One of the few traditional Conservatives to have served on the Tory front bench under Cameron, Paterson was Secretary of State for Northern Ireland before being promoted to the more high profile role of Secretary of State for Defra.

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THE REAL CONSERVATIVE MANIFESTO

Back marriage. Restore grammar schools. Leave the EU.

Kathy Gyngell: Dave dooms middle-aged male MPs. We are the guinea pigs for his gender politics experiment

The term political talent has just undergone an overnight redefinition. Its synonyms - flair, aptitude, facility, gift, ability, expertise, capacity, power, faculty - no longer apply. Not if you are a male MP anyway.

Yesterday morning we woke up to a rebirth of Dave the Moderniser and a political world defined by who you are, not by what gifts you have. If you are female, youngish and already a Tory MP, then hey presto you are talented – or part of a formerly hidden pool of talent. Hidden quite where in that most public of palaces, Westminster, I am not sure.

Of course its ‘discovery’ and promotion of this fabulous new source shrinks the genuine political talent pool even further.

The rot set in with the rise and rise of the political professionals - Cameron’s cadre of party apparatchiks with no experience except as Central Office researchers or 'spads', as special advisers to senior ministers are known in the trade. Fast tracked (another term for positive discrimination) onto the candidates' list and into safe seats they pushed aside men (and indeed women) with real life experience – in business, finance, farming, teaching and the forces.

Now the last surviving such MPs (primarily middle aged and male) are coming under attack again, as once more they are disbarred from Cabinet in favour of a new female force who, despite their elevation, have yet to prove themselves politically or administratively.

But Philip Hammond, the new Foreign Secretary (its okay for him), tells us that we have no need to worry. In his first interview from on high he told us, reassuringly, that (as far as women are concerned) that this is just ‘work in progress’:

“You have” he said, “to grow talent in Parliament from the bottom up. We’ve got lots of extremely talented women in the Conservative party, many of them now in ministerial roles (who?– T May? The former Minister Maria Miller?). You can’t just promote people immediately to the Cabinet (Why not? if they are so talented you would be mad not to), but that will come in time by natural progression as people gain experience (Will it? Why is this so necessary for women and not for men – except for the fact perhaps they are not up to the job?) and I think you are seeing a change to the composition of the top levels of the Conservative party, but it is a work in progress."

Well that at least is for sure.

Can he be fessing up to the widely held myth about female talent? That the government has to go to these lengths to accommodate their, urr, absence of talent and inexperience?

Here’s a suggestion then - why not plan some ‘inset’ training days for them just like teachers? The civil service could take a day off, like the schoolchildren - or maybe volunteer to run the creche.

It may be all very big society (sorry Cabinet) as John Prescott remarked, but who are the guinea pigs in Dave’s political laboratory for testing out gender theories? Us. Thanks a lot.

Apart from which any Cabinet new girl with an iota of self respect must find this all pretty patronising.

As for the ousted middle-aged male MPs who’ve been passed over time and again - on account of their being male rather than of their absence of of talent - they must be hopping mad, if they dare voice their fury.

Why? Because its too easy to forget the many so called ‘pale and stale’ male MPs deserving of promotion on their merit. To take just three:

First on my list would be the ever denigrated and demonised but quite brilliant and highly experienced John Redwood (63), a Chancellor of the Exchequer we never had but needed. A man who understood the banking crisis, who is in command of all matters economic and financial, who has the ability to deal with the public sector deficit, to cut taxes, reduce our national debt and deliver growth to boot. Not one of today’s over-promoted females comes near him in experience, ability or brain-power.

My second pick would be the cerebral, compassionate and highly able Jesse Norman (54). A director at Barclays before leaving to research and teach at University College London, he’s run an educational charity in Eastern Europe during and after the Communist period, a senior fellow at the think-tank Policy Exchange, author of Compassionate Conservatism and an acclaimed biography of Edmund Burke (the apostle of Liberty and the champion of Authority and as such the ‘father’ of conservatism). Going to Eton no doubt excludes him.

Finally Rory Stewart (44), another academic, author, diplomat, foreign policy/Middle East expert who was a senior coalition official in a province of occupied Iraq in 2003–04. He has engaged in cultural development work in Afghanistan as the Founder and Executive Chairman of the Turquoise Mountain Foundation, a British charity.

Such is the traction of the charge that Cameron has a poor record in retaining and promoting female talent that he cannot draw on this genuine pool of talent in the party.

Yet how many of the female MPs brought in to bolster Cameron against such charges have or ever will half the talent of the aforesaid middle-aged male MPs? I really don’t think presenting daytime TV counts. I should know, I have produced it.

Of course it's the British people and his own party who are the real losers from his futile and destructive gender politics.

Kathy Gyngell

  • Steve Lloyd

    Maybe the MP’s you have mentioned, will come to prominence in the post Dave, UKIP-Conservative alliance?

  • Lock up your daughters?

    Oh Kathy: “the widely held myth about female talent”

    Perhaps Kathy is insufficiently talented to comment LOL
    ..or perhaps this is quite sophisticated satire, for a woman (oh bless).

    The reshuffle is indeed another crass political ploy to gain votes but Kathy’s article is useful in that it demonstrates the attitudes which perhaps explain why females have historically achieved better results at school but have then gone on to earn less (or even a fraction) of their male counterparts.

    Well done sister! you just concreted over the glass ceiling for all to see.

    • Adaadat

      “Can he be fessing up to the widely held myth about female talent? That the government has to go to these lengths to accommodate their, urr, absence of talent and inexperience?”

      Please, read the above again.

      You should be able to understand that it is a reference to the myth of untapped female talent in parliament. After all, where is the origin of the prejudice against women, that produces this egregious waste of potential, if not No.10? We’re supposed to believe the PM has set himself the task of confronting his own deeply-held sexism. It’s daft. The alleged lack of talent stems from a lack of a suitable breadth of candidates, not discrimination.

      Maybe, just maybe, when you choose from a female pool of 10, as opposed to a male pool of 100, you don’t always find people up to the job, and promoting them faster than normal, even if the talent is there, is a recipe for disaster – for you.

      • Lock up your daughters?

        Oh very clever, but if you read my post I called the reshuffle a “crass political ploy” ….so perhaps you are equally unable to read or understand.

        We are accustomed to the umpteenth rewrite of the bible requiring “reinterpretation” but Kathy said what she said and I challenge you to find a publication by her where she does anything other than reinforce the glass ceiling or attack basic feminist principles rather than support them. Please let there be one at least!

        So I stand by what I said. IMO people like Ms. Gyngell demonstrate the depth of subtly ingrained sexism on a daily basis. The make up of institutions like Parliament is (amongst other things) the cumulative effect of these attitudes. This is 2014 not 1914 or 1814, isn’t it?

        Just within the last few years the talents of women have been recognised by employers with the salaries of female graduates at last reflecting their higher educational attainment. This may be deeply threatening to patriarchs and closet misogynists. I wonder, are the motivations of the Taliban that different? Okay they put the “glass ceiling” at knee height and seek to make it opaque and bullet proof!
        Is that so different from the Vatican; which is where I suspect Kathy finds her guidance on these issues?

      • Lock up your daughters?

        Oh very clever, but if you read my post I called the reshuffle a “crass political ploy” ….so perhaps you are equally unable to read or understand.

        We are accustomed to the umpteenth rewrite of the bible requiring “reinterpretation” but Kathy said what she said and I challenge you to find a publication by her where she does anything other than reinforce the glass ceiling or attack basic feminist principles rather than support them. Please let there be one at least!

        So I stand by what I said. IMO people like Ms. Gyngell demonstrate the depth of subtly ingrained sexism on a daily basis. The make up of institutions like Parliament is (amongst other things) the cumulative effect of these attitudes. This is 2014 not 1914 or 1814, isn’t it?

        Just within the last few years the talents of women have been recognised by employers with the salaries of female graduates at last reflecting their higher educational attainment. This may be deeply threatening to dogmatists, patriarchs and closet misogynists. I wonder, are the motivations of the Taliban that different? Okay they put the “glass ceiling” at knee height and seek to make it opaque and bullet proof!
        Is that so different from the Vatican; which is where I suspect Kathy finds her guidance on these issues?

  • Cat

    Lets hope so. To see if anything passes muster, you need to reverse the polarities and see how it sounds. Getting rid of ministers because they are women or ethnic minorities is not sounding so appealing, so why is it ok the other way round? To appease the vaginocracy?

  • Colonel Mustard

    It would be infinitely better if the ‘experience’ espoused by Mr Hammond were to be secured in the real world, amongst us, whom they supposedly represent, rather than in the rarified atmosphere of dubious horse trading, whipping-in and greasy pole climbing of government.

    The penny really does need to drop that those people (whether male or female, young or old, pale or the opposite word that is of course unacceptable) are not there to control us, not even to ‘manage’ us, still less to ‘nudge’ us but simply to represent us in Parliament – as people not as identity groups. When they become Ministers it should be with the accumulated wisdom and experience of that representation, as well as their shared credentials of being us.

    Traditionally a male MP was/is supposed to represent all his constituents. How is that we have descended to the silly notion that a new female MP must be there to represent women?

  • VacantPossession

    We need:-
    right of recall
    open primaries
    encourage but no +ve discrimination.

    How can *any* women now selected maintain self respect knowing peoples glances & snide whispering might well be ‘she got it because she is a women’ not ‘she got it because she represents her constituency as a Tory and the locals selected her as the best candidate because of her prodigious set of skills’.

    We have a Queen worthy of respect and have had an engine of a woman a Prime Minister. What Cameron has done belittles women IMHO.

    • Lock up your daughters?

      “We have a Queen worthy of respect …” …….I used to think so but what is it about her job which is so hard?

      More importantly there appear to be abject failures where she does theoretically have responsibility.

      Jersey is a part of the British Isles on which the monarchy still holds ultimate sway and child abuse cover up is just one of it’s problems. You may find the following video interviews with a serving Advocate of the Royal Court informative and shocking in equal measure:

      http://voiceforchildren.blogspot.co.uk/2014/06/advocate-philip-sinel-interview-part-2.html
      &
      http://voiceforchildren.blogspot.co.uk/2014/06/advocate-philip-sinel-interview-part-1.html

      The crown’s barons (appointed to power thought the Queen’s “Letters Patent”) have run amok in the Channel Islands for far too long and the resultant child abuse, corruption and cover up will damage the crown and the UK.

      Stop this madness and stop it now. Or is yet another British institution compromised by paedophilia?
      RE the “overarching child abuse inquiry” it is ESSENTIAL that this includes the Channel Island of Jersey. Children were trafficked in both directions, to and from UK.

    • Lock up your daughters?

      “We have a Queen worthy of respect …” …….I used to think so but what is it about her job which is so hard?

      More importantly there appear to be abject failures where she does have responsibility.

      Jersey is a part of the British Isles on which the monarchy still holds ultimate sway and child abuse cover up is just one of it’s problems. You may find the following video interviews with a serving Advocate of the Royal Court informative and shocking in equal measure:

      http://voiceforchildren.blogspot.co.uk/2014/06/advocate-philip-sinel-interview-part-2.html
      &
      http://voiceforchildren.blogspot.co.uk/2014/06/advocate-philip-sinel-interview-part-1.html

      The crown’s “legal barons” (appointed to power thought the Queen’s “Letters Patent”) have run amok in the Channel Islands for far too long and the resultant child abuse, corruption and cover up will damage the crown and the UK.

      Stop this madness and stop it now. Or is yet another British institution compromised by paedophilia?
      RE the “overarching child abuse inquiry” it is ESSENTIAL that this includes the Channel Island of Jersey.

  • SgtVimes

    I believe that the definition of “talent” is somewhat more confused with the sacking of Ken Clarke, William Hague and Dominic Grieve while the worryingly incompetent Iain Duncan Smith, Jeremy Hunt and Chris Grayling stay in post. To compound the ineptitude of Number 10 they appoint the incredibly able Baroness Stowell as Leader in the Lords without the pay nor, more importantly, the promotion to Cabinet.

  • The Elderking

    A kinder analysis is that the policy programme is all but done and they are caretaking their departments and will be election window dressing ’til next year. If the tories win it may be “all change” at the Cabinet table.

    True though – Cameron makes token promotions based on gender, race and religion – still, however, white male tories with working class backgrounds are few and far between. Just like at the BBC.

    Somehow that is of no concern to anyone.

  • max min

    If a couple of dozen chimpanzees, (male, female, or in any ratio), form a political party and put themselves up for the next election, I will vote for them.

    • Lock up your daughters?

      Is that another plug for UKIP ?

      only joking […I hope]