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.
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.