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2018 Cabinet Reshuffle: Fresh Talent or Fresh Disappointment?

  • Opinion

By Julia Everett, BA International Relations and Development Studies

The cabinet remains to be overwhelmingly privileged, white and male 

Theresa May recently stated that her new cabinet reshuffle has made the government look ‘more like the country it serves’ and is ‘bringing fresh talent into government’. But this statement is far from the truth. The cabinet remains to be overwhelmingly privileged, white and male. Prepare for more of the same.

Prime Minister Theresa May has attempted to combat criticism by advertising her new cabinet as being more diverse and therefore more representative than what has come before. There is a small element of truth to this, as of the 13 new politicians on the government payroll, four were BME (black and minority ethnicity) and eight were women. However, the diversity of the cabinet fails to go much further than this.

This cabinet is more privileged than the one that came before. Research from the Sutton Trust shows that 34% of the 29 ministers attending cabinet went to private schools, compared with 30% of her cabinet last year. David Gauke, a solicitor who studied law at Oxford University and previously worked for a city law firm, has been appointed as Justice Secretary. Amber Rudd, former investment banker and venture capitalist, has also managed to hold onto her position as Home Secretary. Supporters of May might argue that these examples of education and experience render these ministers more qualified. On the contrary, I find it hard to believe that an ex-venture capitalist really holds the interests of the working class at heart. May’s cabinet fails to represent the country it serves, as ministers attending the cabinet are around five times more likely to have gone to a private school compared to the general population.

Even more shocking is that only one Cabinet minister, Sajid Javid, is of minority ethnic descent. He is also the first man of Asian descent to hold a cabinet position despite the fact that around 8% of the population is of Asian descent. The gender inequality of the cabinet is also glaringly obvious as only 5 out of the 22 cabinet ministers is female. How can a government which doesn’t even attempt to represent who we are as a population, represent our political interests?

Karen Lee, a Labour MP, said that the composition of the cabinet suggests a government that “does not look like the country it represents and whose actions favour a wealthy elite”.

“Millionaires have been given tax cuts while the majority are worse off, the NHS we rely on has been plunged into crisis and schools and children’s services have been slashed,” she said.

“Theresa May claims she wants a Britain that works for everyone, but her actions tell a different story. The Tories remain the party of and for the few.”

Surely anyone can see that Hunt’s handling of the role since 2012 has been
utterly shambolic

Delving deeper into the changes made by May, it becomes increasingly clear that the interests of the general population are at odds with those of the government. Shockingly, the infamous Jeremy Hunt has not only held onto his position as Health Secretary, but his role has been expanded to Secretary for Health and Social Care. May hopes that this appointment will bring, what she believes, is Hunt’s calm and reassuring approach to the NHS to social care. But surely
anyone can see that Hunt’s handling of the role since 2012 has been utterly shambolic. From numerous cuts to the 2015 battle with junior doctors over an unacceptable contract, which brought the NHS to a halt on numerous occasions. Hunt’s new position suggests a failure on May’s part to recognise the discontent surrounding the NHS at present, and therefore a failure to represent the people. Turning to education, Justine Greening has quit her position as education secretary over the issue of grammar schools. Despite the policy’s general unpopularity and the fact that it does little to promote social mobility, May reintroduced the policy in the 2017 manifesto. Greening’s lack of enthusiasm for the policy and her supposed ‘cosying up’ to teaching unions led to her departure from the frontbench. Her replacement? Damian Hinds, a former grammar school attendee. It remains to be seen whether he will do anything to solve the issue of student debt and university budget deficits, but don’t hold your breath.

We need more, and we demand more.

If we want to solve the glaring inequalities and crises facing this country, we need a government who is going to represent and put us first. Simply claiming diversity is not enough. We need more, and we demand more.

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