Cabinet reshuffle: grey men out, but are women just tokenism?

Jul 14, 2014
The Mole

And there's one grey-haired old lag who can't be sacked despite his many faux-pas - Vince Cable

Nick Ansell/AFP/Getty Images

David 'Two Brains' Willetts is among the Conservative grey men in suits tipped for the grand order of the boot in David Cameron’s Cabinet reshuffle this week, along with Tory fossils Ken Clarke and Sir George Young.

But there’s one grey-haired old lag who won’t get the sack despite a generally disastrous performance, culminating in the mishandling of the sale of the Post Office (costing the taxpayer at least £1billion) – Business Secretary Vince Cable.

Tories would celebrate Cable's dismissal with Angela Merkel-style jumps for joy. But because he's a Lib Dem, Cameron can't sack him without Nick Clegg's say-so - and Clegg knows that Cable is too popular with his own party to fire him now.

So the PM has to axe more of the Tory dead wood in his Cabinet. Likely to go are Andrew Lansley, the Leader of the House, who produced a foolish top-down reorganisation of the NHS, even though it had been ruled out by the Tories at the last election, the lack-lustre Environment Secretary Owen Patterson and the invisible Welsh Secretary David Jones.

Downing Street spin-doctors has been heavily briefing that the exit of the grey men will open the door to spectacular promotions for women such as Esther McVie, the former GMTV presenter; Penny Maudant, who got Tory males steamed when she appeared in a bathing suit on TV's celebrity diving show, Splash; Priti Patel, a former spin doctor for the party; and Nicky Morgan, a protege of Chancellor George Osborne.

But such "tokenism" fails to convince William Hague’s former spin-doctor, Amanda Platell, who in a column for the Daily Mail accuses Cameron of a “cynically calculated” attempt to woo female voters.

La Platell says there is a “sincerity gap” between Cameron and women who don’t feel he shares their concerns - and he won’t be able to close it like this.

"He could sack his entire Cabinet and replace them with women, and it wouldn’t win him one extra vote," says Platell. "Women hate tokenism, they detect insincerity and they instinctively know a man who will work hard to protect them and their families…"

And with a final stiletto between Dave's legs, she concludes: "Perhaps if our Prime Minister spent more time with real people, with ordinary mums juggling life and budgets and family, rather than his mostly male coterie of chums hand-picked from the same privileged background, he might get more of an inkling of what women want."

The Daily Telegraph in its morning briefing also casts doubt on Cameron's sudden positive discrimination for women, saying: "None of this will make for particularly good government, at least in the short term."

Meanwhile, the most senior woman in the Cabinet, Home Secretary Theresa May, goes before the Home Affairs Select committee this afternoon to defend her decision to appoint the octogenarian Lady Butler-Slossto head the commission inquiring into historic child sex abuse - despite the fact that her brother, the late Michael Havers, was attorney general at the time when it is claimed the establishment was covering up a potential Westminster paedophile scandal.

Sign up for our daily newsletter