Even more jobs for the boys

May 14, 2010 1:28 pm

Cabinet 1

By Mary Honeyball

Cabinet 2

When forming the Con-Lib Dem coalition government, David Cameron claimed the UK had entered a new kind of ‘progressive’ politics. I fail to see what is progressive about a cabinet dominated by men, where women are outnumbered nearly five to one. Critics are already complaining of a “men only” group.

The growing concern is that government will once again become the preserve of men. My old colleague Margaret Beckett, the former Labour Foreign Secretary, has — rightly, I believe — warned that a lack of women at the top of government could further alienate parts of the electorate.

Although we have a record number of women in parliament this year — 139 compared with 126 in the last parliament — just four women gained senior roles in the cabinet. This lack of female participation threatens to alienate an entire section of the electorate who already feel unrepresented.

As an MEP I am embarrassed that we are hailed as one of the world’s greatest democracies but the UK comes only 52nd in the world ranking of numbers of women MPs in national parliaments. This is truly abysmal and we should be embarrassed at our apathy towards the situation.

Further research published by the campaign group the Fawcett Society showed that Britain was now towards the bottom of a European league table showing numbers of women in cabinet. A quick glance at our European neighbours in the report shows that outside the UK the gender balance is just that — balanced. Spain’s 17-strong cabinet contained nine women, while Germany’s cabinet of 16 included six women. And figures from the Electoral Reform Society paint an equally embarrassing picture: with just 21% of women, the UK parliament compares badly with the German Bundestag, on 33%, the Dutch parliament, on 42%, and the world’s most equal parliaments, Rwanda, on 56%, and Sweden, on 46%. We will become the laughing stock before long if we do not develop a sophisticated approach to getting more women into parliament. It’s a shame the Lib Dems didn’t have a similar policy to Labour’s All Women Shortlists, which in the last parliament went some way towards redressing the imbalance.

Prime Minister Cameron and his Deputy Nick Clegg are proclaiming a new era of coalition politics in Britain. But, when it comes to giving women senior roles and responsibility, it seems clear the old school mentality of jobs for the boys remains.

Comments are closed

Latest

  • Comment One Nation Conference? Not for poor Labour members

    One Nation Conference? Not for poor Labour members

    Full time Carers who care 35 hours + a week for a disabled or elderly relative receive the princely sum of £61.35pw for their efforts. Many carers like myself in reality care 24/7, 365 days a year. Already cut out of most activities like a meal out or a social evening with friends, our horizons under the Tory government have become narrower and narrower. As Labour Party members, many of us look to the party to get our voices heard, […]

    Read more →
  • Featured My visit to Israel and Palestine this week has strengthened my commitment to a two state solution

    My visit to Israel and Palestine this week has strengthened my commitment to a two state solution

    Since Operation Protective Edge began in early July, at least 1,360 Palestinians have been killed, mostly civilians, and a quarter of Gaza’s population has been forced from their homes. Two Israeli civilians have lost their lives in rocket attacks, several hundred have been injured, and 56 Israeli soldiers have been killed. Today, the latest appalling loss of life is yet another tragic example of the death and destruction that has resulted from the escalation of this conflict. Of course this […]

    Read more →
  • Featured News Grayling gives speech attacking Labour while his own department publish his failings

    Grayling gives speech attacking Labour while his own department publish his failings

    You know that a Cabinet Minister’s speech has no positive message when the Tory Press Office Twitter account bothers to livetweet it.And that’s exactly what happened with Justice Secretary Chris Grayling’s attack on Labour spending plans this morning. No, we don’t they got him to do it either. The speech itself was standard fare: lots of attacks on trade unions dressed up as economic commentary. What was interesting was that while he was giving it, the Ministry of Justice released […]

    Read more →
  • Comment I do not have a vote in the referendum, but I do have a voice

    I do not have a vote in the referendum, but I do have a voice

    For me, the debate about why Scotland should remain part of the United Kingdom is personal and emotive – but is also about hard facts. We are tied together by bonds of friendship, family and economy in so many ways. My family history – going back some 300 years – is Northern Irish, Scottish, English and Welsh. I was born and brought up in Wales by a Cumbrian mother and a Wiltshire father. I went to university in England, and […]

    Read more →
  • News Seats and Selections Miliband’s greatest quality is that he’s willing to have a “bloody good think”, says Dobson

    Miliband’s greatest quality is that he’s willing to have a “bloody good think”, says Dobson

    Last week, Frank Dobson announced his intention to stand down as MP for Holborn and St Pancras after 35 years. Today, The Guardian have a candid and, at times, touching interview with the former Health Secretary. In a wide-ranging conversation with Owen Jones, Dobson sounds optimistic about the current state of the Labour Party: he’s “very confident” Labour will win next year’s election and is pleased that the Party has avoided going “a bit 1979″. Ed Miliband has ensured that […]

    Read more →