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Why must we have a Minister for Women?

15 April 2014

5:41 PM

15 April 2014

5:41 PM

Does it make you feel better about yourself, girls, ladies, to know that if Labour’s elected, Ed Miliband will have a Secretary of State for Women, and Equalities, with Cabinet rank? Or do you find yourself asking what a Minister for Women has ever done for anyone, beyond guaranteeing that at least one member of the Cabinet will be a paid up woman? It was a bit like that when Sajid Javid was appointed Culture Secretary and everyone started asking what he’d ever done to qualify in the way of going to the opera, reading books etc. When Kitty Morgan was appointed Minister for Women, it was a different matter. A few sourpusses opined that she didn’t qualify, not really, on account of not being in favour of gay marriage – I warmed to her instantly – but she qualified in a very real sense on the basis of being and always having been, a woman. Funnily enough, no one seems to suggest that you have to be a mother too, though I suppose it gives you a pertinent insight into the female condition.

Actually, I’d always assumed that Jo Swinson, the exciting LibDem, was minister for woman because of the way she’d fearlessly tackle issues such as equal pay – adopting, for instance,  The Feminist Times’ campaign to encourage women to ask their male colleagues how much they earn (good luck with that) – but it turns out that no, she was just doing women on the basis she was equalities minister back then.


I suppose there may be issues that involve women exclusively – FGM for instance, though that’s turning into Michael Gove’s big thing – or possibly gender selective abortion, though I’d trust the Health Secretary with that one. What does the minister for women do? And if there’s a minister for women, do not men have their own very special needs? I can see that there may be a case for someone to talk on behalf of carers, families, the elderly and children, and I suppose these things affect women more than men though it strikes me as a bit sexist to say so. But a minister for women qua women? Must we? Really?

I can see, though, how it’ll work if it ever comes to Ed’s Secretary of State for Women and Equalities. You can whistle for anyone who’s anti-abortion or iffy on gay marriage and transgender issues getting a smell of that job. It’ll be one for Harriet Harman’s spiritual daughters. There are women and women, you know. And a Labour equivalent of Ann Widdecombe would so not qualify.

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Show comments
  • Gwangi

    This is the contradiction of feminists who want to achieve equality by having unequal and preferential treatment to men.
    No real need for ANY women-only anything these days because women have equal opportunity – the fact they don’t take it is not the fault of men or some fabricated oppressive patriarchy; it is more due to the innate nature of women. There is a want for it but not a need; ditto for the Orange prize nonsense and many other female-only hypocrite talking shops.
    Parliament is 80% male and that is fine because that reflects merit. To parachute in mediocre women is to betray those women who achieve through their own ability. We see mediocre women everywhere – running police forces, running the BBC, presenting TV programmes, and becoming MPs and ministers. Now we also have ethnic minorities leapfrogged over better white men to occupy positions in fields they know nothing about (the new culture minister).
    How about a ministry for working class white men? They are the most disadvantaged group in the UK by quite some margin. Half of those at private schools and female and 20% are ethnic. Time to start IGNORING gender and race and going by merit – but also giving those from poorer backgrounds a leg up.

  • Rillian

    Funny how Margaret Thatcher didn’t need a Ministry for Women to empower herself.

    • Liz

      All the other women of her era who weren’t in the cabinet or the House of Commons did.

      • zoid


      • Rillian

        Perhaps the rest just need a leg up because they are not made of the right stuff to even warrant being there?

  • Colin56

    I’d like to see the next Prime Minister, of whatever political stripe, take a sharpened axe to the number of cabinet ‘posts’ and their attendant ‘Ministries’. Half of them are useless and the rest unnecessary. (I exaggerate only slightly.) I suggest that DCMS, DfID, the ‘Business’ Department, NI, Scottish and Welsh Offices should be abolished without further ado. Energy could be merged with DEFRA. DWP would take over most of the Business dept’s activity. ‘Justice’ (so-called) would go back to the Home Office where it belongs – separated just because John Reid couldn’t cope. All would be limited to just one cabinet Minister and one Minister of State (they’d just have to work harder). the Alice in Wonderland post of Deputy PM, dreamed up in this coalition to keep Cleggers off the streets, instantly dissolved. (What use was Prescott in the same post? None whatsoever.) The whole charade of ‘ministers’ in the ‘Lords’ would disappear overnight. Dozens of useless ‘Ministers’ sacked, together with their attendant spade, having to go back to their constituencies and do the work they were elected to do. Think of the tears, the tragedy. Where’s my pitchfork?

  • Delroy Dyer

    I wonder the same thing here in Canada, where there exists a minister of state for the status of women. It’s usually a tack on to an actual ministry, but that minister gets an extra pay top up for both roles, with no clear purpose. Pretty much everything she does can be and is already done in another ministry.

    • Gwangi

      Oh Canada is even more politically correct than we are. I remember passing a memorial to battered women in Ottawa and wondering why there was none for battered men (because domestic violence is roughly 50/50 done by men and women – though you wouldn’t think it eh?)
      Also in Ottawa, mad feminists managed to get a gay club closed down because it had a dark room inside where men went for a bit of hanky-panky and women weren’t allowed in there!
      Funny how feminists never campaign for equal representation of women in all the worst and most dirty jobs (street cleaner, sewage worker, miner etc) or for women to be equally represented, not only on TV and in politics, but in prison, for example. Or in soldiers killed on active duty.
      Feminists do not want equality – they just want a different sort of inequality that suits them. Aye, there’s the rub…

  • Alison

    In response to this nonsense about a minister for women Conservatives should point to history, we did not need a minister for women in order for Mrs Thatcher to get to be the first woman Prime Minister. There was no positive discrimination or whinging about the difficulties of being a woman.
    It is vital that the right start a campaign for body blindness and starts to champion the cause of our brilliant human minds. The left’s fixation (including here the touchy feely current ‘conservatives’) with groups of people defined by their bodies in terms of race, gender, sexuality, physical ability, is divisive and has lead us into an uncertain place where people seem to want to regard themselves as different and as victims of the white, male, heterosexual, able bodied elite.
    The right must emphasise that we are all one people and all individuals.
    Feminists seem to despise Mrs Thatcher on the grounds that she did not do more for woman. In fact she did the best thing that could be done: ignored the fact of her femaleness most of the time and concentrated on pushing the ideas she believed in.
    The internet gives a chance for a non corporeal existence of sorts, we ought to be looking to a future where we are our minds.

    • Tim Reed


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  • David Booth.

    I dont know why we need a prog called Woman’s Hour on R4.

  • english_pensioner

    There must be a strong argument in favour of a Minister for Pensioners. From experience, I would suggest that most women can deal with their own problems, but many pensioners can’t, particularly if they are going deaf or have infirmities.

  • Liz

    Melanie, why have you let the Spectator’s idiot picture editor choose this sexist image for your article? The hectoring woman/hen-pecked man routine beloved of men who don’t like to admit what bullies they are? Who’s side are you on?

    • Tim Reed

      “Who’s(sic) side are you on?”

      It’s all tribal with you, isn’t it. As Melanie alluded to in her article, “There are women and women, you know.”

      I guess we’ll put Melanie in with the ‘gender traitors’, siding with the nasty man-bullies.

    • Hexhamgeezer

      The kaleidoscope that is life has many sides. Pity some refuse to take the blinkers off and acknowledge this.

  • Tom Tom

    Advertising metrics show >50% population is female and they are apparently swayed by emotional attachments such as Kinder, Kirche, Kueche – and parochial concerns………….not sure myself, but politicians are somewhat idiotic

  • transponder

    I’m a woman and I despise, loathe and fear everything Ed Miliband wants for this country — which is to make it WORSE.

    The Left ruins everything it touches. Miliband is a political ignoramus and profoundly unwise man with the gall to believe that he is entitled to lead many millions of mature adults. Has the delusion no end? Vote UKIP.

    • Cyril Sneer

      The lefts motto is ‘the end justifies the means’. Despite their ideology being bankrupt they still push on at full speed with their identity politics, their victim status labels and their contradictory struggle for equality by creating inequality.

  • realfish

    ‘Why must we have a Minister for Women?’
    Because there might be votes in it and the cynical, shallow Miliband, ever the opportunist, will say anything he thinks people (women) want to hear – anything at all.

    Cheaper gas? Cheaper electricity? Cheaper rail fares? A Women’s SoS? More spending, lower taxes? Whatever you want.

    There’s no need to examine our navel, or check our privileges, it’s votes dear boy (or girl), it votes…..nothing more, nothing less.

  • tom jones

    It’s very patronising to women to have “minister,” but then there are several ministers and departments which could be axed or merged such as culture, international aid and biz. What has Vince Cable ever done for business? Perhaps with a decent minister it could be useful.

    Also, I hate how whenever “the women’s vote” issue is posed to MPs/ministers and they always talk about childcare straight away. Very annoying.

  • Conway

    There are too many Ministries. We should be looking to slim down the administrative burden. Whatever happened to the bonfire of the QUANGOs, by the way?

  • Twopenn’orth

    I don’t think the examples of issues which involve women exclusively are very good: FGM and gender selective abortion are both issues about which I feel very strongly. As a person, and not just because I have a mother wife and daughters.

  • sfin

    It just reinforces the perception of the left as thriving on division. It is student union politics from a party that now has a student union leader.

    I don’t much trust Max Hastings, after his espousal of Blair in 1997 – but this (partial) quote of his, I am fully in agreement with:

    “Harriet Harman is a very useful politician because, whenever I am undecided on a particular issue, I merely research her position on it and I know I will be safe in taking the opposite view.”

    Labour party slogan:

    “We love dividing society and we also love bankrupting it – look at our history – we have a 100% record in both.”

  • HJ777

    I find it rather amusing that Miliband wants a “Minister for Women and Equalities” thereby creating an inequality by not also proposing a “Minister for Men and Equalities”.

    • tom jones

      Typical Milliband really!

    • Davidgw

      It’s almost up there with, on the one hand “seeking equality” whilst at the same time “celebrating diversity”?

      • Liz

        It’s a result of the limits of our language.

        Equality in this instance doesn’t mean sameness, it means equal value.

      • Tim Reed

        “From the fact that people are very different it follows that, if we
        treat them equally, the result must be inequality in their actual
        position, and that the only way to place them in an equal position would be to treat them differently. Equality before the law and material equality are therefore not only different but are in conflict with each other; and we can achieve either one or the other, but not both at the same time”

        Friedrich Hayek.

      • Cyril Sneer

        “They celebrate diversity by enforcing conformity.”

        This is the observation Mark Steyn made on liberal progressives and he is absolutely right. The left are a walking contradiction.

  • Moputabee

    There is no gender pay gap in the UK.

    Men and women get paid the same for doing the SAME job.

    The figures used by those saying there is a gap, are comparing ALL men’s jobs versus All women’s jobs. NOT for doing the SAME job.

    • Liz

      And it’s just a happy coincidence that the jobs men tend to do have higher pay.

      • Kitty MLB

        Well Ladies need time off rather a lot to have babies….Only Joking !!!

        • HookesLaw

          Well this is the point really. If as individuals, never mind as part of some abstract opinion of what is best for society, if we think women are important in their role as bearing and bringing up children than we need to take consideration of them. Women are important. Of course women can be easily as useful as men in work and other aspects of society, but one way or another if we value the vital role that women play – that of being mothers – then we need to assist them in those roles if they are to succeed as mothers as well.

          Its quite possible to have some silly anti woman notion from the idiot right just as it is possible to have some silly pro woman notion from the idiot left. They both have their agendas.the benefit of all of us.

          What is needed are some sensible policies which can be clearly demonstrated to the benefit of all of us.

          • Liz

            But child rearing shouldn’t have negative financial, political, legal, social consequences. It only has those in a society they is geared up for the non-child-rearers.

            Why for instance does non-domestic public sector work attract a salary, a pension, employee protection, while domestic public-sector work get done for pocket money according to the whim of what ever man the woman does or more often does not, manage to pin down?

            There are millions of women raising the next generation, looking after the previous generation, looking after the sick and disabled for nothing more than “vocation” or love.

            As a result millions of women suffer more poverty, are under-represented in parliament, don’t have an equal say in public affairs, are sidelined by the media, experience all manner of indignities and mistreatment, while men run roughshod over the world.

            If women are equally valuable, if their talents and abilities are equally valued, if the world is run on an equal basis, then put your money where your mouth is and pay them equally.

            • Moputabee

              These women with children you mention – are also taking billions in tax credits, child benefit, housing benefit, social security, social housing etc.

              They are being subsidised by working women and men who get paid the SAME for doing the SAME job.

              This nonsense about paying for ‘vocation’ or ‘love’ – merely means tax payers, paying for idleness and easy choices.

      • saffrin

        Nothing stopping you being chief executive of your own company but you.

        • Liz

          Nothing stopping you from being paid what you’re actually worth rather than what the boys scratching one another’s backs pretend you’re worth.

          • Des Demona

            so…. many….logical…..fallacies….. can’t …. compute.

            • Realpolitik

              Is this your new phrase or something?

          • Hexhamgeezer

            Viva Spare Rib!!

          • Rillian

            Stop relying on men to put you where you want to be. Do your own thing and employ excellent women to work for you.

      • Des Demona

        I suspect some of it has to do with the fact that many women are more sensible than to slog away for 40 years at a high pressure demanding job which will probably shorten their life when they can have a man do it for them?
        Or rather that’s the facetious kind of sloganeering you indulge in.
        The truth is much more complex and has more to do with relationships and familial choice rather than your conspiracy theories.

      • Tim Reed

        It’ not the jobs ‘men tend to have’ – it’s the jobs men strive for.

        Doctors get paid more than nurses, because there’s greater responsibility and longer training. I guess there’s a conspiracy to keep women from becoming doctors.

  • Inverted Meniscus

    Every now and again I stop, reflect, realise and despair that we actually pay for idiotic behaviour such as this. All because one fool believing it is his God given right to be PM feels that his cause will be furthered by creating division and jealousy between one part of the community and another. The possibility of actually doing something positive, creative, wealth generating etc etc never seems to have crossed his selfish,infantile mind.

    • telemachus

      Not a god given right
      But a historic duty in the interests of the country
      Do you imagine that the public will tolerate a further 5 years of moral decline?

    • Cyril Sneer

      This is the left through and through. They seek to divide by applying labels, and they seek to support only those who are applicable for the victim status label.

      White heterosexual males need not apply.

      I wonder when we will get a Minister for Men… oh that would be sexist or something.

      Or a Minister for Majority Whites… oh no that would be racist. Whites cannot have their own identity groups apparently.

      This equality thing, it’s just not working out is it?

      • Makroon

        A “Ministry for young, uneducated, semi-literate, unemployed, black and white boys” would suit. They are both ‘victims’ and a threat to social order.

  • Kitty MLB

    That picture is side splitting, its so funny. It looks as if Milipede is getting a
    thrashing from dear Harriet, as if she’s his mummy. That picture speaks volumes
    about his leadership.
    Its somewhat sexist to have a minister for women, single them out and box them in,
    divide and rule.
    What about a minister for men, cats and transsexuals- honestly.
    Oh, and we had a women Prime Minister once- Good Heavens- do not tell wee Ed.

    • Conway

      Ed doesn’t appear to know we had Disraeli as PM, either.

      • jack mustard

        I think Ed does know we had Disraeli as PM – but unlike yourself he probably also knows that Disraeli was a practising Anglican.

        • ItinerantView

          Ed says he’s a “Jewish atheist”, so he’s claiming Jewishness as an ethnic identity.
          By that criteria Disraeli was also ethnically Jewish.

  • Alex

    Pretty standard socialism playbook; find ways to make the majority of people a member of at least one ‘oppressed’ group (in this case women) which only the wise and benevolent state can protect. Anyone who can’t be labelled as a victim is of course one of the ‘oppressors’ who can then be legislated against/’re-educated’/shot according to whim.

    • telemachus

      Having watched most of you letting the Telegraph vilify Maria Miller day after day, I would say Cameron needs a strong woman to stick up for women
      Where was that waste of space May?

      • Colonel Mustard

        Having watched you huff and puff here day after day I would say Son of Communist and Harridan Harm the Nation need a better troll.
        Where is that other waste of space “Jack Mustard”?

        • telemachus

          On this anniversary of the founding of the Franciscans you should ponder on some founding principles of the greatest force for cohesion of our Great Nation through the ages

          “When we look at the church’s social doctrine we find the principle that the goods of the earth were given for the use of all. Thus, there is an obligation in justice to see to it that no one is deprived of their basic human needs due to inequities generated by human greed or any unjust social system.”
          When I consider the destruction of social values by those currently destroying our moral fibre from Whitehall I weep

          • telemachus

            A food bank charity says it has handed out 913,000 food parcels in the last year, up from 347,000 the year

            The Trussell Trust said a third were given to repeat visitors but that there was a “shocking” 51% rise in clients to established food banks. It said benefit payment delays were the main cause.

            In a letter to ministers, more than 500 clergy say the increase is “terrible”.

            Some 83% of food banks reported that benefits sanctions – when payments are temporarily stopped – had resulted in more people being referred for emergency food.

            And more than 30% of visits were put down to a delay in
            welfare payments.

            The second biggest reason, given by 20% of food bank users, was low income.

          • black11hawk

            That is probably the greatest crime of socialism in this country in recent times, co-opting the CoE and Christianity more broadly as a means to promote hard left principles and erode social conservatism, as well as fiscal conservatism which the church used to preach, from within.

      • Redrose82

        “Where is that waste of space May?” . She’s probably got her hands full investigating MP’s who crash into parked cars and criminally leave the scene without reporting it.

        • Inverted Meniscus

          Oh dear, you seem to be under the misapprehension that the rules that apply to the rest of us apply equally to Ed Balls. He is a member of the privileged ruling elite and thus immune from either criticism or prosecution.

          • Redrose82

            Ah but you see, Smellycactus thinks Ed Balls can do no wrong. Doesn’t he, she or it call him the charismatic one or some such. More like the conscienceless one.

    • Des Demona

      Not entirely sure why socialism is being blamed when the current Minister for Women, Nicky Morgan, appointed by David Cameron, will be the first to attend cabinet by virtue of that post alone and not any other?
      What is different?

  • Ricky Strong

    How utterly insulting for women must positive discrimination be. You can have your equality of opportunity but it will be orchestrated to make it easier for you, because you know, you couldn’t make it on your own.

    • Liz

      Oh I don’t know, men don’t seem to feel insulted by all the positive discrimination in their favour. They are perfectly happy with male only short lists.

      • jack mustard

        And they don’t let women in the Bullingdon Club, do they?

        • Liz

          Nor Eton and various other parliamentary-feeder-schools, nor the upper echelons of our religious establishment (and thus from a free pass into our highest legislature), nor the Free Masons and various other clubs and associations where politics gets done. And those are just the official male-only-short lists, there are a plethora of under-the-counter ones from political parties, to board rooms, to whole industries, to TV studios, press and magazines.

          And then when men get to the top of their male-only-short list, they can be sure they will be treated more favourable, according to subjective selection criteria designed to fit them, judged by people who identify with them, according to rules that best suit them.

          I don’t notice men suffering a crisis of confidence from succeeding against a hobbled competition.

      • Tim Reed

        Those ‘male only’ short lists aren’t there by decree though, are they. If women don’t like to see them, more women need to put themselves forward. There’s no officially sanctioned barrier, unlike enforced female only short lists.

  • Smithersjones2013

    Why must we have a Minister for Women?

    Because Labour just love to divide and discriminate. It along with other areas of the equality agenda allow them to practice their inherent bigotry against anyone who does not fit their clone like template of what people should be and it further allows them to persecute, bully and smear those they choose to for their malevolent self advancement. The Tories may have almost by accident become the Nasty Party but it is in Labour ranks that the truly malevolent peddle their insidious bigotry.

    • telemachus

      “… further allows them to persecute, bully and smear those they choose to for their malevolent self advancement.”

      Grass roots Conservative party members are guilty of “misogyny and jealousy” which risks driving women away from standing as parliamentary candidates, it is claimed.

      Dorothy Luckhurst, who is on the Tory A-list, writes in the Guardian that the row over whether fellow candidate Liz Truss should have told her local officials that she had had an affair made the party look beyond the “frontiers of tolerance”.

      Lord Rennard will not apologise to the women who accused him of sexually harassing them, his friend and adviser Lord Carlile has said.

      Nick Clegg and the Liberal Democrats have been accused of “cowardice” by alleged victims of Lord Rennard after the peer was cleared of sexually harassing female party activists.

  • Alexsandr

    I find any positive discrimination distasteful. And a minister for women would be especially wrong.
    while we are on positive discrimination, why do we need an asian network. we dont have a while english network. It should be shut down -its racist.

    • jack mustard

      Is it only positive discrimination that you find distasteful? What’s your view on plain old ordinary discrimination?

      • Colonel Mustard

        I find you distasteful.

      • Alexsandr

        i think everyone should be treated as individuals.

  • saffrin

    Minister for peado’s. What next, marriage for kids?
    Labour, sick or what?

  • Hexhamgeezer

    Perhaps the Minister for Women could be put in charge of soft furnishings and making sure they match the Cabinet room’s curtains? I have heard that some ladies like that sort of thing – and cushions.

  • Terence Hale

    Why must we have a Minister for Women? Why not? Mr. Cameron in his “Book of Genius” states 2:7 then I formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the man became a living being. And I planted a garden in Eden, in the east; and there he put the man whom he had formed and then I made Adam and Arthur to transpose my work to the next conservative conference. So be it I have spoken.