David Cameron’s new Cabinet may have purged a number of middle-aged men, as George Eaton reported yesterday, but his new ministerial line-up is still dominated by men.
Eight ministers who had the right to attend Cabinet have either resigned or retired – Andrew Lansley, George Young, Owen Paterson, Ken Clarke, David Jones, Lord Hill, Dominic Grieve and David Willetts. Seven other MPs have now been given the right to attend Cabinet, of whom three are women.
Given that Nicky Morgan had the right to attend Cabinet before today – although she did not hold a full Cabinet post – Cameron has actually added given more new men the right to attend Cabinet than women.
Before today, just five women were allowed to attend Cabinet, out of 34 ministers.
Now, after Cameron gave that right to Liz Truss, Esther McVey and Baroness Stowell, eight women can do so – but that pales in comparison to the 25 men who can.
Perhaps more importantly, most of the top jobs in Cabinet are still being filled by men. Before today the five women who could attend Cabinet were:
• Theresa May – Home Secretary
• Justine Greening – International Development
• Theresa Villiers – Northern Ireland
• Baroness Warsi – Faith and Communities
• Nicky Morgan – Financial Secretary to the Treasury (neither Warsi or Morgan were full Cabinet ministers but had the right to attend)
Four of those women have kept their jobs, and Nicky Morgan has now been made Education Secretary, replacing Michael Gove. She is the only women to have been put into a particuarly high-profile position.
Liz Truss has been made Minister for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. While the department may matter more to the Tories than most, it is hardly one of the top jobs Cameron had to offer.
Of the other two women, Esther McVey has been given the right to attend Cabinet but has stayed in her role as Minister for Employment, and Baroness Stowell has been made Leader of the House of Lords – a position of relatively low impact.
Cameron may have doubled the number of women who can attend Cabinet, but he has put many of them in peripheral roles.
The new guard are young, but the Cabinet remains old. The average age of the new ministers who can attend Cabinet is just 44, whereas those departing are, on average, 62 years old.
However, these changes have actually had little effect on the overall averall age of the cabinet – it has fallen by just four years.
Update: The House of Lords, one of the four positions given to a woman, has been downgraded from a full Cabinet post, as it was when Lord Hill filled the position, to a sub-Secretary of State who just “also attends Cabinet”.
This piece was originally published on the New Statesman on 15 July 2014.