The most senior positions in the shadow cabinet have been revealed. And in the top four slots – leader, shadow chancellor, shadow Home Secretary, shadow Foriegn Secretary – it’s all men. I will now explain why this is appalling.
Usually, the excuse for why there aren’t more jobs given to females in politics is down to the meritocracy argument. “We just took the best people for the job, really. Only 22% of MPs are women – what were we supposed to do? Give the job to someone who we didn’t think was ready all in the name of positive gender discrimination?” They usually have at least half a point when this excuse is trotted out – although that’s only because an inherent, almost unconscious sexism is what makes this the case in the first place. The men get the breaks at the start, which means they are more likely to get promoted (maternity leave will never disrupt their progress either), so that when it comes to the end of the chain and the really big jobs are up for grabs it is actually much more likely that men have the superior experience needed.
But in this case, it’s so obviously not true. I can think of several women who are willing to serve in Corbyn’s shadow cabinet who would makes a better shadow chancellor than John McDonnell. Off the top of my head, Diane Abbott would be a lot better – she at least has frontbench experience.
But all right, let’s give McDonnell to Jeremy because they are mates and all. Besides I think Enoch Powell’s exhumed corpse would make a better shadow chancellor than McDonnell, so we could be here all day on this one. But did he really have to give Burnham the Home Secretary brief? The stock answer on this will be that Corbyn was trying to make peace with different factions within the Labour Party. But do Andy and his people genuinely represent a unique viewpoint? This was the guy whose campaign recipe was “Corbyn lite in an authentic scouse sauce” so I can’t see the hatchet that had to be buried here. Surely if he wanted to reach out, Lucy Powell was a better choice? And before you shout “too inexperienced”, have a gaze back at the two serial backbenchers holding the two top jobs now.
Before any of you jump in on this: yes, the Lib Dems are pretty crap at this too. Which leads me to ask: why is it that any “progressive” party that has a realistic shot at holding power is so bad when it comes to promoting women? Particularly when the supposed draconian right-wing party has already had a woman leader and currently has a woman running the Home Office?
Anyhow if this all comes across as another stick to beat Corbyn with, it isn’t: I’m genuinely sad about this. I didn’t think British politics was going to gain much from the Tom and Jeremy epoch, but I think subconsciously I’d sort of banked greater women’s representation. And we’re not even going to get that from the looks of things. Under Corbyn’s watch, the penistocracy that is the Labour Party high command seems destined to continue.