David Maddox: Tory old guard set to make way for women

David Cameron promised that one third of his ministers would be women. Picture: PA
David Cameron promised that one third of his ministers would be women. Picture: PA
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WHEN he came to power, Prime Minister David Cameron promised that by the end of his first term of government, one third of his ministers would be women.

Since then the push for a more gender-balanced ministerial team has faltered and, as things stand, with less than a year before the next general election, there are only three women members of the full Cabinet and only 22 of 121 government ministers are women. This year the number of Cabinet members dropped by one, with the enforced resignation of former culture secretary Maria Miller over her expenses claims. She was replaced by a man, Sajid Javid.

It is with this in mind that rumours are circulating over what will happen in a ministerial reshuffle which is expected this month, and the names being touted for promotion to the Cabinet are mostly women. Some of the older men will probably have to give way for them.

On the way out, almost certainly, is veteran Ken Clarke who is now so out-of-sync with the Tory mainstream, particularly on Europe, that it is increasingly difficult to justify his place on the front bench. Also expected to give way is the chief whip, Sir George Young, who was only brought back in to calm nerves after Andrew Mitchell resigned over plebgate. The biggest casualty though could be party chairman Grant Shapps, who is seen as a weak link in the Tories’ campaign machine and could be demoted.

The favourites to replace them are three women. The employment minister Esther McVey, who represents a Merseyside seat, had to apologise for attacking Labour on Twitter during the Hillsborough memorial service. However, as a former broadcaster with a Scouse accent, she has generally been an asset for the government in the difficult policy area of welfare reform.

Treasury minister Nicky Morgan is also highly rated within government and now also gets to sit at Cabinet as a junior minister. A promotion to full cabinet member is expected, and it helps that she has the patronage of Chancellor George Osborne, who has been seen as the prime mover behind all Cameron’s reshuffles.

Meanwhile defence minister Anna Soubry and schools minister Liz Truss have also seen their political stock rise, and both have performed well under pressure. Ms Truss in particular has turned around a potential deselection by what Mr Cameron described as the “turnip taleban” in Norfolk, to become a tough political operator.

All these women will have to leapfrog men to get into the Cabinet and, in the current climate, their gender may help, but it would also be hard to argue that they would not be there on merit.