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.

Candidate of the day

Owen Paterson

One day to go and Sir John Major has weighed in. “Labour divides to rule. To win votes they will turn rich against poor; north against south; worker against boss." We hope we don't wake up with them on Friday.

Hero of the day

Sir John Major

Another awful Labour woman. The fact Ed Miliband’s carved his pledges in stone doesn't mean he might not break them, campaign chief Lucy Powell has said.

Villain of the day

Lucy Powell

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THE REAL CONSERVATIVE MANIFESTO

Back marriage. Restore grammar schools. Leave the EU.

Kathy Gyngell: Welcome to the “Harmanisation” of the Tory Party. This is Harriet’s reshuffle, not Dave’s

Once upon a time a government reshuffle was viewed in established political terms. Was the prime minister promoting more right-wingers than left-wingers? Had fiscal hawks triumphed over doves? Had Eurosceptics made an advance or a retreat. Had the “wets” vanquished the “dries”.

These were the benchmarks of political analysis under the likes of Margaret Thatcher and John Major. Mrs Thatcher wrestled with the “wets” like Jim Prior and Francis Pym out of sympathy with her free-market brand of Conservatism. Major was famously at odds with the “bastards” he had to accommodate in his ranks, the three or four ministers opposed to his split-the-difference approach to the Europe question.

Similar divisions marked the Labour years, when Blairite apologists for the free market locked horns with Brownites wedded to the union-dominated, vested-interest policies of Old Labour.

Not any more. Today’s politics has been reduced to gender. In the absence of any significant differences between the three parties on the big questions facing the nation – the size of the state, tax and spending, public service and welfare reform, social policy (the role of the family, the importance of marriage for social stability and harmony, crime and punishment), defence and foreign policy - micropolitics is the modern dividing line, both between the parties and within them.

David Cameron (with much string-pulling from George Osborne) is perceived to be in charge of the Cabinet and ministerial shake-up taking place this week. But the true architect of this game of ministerial musical chairs lies elsewhere. In fact she is to be found in another party. That feminist queen, Harriet Harman, Labour’s deputy leader and the inspiration behind the Equality Act, is the real driving force behind the Conservative shake-up.

The weekend press is full of informed speculation that the reshuffle will be dominated by the promotion of at least 10 women to ministerial posts – either at junior or middle-ranking level or at full Cabinet rank.

Dave, we are repeatedly told, has a “women problem”, as Yvette Cooper misses no opportunity to point out. In part, this stems from the fact that the opinion polls consistently give Labour a significant lead over the Tories among women voters – as high as 26 points according to an ICM survey last year. He also, it is true, has relatively few women in his Government – only three out of 22 ministers at Cabinet level, though, as the PM points out, among all Conservative ministers, roughly one in five are women.

Nonetheless, Dave is well short of delivering his promise that by the end of this Parliament, one third of his ministers would be female.

Group rights, not the old divisions between Right and Left, nor the old fashioned duty to represent all, dominate political debate today. Plastic images of young(ish) women MPs dominate the press as reporters speculate which of the middle-aged balding Ministers they will oust.

But why stop at gender? What about other groups similarly or more 'under-represented' in government? Ethnic minorities, gays, the disabled, the working classes, the benefit-claiming classes, northerners who left school at 15 and who have worked in canning factories all their lives? And what about retired colonels living in Somerset now voting UKIP in disgust at gay marriage? Where is their 'representative' in the government? When will they get their quota?

All this is Ms Harman’s doing. Her greatest achievement has been to browbeat the Conservative Party into her divisive, even poisonous way of looking at the world.

Only last week, she was at it again, complaining bitterly about her one-time friend and patron Gordon Brown refusing to make her Deputy Prime Minister (although she was Labour’s Deputy Leader) and – to add insult to injury – limiting her involvement in a G20 summit to instructing her to attend the dinner for the leaders’ wives. Poor Harriet.

In her speech at Westminster, she insisted that politics had a long way to go before it is representative of society - of women, race and class background.

On these misguided terms, she is right. Only a quarter of MPs are female and far fewer have working class backgrounds or are members of other minority groups.

Frighteningly, the PM and his senior advisers share her analysis. Parliament and by extension the Government must become a mirror image of an atomised country riven by group conflict – Muslim against Christian, men against women, black against white, old against young, poor against wealthy, gay against straight.

Dave will try to placate Harriet this week by offering jobs or promotions to the likes of Nicky Morgan, Andrea Leadsom, Amber Rudd and Esther McVey and many more. Old, male and pale ministers will be pensioned off and left quietly to seethe with bitterness on the backbenchers. But Harriet will always have another hoop for him to climb through.

And will it do him any good anyway? Will the “Harmanisation” of the Conservative Party – its conversion to the Marxist and feminist notion of quotas and group rights – win him a single extra female vote?

Does he seriously expect that the over-taxed middle class mother battling to get a decent education for her children and an appointment at the local surgery cares two figs if Nicky (all-women shortlists) Morgan is promoted this week? And if she doesn’t, what about her similarly embattled counterpart on the council estate? The answer is no on both counts.

The Tories – the first and only party to elect a women leader – once stood for merit. They stood for the idea that the best people should be selected to stand for Parliament and that the ultimate decision about who was elected lay with the people.

Politicians were servants of the people to be slung out when they failed to deliver good government.

But under Harmanisation all that is going. Along with any chance of a cabinet of the most talented. Politics has become a job with family-friendly hours, decent salaries, perks, expenses, employment rights and a creche. We are used to "producer capture" in the great baronies of the bloated welfare state where multi-billion pound services are primarily run for the benefit of those who work for them.

Harriet’s great achievement is to bring producer capture – a political system run for the benefit of politicians not the public - to the Mother of Parliaments. Once it was the envy of the world and now it shares the obsessions of Lambeth social services department.

Kathy Gyngell

  • MrVeryAngry

    Poor old Dave, having a woman problem. He’s not alone. As a bloke I have observed that In life you can either have too many, or not enough. They truly are a monstrous regiment. And as I age I begin to agree with Kipling, who said that ‘a woman is only a woman, but a good cigar is a smoke.’ Only I don’t smoke and please don’t tell Mrs VA that I wrote this.

  • Robert_Eve

    Spot on!!

  • Dogzzz

    I cannot vote for any party which promotes people based solely on what genitalia they have. That is prejudice of the lowest sort.

    I am left with no option but to vote UKIP.

  • Alexsandr

    good women will get the top jobs. and men
    positive discrimination is unfair on those with ability who are denied chances, and are an insult to those who do achieve great things.
    tories should have no truck with it. Bit I fear the tories are too in awe of the left, and it will be their undoing.

  • Tom Chance

    “But why stop at gender? What about other groups similarly or more ‘under-represented’ in government? Ethnic minorities, gays, the disabled, the working classes, the benefit-claiming classes, northerners who left school at 15 and who have worked in canning factories all their lives? And what about retired colonels living in Somerset now voting UKIP in disgust at gay marriage? Where is their ‘representative’ in the government? When will they get their quota?”

    This is the most important point, highlighting the absurdity of the idea. Closet racists and homophobes make up a not insignificant proportion of the population. The BNP won 6% of Euro votes in 2009, do they deserve 6% of representation at Cabinet level?

    • The *opinionated* demographic is severely over-represented in politics today, in my I-hope-not-too-opinionated opinion, whilst the a-political, apathetic demographic is badly under-represented. I wonder why this proportional representation disaster has befallen our representative democracy.

      People who might justly admit to being “party animals” are also over-represented in the elected chamber of our bicameral legislature, which nowadays has publicly funded political parties’ members sitting in it, because the public had become fed up of donating amply enough, directly, to the campaign funds of the Lib Lab Con Trick at election time, with the result the said widely-despised “party” promptly voted to fund itself, using tax-payers’ money.

      Meanwhile, anybody who has to start his own political party before there is a political party in the entire country with all of whose policies he agreed enough to vote for one of their candidates (like me in 2005) remain members of a badly under-represented demographic.

      Women, however, are over-represented, in the following sense: A woman who wants to become an MP, is (I gather, thanks to Mike Buchanan) more than twice as likely to achieve her ambition as a man who wants to become an MP is.

      Do we “need” more female MPs, and ministers? God knows. I don’t think that there is a rational, scientific basis for us mere mortals plucking a target percentage figure out of the air, and asserting (without evidence) that that particular percentage of female persons sitting in the elected chamber, or serving Her Majesty as Ministers of hers for that matter, is the *right* percentage that simply has to be achieved, by hook or by crook.

      Even if science dictated such percentage targets, how on earth could we stop even female voters persistently from voting for male candidates, let alone male voters?

      I just know that the word on the streets (take heed: I am lately become a member of the benefits claimant underclass, whom Tories typically despise, and who typically despises Tories for that matter, so I have plenty of time on my hands to listen to the said “word on the streets”) … the word on the streets is that it is nowadays easier for a politically minded woman who happens to have responded appropriately to training in quasi-delusional gender-feminist ideation, to become an MP, than it is for a man to become an MP, but that women who despise such feminism (like the late Maggie did) find it even more difficult than men do, to get elected.

      Cameron apparently set out to deter, by throwing sweeties at his babes, and his veterans to the wolves, the formation of the proposed new Feminist Party, by taking the wind out of the protagonists’ sails. (What me, sexist? I’ll show you!)

      That is a shame. A mass exodus of all of feminism’s entryists in the Lib Lab Con Trick, to set out their own stall instead of continuing to infiltrate clandestinely (in effect) the one party of today’s (in effect) one-party state, the Lib Lab Con Trick as I call it, would have been *so* interesting, why, even more interesting than UKIP!

      Pray God Cameron’s appeasement policy fails. I have no fear of a new Feminist Party. Bring it on! I might even manage to persuade Mike Buchanan of J4MB to embrace the absurd “Masculist” nomenclature for his own amusing little “me too” political party. (Feminism is absurd for the same reason that Masculism would be absurd. Get the point?)

  • fubar_saunders

    “We are used to “producer capture” in the great baronies of the bloated welfare state where multi-billion pound services are primarily run for the benefit of those who work for them.”

    and THAT is the nub of it. Bang on.

    • I am a native Brit who is alas no longer a thoroughly healthy, employable and well-paid highly skilled professional, who for decades faithfully paid his income tax, national insurance, advance corporation tax and V.A.T, whilst raising a sizeable and handsome family who are now being taxed themselves.

      Happily, I enjoy in my own “early retirement” (a euphemism) a standard of living the envy of many a Commonwealth citizen, without subsidy directly from my four adult tax-paying children, none of whom has yet managed to put a foot on the property ladder. This enables me at last to follow contentedly and with dedication my true calling in life, as a lifelong political dissident (not just a grumpy old man) every bit as vociferous (or verbose?) as rhetorical genius Kathy Gyngell, with time on his hands to make (for example) this long comment, on somebody else’s blog.

      I also have a blog of my own that alas also occasionally lapses into not well-thought-out nostalgia for the good old days (that weren’t perfect either) like Kathy’s,

      On this blog, of mine I hope soon to be reporting news of my daring exploits as a litigant-in-person, in bringing (for example) a potential test case, in which I shall call colleagues in Families Need Fathers as witnesses. It is a court case that ought to hoist by its own petard the institutional gender feminism of social service’s Safeguarding industry, which is stopping my youngest (bastard) son from seeing his dad: I am pleading that the council breached it’s Public Sector Equality Duty (Equality Act 2010 s149) to promote good relations between men and women (by favouritism shown towards mothers when assessing “children in need” under Children Act s47), that said council treats differently male and female parents of referred children – discrimination contrary to Article 14, and that it conducted an unlawful inquisition into my faith-community-endorsed homophobic and pro-life beliefs, amply blogged about.

      I enjoy my life of cunning trouble-making for the new breed, without having to worry constantly about where my next meal is coming from. I enjoy what used to be called “social security”. I don’t have to compete with younger men from all over Europe for minimum wage factory jobs I might not be able to hold down, occasionally on offer in my depressed home town in Cornwall.

      As such, I am rather *fond* of the particular “barony” of the “bloated welfare state” (the Department of Work and Pensions), that (to get to the point) cannot *possibly* be paying its civil servants anything *like* as much merely to computerise the regular payment electronically into my basic bank account, of my Income Support, Severe Disablement Supplement and Disability Living Allowance, to which I am said to have an “entitlement”, as the benefits I therefore receive cost the welfare state. Benefits which I regard as a godsend, for which I am duly thankful to God every single day of my life.

      The anti-welfare state sniping in an otherwise excellent feminism-debunking article, is misplaced. You, Mr Fubar Saunders, are, I think, mistaken, to latch onto it as though it was the best bit, when really it is the worst.

      It is simply inconceivable that the most mega of all the said “baronies”, the one that doles out the dole, is more beneficial to its employees than it is to those who are *on* benefits it doles out.

      We can expect more and more “welfare state” claimants nowadays to be drawn from the under-privileged gender, namely blokes, some of them as “diverse” as me; blokes demoted into the claimant underclass, that already really knows how to moan about modern social injustices, or at least will have to learn quickly, and stir up a modicum of unrest.

      If you want an example par excellence of a barony that seems to exist primarily to benefit its own employees, then the post-war “welfare state” (with which I admit, blushing, that I am still in love), is not (I suggest respectfully) the best place to go a-hunting. Instead, please look no further than the legal system – the multiple private-practice and public-sector law career professions (the bar, the Law Society, ILEX, the judiciary, CAFCASS, etc.)

      If you want to find the creme de la creme of the everyday guerrillas locked in street-level skirmish with the decadent modern ruling class, fighting feminism, homosexualism, the abortion industry and suchlike, until there is no more fight left in them, then look no further than reluctant benefits claimants with the brains to sue their asses, exploiting the very laws that they passed in the first place.

      Who am I to say such controversial things on an old-school Tory blog? Just a benefits claimant who writes a blog that Lord Tebbit was the first Parliamentarian to follow, nowadays followed by well over a hundred other members of the Lords or the Commons; and who respects Tebbit, and whom Tebbit respects. Yes, that’s how FUBAR politics is today – FU beyond all recognition. Natural class-war enemies sinking their differences in the gender-war age.

      If you or Kathy is nostalgic for some imagined good old days, when class politics was the main game in town, days when gender politics becoming the main game was an inconceivably nightmare, then, with respect, I suggest that you both need to think again.

      You cannot defeat today’s dumbed-down gender-war politics by attempting to launch a comeback for the old class-war politics, of the ugly, embarrassing Thatcher v Scargill era, thus engaging today’s cultural Marxists on a battlefield of their own choosing, a battlefield which they invented in the first place (says he, at the risk of sounding a tad “one nation”). Why not? Because you need as your foot soldiers the male (and some-of-them somewhat intellectual and cunning at that) victims of gender politics, many of whom gender-war realpolitic has already demoted to socioeconomic classes well below their comfort zone. Piss us off, by attacking the welfare state, at your peril!

      Small-c conservatives of the world unite. Learn to use, against them, the very weapons forged by the modernisers, who, not content with annoying God by redefining marriage last year, are this year willing to risk inviting the Scots to vote that we shall all perhaps soon have to redefine the UK itself, and in rather a panic at that!

  • alanmdouglas

    What is this ? Harperson does not even have a husband who is an entire male – he was shovelled into an all-woman Labour safe seat. To call her a hypocrit simply does not cover it – her Longford genes are showing !

  • Adaadat

    And to think that the argument in defence of the alternative view – that the best person gets the job – is the simplest one to make and has the greatest understanding amongst the public; what better way to turn alienation into a vote winner?

    Truly, the lunatics have taken over.

    I didn’t vote Conservative, to be urinated on, so, like “Dogzzz” below, only UKIP now offer a place for my vote.

  • Neil

    I have to say any woman available would be better than some of the current cabinet such as Ed Davey, but I suppose he’s safe.

  • BigNSM

    He’ll lose as many male voters as he gains female.

    I know several people (mostly men but not all) who stopped voting Labour because of all-women shortlists.

  • evad666

    Surely the problem is most of the politicians are of less use and experience than an old washerwoman?