Friday 5 June 2009

Women cannot be used as window dressing

The phrase of using women as "window dressing" will resonate well beyond this extraordinary week in politics - and may well haunt members of the current Cabinet.
If, as Caroline Flint sets out, in her very angry resignation letter, women attending cabinet have been used to make a show of a gender-balanced cabinet where none existed, this is an appalling state of affairs for a Labour government in the 21st century.
This "attending cabinet" status was rather woolly and appeared to be used initially to allow Yvette Cooper cabinet status as housing minister when salaried places were full up.
But latterly others have been given this status including Beverley Hughes and Tessa Jowell.
If, as Flint alleges, this was to give a show of having women in Cabinet in these modern times, without actually giving them a proper role, or power, or even allowing them to attend meetings, then this is a very poor state for a Labour government which supports the idea of equality.
However, at this stage it is hard to seperate what is an outpouring of anger on Flint's behalf as she is denied a Cabinet role, which she obviously felt she had been promised or deserved..and the truth of this allegation.
When the anger has dissipated, it will be time to look clearly at roles in politics and any gender discrimination.
There is no point in any organisation creating a "board" giving women senior roles and then denying them real power.
I would like to believe that the government would never do that.


FloTom said...

Downing St today resembled the last day in the fortress of Masada before the Romans broke through.

Browns time is up. The Labour Party doesnt want him, Parliament doesnt want him, the country doesnt want him.

If he does not go there will be NO Labour Party left. In the October election of 1931 Labour lost 235 MPs. It looks like they are determined to head that way again.

Anonymous said...

Of course sexism is still alive and well, and such claims shouldn't be belittled. However in the case of caroline flint I think the dude from C4 news today hit the nail on the head: "she was about to take a job but found all sorts of principled reasons for not taking it when it wasn't offered"

Calix said...

Alex - I like the comment from C4 news!

I agree 'window dressing' is a serious accusation and we need to properly re-think the role of women in politics. It is one thing to meet quotas but quite another to give real political power. Some communist states used to have such quotas with 40 or 50% women in parliament but not one of them with influence.

However, in this case I think it may be more to do with the old Blair/Brown loyalties than gender. Flint, Smith and Blears are all 'Blair babes' (a sexist phrase in itself! but one I think they accepted themselves) and have not got the same loyalty to Brown. His management style may also be more difficult for them to accept.