X

Create an account to continue reading.

Registered readers have access to our blogs and a limited number of magazine articles
For unlimited access to The Spectator, subscribe below

Registered readers have access to our blogs and a limited number of magazine articles

Sign in to continue

Already have an account?

What's my subscriber number?

Subscribe now from £1 a week

Online

Unlimited access to The Spectator including the full archive from 1828

Print

Weekly delivery of the magazine

App

Phone & tablet edition of the magazine

Spectator Club

Subscriber-only offers, events and discounts
 
View subscription offers

Already a subscriber?

or

Subscribe now for unlimited access

ALL FROM JUST £1 A WEEK

View subscription offers

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

Thank you for creating an account – Your subscriber number was not recognised though. To link your subscription visit the My Account page

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

X

Login

Don't have an account? Sign up
X

Subscription expired

Your subscription has expired. Please go to My Account to renew it or view subscription offers.

X

Forgot Password

Please check your email

If the email address you entered is associated with a web account on our system, you will receive an email from us with instructions for resetting your password.

If you don't receive this email, please check your junk mail folder.

X

It's time to subscribe.

You've read all your free Spectator magazine articles for this month.

Subscribe now for unlimited access – from just £1 a week

You've read all your free Spectator magazine articles for this month.

Subscribe now for unlimited access

Online

Unlimited access to The Spectator including the full archive from 1828

Print

Weekly delivery of the magazine

App

Phone & tablet edition of the magazine

Spectator Club

Subscriber-only offers, events and discounts
X

Sign up

What's my subscriber number? Already have an account?

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

Thank you for creating an account – Your subscriber number was not recognised though. To link your subscription visit the My Account page

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

X

Your subscriber number is the 8 digit number printed above your name on the address sheet sent with your magazine each week. If you receive it, you’ll also find your subscriber number at the top of our weekly highlights email.

Entering your subscriber number will enable full access to all magazine articles on the site.

If you cannot find your subscriber number then please contact us on customerhelp@subscriptions.spectator.co.uk or call 0330 333 0050. If you’ve only just subscribed, you may not yet have been issued with a subscriber number. In this case you can use the temporary web ID number, included in your email order confirmation.

You can create an account in the meantime and link your subscription at a later time. Simply visit the My Account page, enter your subscriber number in the relevant field and click 'submit changes'.

If you have any difficulties creating an account or logging in please take a look at our FAQs page.

Features

David Cameron's sex problem

Does the Prime Minister really believe in equality?

23 February 2013

9:00 AM

23 February 2013

9:00 AM

This week David Cameron lectured a business audience in India on how far Britain has yet to go in getting women into the boardroom. ‘My wife likes to say,’ he said, ‘that if you don’t have women in 50 per cent of the top positions you are not missing out on 50 per cent of the talent, you are missing out on much more than 50 per cent of the talent.’

The irony seemed to be lost on him. Here was the leader of a government which preaches equality every bit as much, if not more, than Tony Blair’s Labour party: the law has been changed so that employers can use ‘positive discrimination’ to manipulate the gender and ethnic balance of their staff; universities have been bullied and threatened with loss of funding if they fail to reduce their intake from private schools.

And yet Cameron’s Cabinet and party have failed miserably to achieve the standards which he tries to impose on others. Never mind reaching the 50 per cent representation which he feels would be ideal, just four of Cameron’s 22-strong Cabinet are women. Far from luxuriating in their talents, he seems especially fond of sacking females who do make it in.

In last September’s reshuffle, Welsh Secretary Cheryl Gillan was sacked for her opposition to HS2. Caroline Spelman lost her job as Environment Secretary for no obvious reason, and Baroness Warsi was demoted from party chairman to a post outside Cabinet. Justine Greening was also demoted. There was also a notable sacking of Sarah Teather as an education minister. Not one of the fallen women received an honour, by the by, although four male ministers who left the government did.

[Alt-Text]


As for the educational background of Cabinet ministers, God help any university which showed such a bias towards public school types. In Cameron’s first Cabinet, 14 out of 23 government ministers went to private schools. Just five went to comprehensives. After the 2012 reshuffle, the number of privately educated ministers fell by two, with the number of comprehensive-educated ministers rising by a pathetic one.

Now, of course, there might be perfectly good reasons why there are only four women and hardly any comprehensive-educated ministers in the Cabinet. The Prime Minister can only choose from what talent is available to him and if fewer women want to be MPs than do men, so what? None of the sacked women had exactly excelled themselves in office. If few comprehensive-educated pupils go on to fill the top positions in society, it doesn’t necessarily imply discrimination either. Maybe our schools aren’t educating people properly. Maybe state school pupils think politics is a dirty business.

I suspect that most Spectator readers will have a great sympathy for these arguments. But they are not arguments which David Cameron will accept — not in public in any case. You don’t hear him saying, ‘Oh, well, maybe fewer women than men want to be on the boards of FTSE companies — you can’t drag them into managerial roles.’ Rather, he lectures businesses on how brilliant women are at business, using his wife as an example, and hints that they are somehow guilty of inadvertent discrimination.

Tony Blair was no different. In 2004, his government bizarrely tried to impose 25 per cent female representation on the Iraqi transitional assembly — a target which he had been unable to reach with his own government. At the time, only five of his Cabinet were women.

His government went on to pass a whole raft of equality and diversity legislation, lumbering firms with punitive fines and costs for firing staff without first going through all the hoops: verbal warnings, written warnings and meetings attended by trade union representatives. Businesses were punished for falling foul of often dubious claims of discrimination by frustrated job applicants.

Yet Blair himself took no notice whatsoever of the rules he was happy to impose on others. When he wanted to fire an under­performing minister he didn’t go through that series of verbal and written warnings; he just picked up the phone and told them that their services were no longer required.

As for Blair, as for Cameron: equality and diversity are concepts for other people to observe. But since our leaders cannot seem to live with their own silly equality and discrimination laws, might it not be an idea to exempt the rest of us from them, too?

Give something clever this Christmas – a year’s subscription to The Spectator for just £75. And we’ll give you a free bottle of champagne. Click here.


Show comments
Close