So after David Cameron’s extensive cabinet reshuffle this week, which now includes six women sitting in or attending cabinet, the papers are awash with the argument that they were only appointed to fill his 2008 pledge to have a cabinet that was one third women by the time of the next election. Mission accomplished. Some are arguing that the appointment of these women is diminished by the notion that they are simply token female appointment’ rather than being appointed on the basis of merit.
Other media commentators are up in arms over the fact that a lot of today’s newpaper front pages have focussed on the outfits, accessories and overall appearance of these new female cabinet members. The infamous walk to 10 Downing Street for the morning meeting has been called a catwalk- rather than the serious stride we see from male MP’s who are clearly there to do business, natch, not look pretty. Dubbed ‘Cameron’s cuties’ (yuk- how disgustingly patronising and chauvinistic) it’s clear that the press are branding these women as cabinet eye candy.
Either way, if this new cabinet is all about appearances and filling quotas, what do you make of Priti Patel’s appointment as she joins the Treasury as Exchequer Secretary? Um, diversity quota anyone?
That seems a bit harsh but with all the cynicism surrounding Cameron’s cabinet reshuffle, it’s something I can’t help but ask. I’ve no doubt that her appointment is also strategic to some extent: the 42 year old Conservative MP for Witham is also Cameron’s India Diaspora Champion, a supporter of India’s Prime Minister Modi and a staunch supporter of UK-Indo relationships. She champions UK business opportunities in India, one of the world’s fastest growing markets; backs better trade links between the UK and India and has been working with the Prime Minister to boost UK exports to India. With India’s Prime Minister Modi said to be eager to increase trade globally, clearly Patel is well-placed to ensure the UK’s share of the pie, or in this case parantha.
David Cameron today tweeted that he wants “a team that reflects modern Britain and that can be everything modern Britain expects it to be”. If you take this reshuffle at face value, then it’s great for the British Asian community that the inclusion of a British Asian is seen to “reflect modern Britain” and is “something that modern Britain expects.” I for one am glad that there is a British Asian woman in David Cameron’s latest team. It’s one step further to the rest of us smashing that tinted glass ceiling.