15 Jul 2014

Making way for ‘girlies’? Cameron’s new government

There are two new male fully-fledged additions to the cabinet table, as opposed to ministers entitled to attend cabinet. They are Michael Fallon and Stephen Crabb. It has taken the former 26 years in parliament to reach the cabinet, the latter took nine years – an average of 17 years and seven months. The two new fully-fledged MP women cabinet ministers are both 2010 intake MPs and have got there in four years and two months.

So though it’s true to say there are only two new women fully-fledged cabinet ministers, paths are being eased and there will be more women squeezing round the ever more crowded cabinet table as “attending ministers” and more women elsewhere in the ranks too.


It remains a government that overly represents men but that’s not what it feels like to some grumbling Tory males around Westminster today talking about “needing a sex change” and “making way for girlies” amongst other comments.

One woman whose name will be new to many is Baroness (Tina) Stowell. She was PA to Gus O’Donnell when he was No. 10 press chief under John Major, a job she continued under Christopher Meyer. After a period away from politics, including working for David Frost, she was head of William Hague’s office when he was leader of the opposition. There she would come to know the young George Osborne and many others.

She’s much admired and respected by all who come into contact with her, and though Lords leaders don’t often do a lot of TV, if Tina Stowell did, viewers would catch a Nottinghamshire accent.

Read more: Cabinet reshuffle – Gove clipped, women in

As for the man off to Brussels, Lord Hill, he was no fan of the euro and worked in John Major’s No. 10 to get opt-outs. Friends describe him as very much in the centre of the new, more Eurosceptic Tory party. The battle now turns to getting a good job for him. I was told by one UK Euro-hand that the UK is not interested in the new anti-red tape commissioner job that Jean-Claude Juncker‘s team have mooted creating.

One old Tory strategist hand asked: “What’s in this for Ukip voters?” To which the answer is presumably that a party that looks more like the rest of the country is less remote and more relatable. Also, the removal of Ken Clarke and Dominic Grieve opens the way for Tories to unveil a Ukip-focused, non-negotiable manifesto commitment to pulling out of the ECHR if there’s not fundamental reform of the court. That’s now expected at the Tories’ conference.

And then we await more job announcements, including the possibility of a return to government of Liam Fox. He was joint party chairman with Maurice Saatchi once before, and his admirers say he can speak to Ukip defectors in a way that David Cameron and others can’t.

Read more: Cabinet reshuffle – William Hague quits

But the Tories could end up with an awful lot of people speaking for them, and there must be a danger that they occasionally say different things.

One of those spokesmen, Michael Gove, got a ticking-off from Mr Cameron when he criticised Home Office officials at a lunch with staff from the Times. But what seems to have sealed his fate is the toxic nature of his relationship with teachers. He was accused of being delusional after a recent interview in which he said high-performing teachers supported him. No. 10 put aside past praise for the indispensable master of education reform to help it win votes. Some are calling this Lynton Crosby’s first major reshuffle.

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