Blogs Coffee House

There aren’t enough normal people in Cabinet – male or female

13 July 2014

Well, it’s looking good for Esther, Liz and Priti, isn’t it? The one handle most of us have by now got on the reshuffle is that it’s one for the girls, an opportunity for the PM to remedy his woman deficit. Out with fatty Pickles, grand Sir George and genial Ken Clarke; in with go-ahead Liz Truss and the photogenic Esther McVey and the feisty Priti Patel. I suppose this swings and roundabouts business is fair enough, though as the Daily Mail rather wearily put it in its editorial yesterday, ‘ministers should be chosen for their talent, not their gender.’ Boring but obvious but true.

So let’s pause now to roll round the tongue the following names: Theresa Villiers, whose one achievement in Northern Ireland was to be boring enough to anaesthetise the most contentious issues (no, they don’t have a problem with women there; Mo Mowlam got on fine), and Maria Miller, the universally unlamented Culture Secretary…the one who drove gay marriage through the Commons. It’s quite something for Theresa to be dropped from the Cabinet at the very time the PM is desperately casting around for more women, but she seems to have pulled it off.

Claim your gift

And, outside Tory ranks, let’s have a special mention for Cathy Ashton, Gordon Brown’s gift to the European Union, and a woman whose want of charisma is pretty well a phenomenon in itself. (As for her finest hour, her Kosovo settlement, just don’t get me started.) I’m a bit concerned, in fact, about the rumour that Patience Wheatcroft, the former editor and quango stalwart, could be the new Cathy. Not because she’s anything but pleasant and intelligent; just because she’d be yet another individual to scale the heights of the establishment without taking the trouble to get elected; bit like Baroness Warsi, really.

The point of the above list isn’t just to be gratuitously unkind but to say the obvious, that it’s honestly not enough to put women centre stage for the sake of it. Yet you do need as many perspectives as possible in Cabinet…what Kate Chisholm pointed out last week as being true for radio, viz, that everyone, both sexes, should get a fair share of the space, is equally true for politics; it’s the unanswerable case for women’s share of the Cabinet cake to be increased.

And the obvious dearth in the Cabinet isn’t just women. It’s normal people, the sort who know the price of milk without sending a research assistant out to the shops, the Tory equivalent of Alan Johnson. I suppose Sajid Javid is the nearest the Tories get to it, but you have to think really hard to come up with the contemporary equivalent of John Major – you know, the PM who took inflation  seriously because his family was broke enough to mind when prices went up faster than wages. Or, come to that, a contemporary Margaret Thatcher. It’ll be nice to have more women in Cabinet, but Mr and Ms Normal would be even better.

Give the perfect gift this Christmas. Buy a subscription for a friend for just £75 and you’ll receive a free gift too. Buy now.

Show comments
  • john

    Just as our next 3 heads of state can meet over breakfast in Buck House, so there are probably more future Cabinet Ministers in an Eton Prefects Room than in the rest of the country put together.

  • evad666

    The current Cabinet and its retinue like the previous ones could not push a good idea past the public sector management and union cartels if it tried. In fact they could not identify the difference between a good idea and a smoked kipper even if the kipper itself had the good idea.
    After all how have we ended up with two carriers without reactors or catapults and no Harriers in the short term other than by some wet behind the ears ministerial aide or junior party numpty?

  • john

    Surely you’ve noticed that Britain is – and always was – dominated by a small clique of Establishment figures? With a monarchy, titles, HofL and elites in key areas, real power is held closely in London and not passed to the people. When will the 63 million Brits demand constitutional change?

  • Amir
  • The Masked Marvel

    What, class war even here? What hypocrisy after seeing all those
    photos of the Spectator’s summer garden party. Presumably, no one
    pictured there other than Jeremy Clarke or the interns would be
    considered fit for public office. And can we remind everyone of this new
    “No More Toffs” attitude when this magazine starts promoting Boris for
    PM when he inevitably stands?

    How about demanding competence and
    conviction above all for a change, Melanie? That’s what Mrs. Thatcher
    had, regardless of her gender or upbringing. John Major may not be the best
    example to emulate, really, but one supposes you had to mention some
    male figure first in a piece decrying tokenism, and you had a very, very
    short list from which to choose. One is encouraged that you’re
    dismissing tokenism for its own sake, but discouraged by this little
    excursion down the populist path. Cameron is apparently keeping Teresa
    May on, so he clearly cares very little for competence so long as the
    Minister is a team player, even in such an important position.

  • HookesLaw

    A journalist complaining about there not being enough ‘normal’ people in politics?
    A journalist!

    How does somehow knowing the price of milk help when if comes to solving the world problems? maybe we should have a load of cod polititians who bone up on the proice of backed beans and who is 3rd in the Premiership.

    • saffrin

      Better to have someone that has lived in the real world and not someone straight out of big boy school.
      Not too hard to figure out where Cameron stands when he stuck us with 20% VAT on the one hand and let multinational corporations off the hook.
      He’s still done bu*ger all about that yet either.

  • eclair

    I dont think Ive ever met a ‘normal’ person but politicians have politician written all over them and printed through like rock and lying and dissembling is the least of it Colonel.

  • berosos_bubos

    a quota of conservatives would definately be a good thing.

  • anyfool

    Why should there be room in the cabinet for women just because they are women.
    Have you forgotten the Blair Babes, gerrymandered into parliament, put in the Cabinet on a whim, all useless, non left an impression on anything, unless you count that publicity picture headlined Blairs Babes.
    Ordinary or any other quota is not what you want for leadership, you want flair and daring, idiocies like the current demands for equality have gotten what we now have, mindless bland crap throughout the whole country.

  • Gentleman Jim Crow

    Looking around that picture of the cabinet table my primary thought is “what a shower of cnuts”. How do we allow such bizarre and abnormal people to rule over us? I agree with Billy Connolly. The desire to be a politician should be enough to preclude you from ever being one. We would do better to select our government from the general population by lottery as they did in ancient Athens.

    • johnfaganwilliams

      Think it was actually Douglas Adams who said “if anyone wants to be the president of the universe that alone should preclude them from standing for the post” – not an actual word-for-word quote but close enough. Zaphod Beeblebrox, Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

    • HookesLaw

      Anyone can be a politician – there is nothing to stop you. Go on put yourself in front of this “we” you say are hard done by, put yourself in front of the public.
      You have no desire or ability for it but get your kicks from complaining.

      Yes good old Greek democracy – they had the right idea not letting the slaves vote – just the posh elite; no women obviously.

      • Gentleman Jim Crow

        Most normal people wouldn’t want to. Politics only attracts a-holes like the ones in the picture.

      • Wessex Man

        Well you’ve certainly shown your true idea of politics there Hooky babe.

  • Smithersjones2013

    Until we stop viewing such things in terms of gender there will never be a solution.

  • Blindsideflanker

    Cameron , in seeking to add some token women and ethnics to his Cabinet is attempting to play by the rules determined by the cultural Marxists, for he is only worried about quotas the left want to pander to, none others.

    Parliament should be about the representation of ideas, not the representation of quotas of ethnic tribes or genders.

    • telemachus

      the rules determined by the cultural Marxists
      Will not work
      A nasty wolf in sheeps clothes is still a nasty wolf

      • Colonel Mustard

        The symbol of the Fabians is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. It’s an odd symbol for a supposedly “benign” organisation to adopt is it not?

        • telemachus

          Not a nasty wolf

          • Colonel Mustard

            A matter of opinion. Personally I think the Fabians represent one of the greatest threats to the individual liberty of the free Englishman. And I mean MAN.

            • trotters1957

              You have a strange view of individual liberty.

              • Colonel Mustard

                No, an opinion, freely expressed. I think your views are strange too.

      • Damaris Tighe

        For once I think I agree with you.

    • Gentleman Jim Crow

      Come now, if it wasn’t for diversity quotas we might have missed out on the brilliance of “baroness” Warsi.

    • trotters1957

      “Cultural marxists”, obviously you’ve been taken in by Brevik.
      Define it for us.

      • Colonel Mustard

        Those who detest it can recognise it and don’t need to define it for the benefit of its own cheerleaders playing their little mind games online. Google it yourself and you’ll find plenty of definitions.

        Typical socialist rent seeker. Wants others to do the work while they call all the shots. What is “trotters1957”? A reference to the Marxist pigs in Animal Farm?

      • Birger Skruddusvingen

        “Define it for us.”

        Please try to read and comprehend this:

    • Damaris Tighe

      But when you have no ideas, what’s left but to resort to petty tribalism?

  • CharlietheChump

    Don’t ever expect anybody who wants to enter, let alone thrive, in politics, to be normal.

    By definition politicians are never normal.

    Some are exceptional, most opinionated, some damaged, rarely they are useful, even rarer effective.

    But normal? No, get used to it.

  • Liz

    “ministers should be chosen for their talent, not their gender”

    Talent according to what measure? Who’s measure? Talent for what?

    Talent for politics isn’t an objective characteristic, the role of politics isn’t an objectively defined one. Merit is subjective. The measurement of it is subjective. It frequently boils down to being like what’s gone before.

    And what’s gone before isn’t very good.

    The role of government is to represent us, I’m not adequately represented by cardboard cutout, mediocre, clubbable men. Never have been, never will be.

    • Smithersjones2013

      And therefore using your logic any woman that is successful under the current system will be (and are) just as bloody useless as the men!

      PS At least the men try and represent everybody however poor that representation may be whereas when was the last time you heard a woman politician attempt to represent the male viewpoint? The women politicians are not only bloody useless they are overtly sexist as well!

      The role of government is to represent us, I’m not adequately represented by cardboard cutout, mediocre, clubbable bimbos. Never have been, never will be.

      • Liz

        When women make up over 80% of parliament you can feel confident they will represent men adequately.

    • anyfool

      You say.
      The role of government is to represent us, I’m not adequately represented by cardboard cutout, mediocre, clubbable men. Never have been, never will be
      And you think you will be by prim prissy talentless creatures like Harmon, good luck with that one.
      This country has had two great women leaders, Elizabeth the 1st and Margaret Thatcher, 376 years between them, have patience another one will be along in due course.

  • Liz

    And the achievements of the men are?

    • Holly


    • Kitty MLB

      And the achievements of Harriet Hatemen, Hamster chewing
      Mrs Balls , the loathsome mother of Dan Hodges (forgot
      her name) Robotic Rachel Reeves are?
      And not forgetting the woodland creature (that was )
      Caroline Spelmen , Chloe Smith ( that was)

      In the real world woman are far more concerned with
      capability then gender. It should never be about
      gender or colour those are PC correct Leftie obsessions.
      And Margaret Thatcher would have agreed with me.

      • telemachus

        mother of Dan Hodges

        Think Sunday Bloody Sunday

      • Colonel Mustard

        Glenda Bloody Jackson.

      • Liz

        And the achievements of the men are?

        • Wessex Man

          Well we can’t-multi task obviously, so when we get around to putting everything right that multi-taskers got wrong we take a little longer and get it right.

  • Winston Burchill

    Our political class are the world’s most bizarre people!

  • John Lea

    Spot on. I think that’s why the majority of the country don’t bother voting. The political landscape is populated by intellectual pygmies, token female/black non-entities, and expense-abusing crooks.

    • telemachus

      Not the political landscape
      Do not judge the whole landscape from the failed leadership of the Coalition
      Next May there will be the opportunity to bring in intellectual giants like Andy, Tristram and Yvette
      And bask in the dynamic and charismatic leadership of Ed and Ed
      The country needs a ne direction
      And it will get one

      • Colonel Mustard

        That is preposterous tripe. All of them are lightweights and/or dissemblers. Hunt is also thick despite his parvenue pretensions to intellectual sagacity. Burnham is positively slippery with a penchant for fascism and more interest in securing his Wiki entry than what benefits the nation. They are all legends only in their own minds and for tribalist, zealot Lieborg fools like you. “Andy” FFS!

        The direction likely to be taken by that re-heated gang of Brownian has-beens will be terrible for the country.

        • telemachus

          I did not expect a ringing endorsement from you
          But in a few years you will change your tune as Britain enters the swinging twenties with socialism

          • Colonel Mustard

            I’m too old to change my tune. I have a long lifetime’s experience of the crimes of the Labour party in government. The current row of misfits on the opposition front bench will not command the confidence of the nation even if they manage to scrape into power as a result of their gerrymandered vote. Just look at them. Ghastly, grisly crew of dissembling nutjobs and witches.

          • Alexsandr

            jeez. bring on assisted dying. I will be first in line.

          • UniteAgainstSocialism

            telemachus – “as Britain enters the swinging twenties with socialism”

            woohoooo i cant wait, socialists swinging from lamp posts, it sounds like a dream come true

            if only all socialists were hanged in the 1920s, 120 milion victims of socialist policies wouldnt have fallen victim to the ideologies of marx and hitler

            telemachus, how much to you weigh?


            • Wessex Man

              it’s difficult to tell with an airhead like you, why not go out a few times and try it and let us know or then again with luck you won’t be able to you slimy silly little commie you.

              • UniteAgainstSocialism

                corr blimey

        • Roger Hudson

          The answer is Alan Johnson, and they just need a lot more like him.

          • Colonel Mustard

            I was not impressed by his last performance on QT and he too is tainted by New Labour but I concur he is perhaps one of the best of a very bad bunch. There are simply not enough pragmatists in the cabinets of either two parties.

      • Ian Walker

        If Ed Balls is an intellectual giant, then Mr Bean must be a cultural colossus!

        • M. Wenzl

          Actually given the export of Mr Bean abroad, you might want to pick a better comparison..

          • Holly

            Mr whatshisface, who wrote that book on money stuff….
            Mr Pinickety!

          • Suzy61

            Mr Bean is the only thing that makes our European partners think twice about us leaving. Sad maybe, but true. Never mind, they can always get it on DVD. Not so sad after all.

      • Holly

        Ooooo….Nearly telemachus…nearly.

      • Curnonsky

        Comedy Gold.

      • HJ777

        Those people are only intellectual giants by your standards.

        Not by anyone else’s.

      • Suzy61

        ha ha ha…

Can't find your Web ID? Click here