Liz Truss Has Appointed A Seriously Diverse Cabinet & We’re Not Convinced

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Harriet Harman once told me that those who continually push boundaries might be productive, but they might not be popular. She was talking about why there has never been a female Labour leader when the Conservatives had – at the time of our conversation in 2019 – two. 

While she described Labour’s absence of women at the helm as “wrong and embarrassing,” she explained the reason as down to the fact that historically the party’s female MPs have been critical of the party hierarchy, consciously challenging sexist structures and wanting to make the world better for women. This, she argued, threatened their male peers and prevented them from reaching the top. 

Conversely, Conservative female PMs have focused on beating men at their own game, on their terms. They (and by they, I refer to Margaret Thatcher and Theresa May) didn’t want to change the party rules for women nor make the UK a better place for their female constituents. They weren’t interested in that.

A few years later, we have our third female PM – Liz Truss – and the same argument applies. Most of us, by this point, understand that it is a good idea to have a diverse government. What many still don’t understand is why we need it. The Conservatives were praised for its racially diverse leadership race, and Truss has been applauded for her diverse cabinet where, for the first time, a white man will not hold one of the country’s four most important ministerial positions. 

The optics look great, giving the Tories an easy response to any accusations of racism. This party likes to enlist minority figureheads to lead their most hard-right racist policies so that our predominantly white media can’t call them out. I refer to our former Home Secretary Priti Patel, whose obsession with closing borders felt almost maniacal in its dogeared pursuit. Just because someone is from a minority group, it doesn’t mean they want to improve the lives of that given minority. It doesn’t mean they care about social justice. 

We can be of the same sex or share the same skin colour as someone without them representing our experiences or political values. I have the same skin colour as Boris Johnson, but it doesn’t mean we have anything in common beyond that.

Let’s take a quick look around Truss’ cabinet, starting with the new PM herself. In the last 24 hours, she has erased ‘women’ from the ‘women and equalities’ job title and hired a man for the role. Truss occupied this position herself since 2019 and did so little work fighting for women’s equality during this time that she was, in fact, accused by a fellow Tory MP of treating the position as a “side hustle.” 

For someone, whose campaign slogan overused the word ‘deliver’, she has shown a fairly limited understanding of it in her previous roles. Her other appointments don’t exactly show women’s rights to be a top priority. Jacob Rees Mogg, our new Business Minister, who thinks those who work flexibly or from home are skiving, which bodes well not just for working mothers, but any woman who feels she has a better life-balance WFH. Next up, we have new Health Minister Thérèse Coffey, who voted to revoke access to at-home abortion care and re-criminalise women who end their own pregnancy without the approval of two doctors. You’d be forgiven for not feeling overly hopeful that Truss’ tenure will spell better times for women.

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