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Who’s in and who’s out?


government reshuffleIn short? Not much change at the top after an autumn reshuffle.

However, with a number of women promoted to mid-level ministerial positions, (whisper it) there is the potential for change on a grander scale next year when the parties prepare more fully for the forthcoming 2015 election.

The Liberal Democrats kicked off the recent reshuffles by making one cabinet-level change, moving one man out and another in to the post of Scottish Secretary.

Prime Minister David Cameron said that he wanted more women, more northerners and a wider diversity of backgrounds in his Cabinet and in Parliament, but he remains some way from that goal.

The Cabinet’s youngest member, Chloe Smith, started the Conservative reshuffle by announcing her resignation, following a series of controversies, including a poor television performance that led to her former boss, George Osborne, Chancellor of the Exchequer, being called an ‘arrogant coward’ for not defending Treasury policy himself.

She said in her resignation letter that she intends to focus on constituency work and getting more young people involved in politics.

All four female Cabinet members, Home Secretary Theresa May; Culture Secretary Maria Miller; International Development Secretary Justine Greening; and Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers, do remain in post, as does Baroness Warsi, a Cabinet-meeting attendee in her role as joint Senior Minister for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Department for Communities and Local Government.

But with some central government departments still led by all-male ministerial teams, it may be some time before he achieves another of his goals, which is making sure that at least one third of all ministerial positions are held by women.

And the BBC’s North East and Cumbria political editor Richard Moss pointed out, ‘the problem is there are too few candidates to choose from.’

Another Conservative female MP making headlines was Anna Soubry, MP for Broxtowe, in the East Midlands, who, as Parliamentary Under-Secretary, became the first female minister in the Ministry of Defence.

Other promotions of women within the government included Loughborough’s MP Nicky Morgan to be Economic Secretary of the Treasury; London’s MP Jane Ellison to be Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Public Health; and Liverpudlian Esther McVey, who moved up within the Department for Work and Pensions to become a Minister of State; and there are three women in the Whips office – Claire Perry from Devizes and Amber Rudd from Hastings and Rye were appointed and Karen Bradley, MP for Staffordshire Moorlands, was promoted.

As would be expected, both Labour and the Green Party have a more equal mix of men and women MPs, with Green Party leader Natalie Bennett pointing out that there are 15 women among the party’s 27 official spokespeople.

In Labour’s shadow cabinet, there are now 11 female shadow cabinet ministers with three women among the additional five MPs who ‘attend meetings’.

Rachel Reeves will replace Liam Byrne as shadow work and pensions secretary, Mary Creagh leaves the environment, food and rural affairs brief to become shadow transport secretary; Maria Eagle moves from being shadow transport secretary to environment, food and rural affairs; Emma Reynolds replaces Jack Dromey as shadow housing minister; and Gloria de Piero becomes shadow minister for women and equalities – a shadow cabinet post that was previously held by Yvette Cooper, who continues in her main role as shadow home secretary.

Perhaps the biggest disappointment for many following the reshuffles was Labour leader Ed Miliband’s demotion of former Labour-leader candidate and long-serving (since 1987) MP Diane Abbott.

Simon Wooley, of Operation Black Vote, reacted to the news by saying, “What troubles me is that when I look at the candidates that ran for the Labour leadership, all of them have extremely prominent positions inside or outside national politics and the Labour movement.

“By contrast, Diane Abbott has once again been outcast from political power.

“What signal does this send to the black voter?”

Speaking to the BBC, Abbott said, “I think Ed wants more message discipline. I will live. These things happen.”

“I want to go back to campaigning for Hackney, in a way that I did not have the freedom to when I was a frontbench spokeswoman.”

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