This month’s reshuffle in the Conservative cabinet has raised serious questions in the media over Prime Minister, David Cameron’s reasons to promote more women this time around. With one male, senior Tory member being quoted as saying: ‘This really is the worst form of tokenistic gesture politics. Merit is out of the window’ and Lord Ashcroft tweeting: “The impending ministerial reshuffle will be determined by optics rather than ability….”, it is still undecided whether the shift is due to Cameron’s desire for a stronger party to lead his country with, or a stronger chance to keep the keys for No.10 at the next election. If the latter is the case he may be sorely disappointed, as in a recent poll commissioned by The Mirror highlighted, only one 1 in 5 people said the results of the reshuffle have improved their belief in the Tory Party. Sadly though, an improved view does not necessarily lead to a vote.
So back to the main story. The appointment of three female cabinet ministers, Liz Truss, Nicky Morgan and Esther McVey, has meant that Cameron’s has succeeded in his promise that one in three cabinet members to be female has come to fruition with 8 out of 27 ministers now being women. But is that the extent of the Prime Minister’s reasoning behind appointing these three (without a doubt) educated and dedicated women to fulfil his promise for more of a gender balance in the cabinet? Perhaps that is too cynical and they are actually there to fulfil the dream that they trained for, studied for and fought tooth and nail to achieve; to be an equal member of the Conservative Party with as much of a voice and opportunity to make changes for the better as the man next to her. Believe me, the jury is still out.
But in the great scheme of politics, does it really matter either way by this point? The fact is, the policy making for the party was done four years ago after the initial election. A female-friendly reshuffle four years into a five year cycle surely has little to do with updating the old policies to include a new, strong, fresh female voice and more to do with tempting new voters (perhaps some of those who disappeared off to the UK Independence party most recently springs to mind?)
‘Lumping’ the women together and discussing them as a group is of course wrong in itself because each new Conservative cabinet female member has their own knowledge, experience and talent to bring not just to the party and the policies, but to all women around the country. They are now after all living proof that success is perfectly viable in a ‘man’s world’ – which it goes without saying politics certainly is, and has been since its creation.
It can be argued that each of these women have been a powerful force in their own right within the government thus far and shall continue as one hopefully for years to come. And yet whilst the female to male ratio in the Conservative cabinet is on the up, the pace is just a little too slow for it to be of any substantial use (or believable) to us as voters any time soon. As such it may well just be a case of ‘desperate times call for desperate measures’ as Cameron tries to cling on to the political territory he once owned. But even if this is the case and women are there purely as a pawn in Cameron’s eleventh-hour game, can we as female voters not still learn from them and be inspired? There is no doubting that Theresa May is doing a formable job in her role as Home Secretary, but do these women, who are fighting and winning the battle against sexism and misogyny, not show us that if they can do it, any one of us can? Do try and let them inspire you and go after your professional and business goals.
Ladies, it’s tough out there but remember if you want to start a business, ask for that promotion, retrain in a new industry, demand a pay rise or even join the political game; don’t let barriers hold you back or stop you going after your aspirations. The reshuffle may have left a bad taste in our mouths but at the end of the day, let’s support these women to deliver and make the path easier for those coming behind them. That way, if nothing else comes from this Tory reshuffle, the result will still seem like a one nil win to the women!