Tara Hamilton-Miller: Tories need more than 'yes' women

'Alarming' was how one Tory female MP described the photo of David Cameron at the Conservative Party spring conference surrounded by his white male shadow cabinet. There are some talented and hard-working MPs there but it speaks volumes - it says Tory politics is a man's world.

Tara Hamilton-Miller
Tara Hamilton-Miller

Two-and-a-half years ago Cameron stood on the Women to Win platform (a campaign to elect more Tory women) and said: ‘I want a cultural revolution to occur in my party.’ This has not happened. Women candidates have dropped off the radar – struggling to cope with family life and politics, a system was not put in place to support them. Where are the women?

To be fair, he only has 17 women from which to pick. The female MPs close to Cameron are unrecognisable, nameless, ‘yes’ women, there simply to maintain a status quo. The most prominent Tory woman is Nadine Dorries, a backbencher who has achieved more than the other women put together. Many attempts are made to clip Dorries’ wings but the blonde Liverpudlian tells them all to sod off. Back in 2005 there were high hopes for Putney MP Justine Greening, to no avail.

Team Cameron can protest but there is a problem with how he brings more women into the fold based on talent.

Numerous MPs have been ruined by over-promotion; smarty-pants Theresa Villiers was scalped then hung out to dry. There is a history of this. Gillian Shephard didn’t hack it, Virginia Bottomley bailed out, Edwina Currie was perhaps just exhausted.

An excellent suggestion was made that Cameron starts now in working with future parliamentary candidates, females in safe seats. He should call on them now; the new intake might be a high number and it would be worth his time getting to know them.

Cameron suggested last year that a third of his cabinet would be female. It is going to be difficult; no intelligent female would want a top job as the skirt in a photo opportunity.

A cynic might suggest it will be ten years before a future Tory cabinet will represent women with experience and talent.


Tara Hamilton-Miller is a political adviser and formerly worked for the Conservative Party press team

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