend Cabinet meetings

“What I think is that the way which the government looks [on equality] and what it does are both very important and on neither has it proved convincing, and I don't see it getting any more convincing on these changes."

Cameron still has time to fulfil his commitment to a third of his government being female by the end of his first term - and has yet to announce the full range of ministerial positions.

The well-informed editor of ConservativeHome, Tim Montgomerie, predicted the number of Tory female ministers overall would go up on BBC Two's Daily Politics - whereas the Liberal Democrats have demoted two female ministers, Lynne Featherstone from the Home Office and Sarah Teather at the Department for Education, and have no women in Cabinet.

One thing’s for certain - this wasn’t an equality-driven reshuffle at the top level of government.

“I think you've got to look to what degree he's striving to make his Cabinet approach more equal.. I don't get the impression that's a particular driver. I think it's about trying to present other messages,” Green says.

With the numbers of women attending Cabinet remaining the same, others said the prime minister had “managed” his women trouble.

But Ceri Goddard, Chief Executive of the Fawcett Society, pointed out men still outnumber women 5 to 1 in Cabinet, saying women were "not at the table."

"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 politic," she said on Tuesday.

"Sweden, Switzerland and France all have equal numbers of men and women in their Cabinets. Why can’t we?”

For Sarah Childs, professor of Politics and Gender at Bristol University the problem is “bigger" than keeping the numbers of women in the Cabinet static.

"That presumes that women problem is addressed by securing four or five women in the Cabinet. The women problem is bigger than that,” she told The Huffington Post UK.

“It is about equal presence of women in politics in parliament, government and cabinet, and his target is a third in the government. Keeping the same number is not enough."

For the lower ranks, Professor Childs said the key was to look for movement in the 2010 intake, around Tory MPs like Margot James, Liz Truss and Amber Rudd.

“It’s also not just about numbers but about which women - for gender equality you need women who advocate for gender equality in Cabinet and government.

For some, it’s not about gender at all. Tory activist Charlotte Vere told The Huffington Post UK it was time to focus on how well people could do their jobs - not numbers, or whether they were female.

"With Theresa Villiers, she may be able to do the job very well, but everyone's talking about her being a women."

It's not just women: There are no ethnic minorities in the Cabinet

On Radio 4's The World At One, Conservative MP Mary MacLeod said she believed people should be "promoted on merit."

"Prior to the May 2010 election he [Cameron] had very few female MPs. We increased that from 17 MPs to 49 MPs at the last election. I think the prime minister now has a lot of talented women in the backbenches that hopefully he will call on now or at some time in the future.”

For many pro-choice campaigners, it was not just about the number of women appointed, but the policy.

Following reports that the new Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, voted to reduce the time limit on abortion to just 12 weeks campaigner Darinka Aleksic of abortion rights told The Huffington Post UK: "Appointing a Health Secretary who is actively opposed to abortion rights will do nothing to improve David Cameron's 'women problem'.”

As for Culture Secretary Miller, who also becomes Equalities minister, Aleksic said: “She voted to strip abortion providers of their role in counselling their patients on their pregnancy options last year is also cause for concern.

“The government will have to work much harder if it wants to reassure women that reproductive health services are safe in their hands, because this reshuffle does not inspire confidence in that commitment."


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