Cameron has reshuffled a Tory government into power

Against abortion, in favour of homeopathy, indifferent to gay marriage - why didn't we get a say on these new ministers?

Legitimate rape. Forcible rape. Anti-abortion. It’s not been a good time to be a woman in the US. 

Over here in the UK we’ve watched with mounting concern as American women have had to fight so hard to assert their rights as individuals. To assert their claims over their own bodies – over their own "personhood".

I’ve been a spectator of the US election rhetoric with a mixture of disbelief, anger, and a sense of "there but for the grace of God…"

But suddenly, I feel wrong-footed. I feel like the rug has been pulled out not just from under me, but from behind me. It suddenly feels like the things I’ve been watching women, minorities - and anyone who doesn’t represent Mitt Romney - fight against for an upcoming election in the US, have just been imposed upon me by stealth here in the UK, and no one asked me what I thought about it.

Perhaps you think I’m being over-dramatic. It was only a reshuffle after all. What’s the worst that could happen?

I fear we’re about to find out.

This is the reshuffle where a man who repeatedly voted to shorten the abortion limit, a man who has shown he is no friend to fair dealing, has been named as the new Secretary of State for Health. This is the reshuffle where a woman who is anti-abortion and anti gay marriage has been made Minister for Women and Equalities (or should that be Minister Against Women and Equalities?). This is the reshuffle where the Justice Secretary who listened to statistics that demonstrate that community sentences, although not overly popular with the Daily Mail, are more effective than custodial sentences at combating crime, was replaced with a man who promotes "tough" prison sentences and supports homophobic B&B owners.

The new cabinet we have had foisted on us today represents a group of mainly white, mainly male, mainly privately educated and immensely privileged rich people, who, on the whole, and after all’s said and done, say "no thanks" to abortion. They say "ooh, gay marriage, that’s a bit off isn’t it?" They say, "bang ‘em up and throw away the key", never mind that their damaging social policies contribute hugely to the "poverty of aspiration" and just plain poverty that fosters petty crime.

Despite facing one of the most unpopular and incompetent prime ministers in recent history, David Cameron couldn’t win an outright mandate in 2010. He has nevertheless seen fit to impose, not just a Tory government on his electorate, but a government that exceeds the wildest fantasy of your average Daily Mail columnist. This is shameful. It demonstrates an utter disregard, nay, contempt for the democratic process. This country did not elect a Tory government. And yet here we are, having one forced on us without elections, by the back door.

For the first time in many years, I am starting to wish I were American. Things look scary there. But at least I’d get a say.

Caroline Criado-Perez has just completed at degree in English Language & Literature at Oxford as a mature student, and is about to start a Masters in Gender at LSE. She is also the founder of the Week Woman blog and tweets as @WeekWoman. A version of this post first appeared on her blog here

The new Minister for Women and Equalities, Maria Miller. Photograph: Getty Images

Caroline Criado-Perez is a freelance journalist and feminist campaigner. She is also the co-founder of The Women's Room and tweets as @CCriadoPerez.

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Why the Liberal Democrats by-election surge is not all it seems

The Lib Dems chalked up impressive results in Stoke and Copeland. But just how much of a fight back is it?

By the now conventional post-Brexit logic, Stoke and Copeland ought to have been uniquely inhospitable for the Lib Dems. 

The party lost its deposit in both seats in 2015, and has no representation on either council. So too were the referendum odds stacked against it: in Stoke, the so-called Brexit capital of Britain, 70 per cent of voters backed Leave last June, as did 62 per cent in Copeland. And, as Stephen has written before, the Lib Dems’ mini-revival has so far been most pronounced in affluent, Conservative-leaning areas which swung for remain. 

So what explains the modest – but impressive – surges in their vote share in yesterday’s contests? In Stoke, where they finished fifth in 2015, the party won 9.8 per cent of the vote, up 5.7 percentage points. They also more than doubled their vote share in Copeland, where they beat Ukip for third with 7.3 per cent share of the vote.

The Brexit explanation is a tempting and not entirely invalid one. Each seat’s not insignificant pro-EU minority was more or less ignored by most of the national media, for whom the existence of remainers in what we’re now obliged to call “left-behind Britain” is often a nuance too far. With the Prime Minister Theresa May pushing for a hard Brexit and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn waving it through, Lib Dem leader Tim Farron has made the pro-EU narrative his own. As was the case for Charles Kennedy in the Iraq War years, this confers upon the Lib Dems a status and platform they were denied as the junior partners in coalition. 

While their stance on Europe is slowly but surely helping the Lib Dems rebuild their pre-2015 demographic core - students, graduates and middle-class professionals employed in the public sector – last night’s results, particularly in Stoke, also give them reason for mild disappointment. 

In Stoke, campaign staffers privately predicted they might manage to beat Ukip for second or third place. The party ran a full campaign for the first time in several years, and canvassing returns suggested significant numbers of Labour voters, mainly public sector workers disenchanted with Corbyn’s stance on Europe, were set to vote Lib Dem. Nor were they intimidated by the Brexit factor: recent council by-elections in Sunderland and Rotheram, which both voted decisively to leave, saw the Lib Dems win seats for the first time on massive swings. 

So it could well be argued that their candidate, local cardiologist Zulfiqar Ali, ought to have done better. Staffordshire University’s campus, which Tim Farron visited as part of a voter registration drive, falls within the seat’s boundaries. Ali, unlike his Labour competitor Gareth Snell and Ukip leader Paul Nuttall, didn’t have his campaign derailed or disrupted by negative media attention. Unlike the Tory candidate Jack Brereton, he had the benefit of being older than 25. And, like 15 per cent of the electorate, he is of Kashmiri origin.  

In public and in private, Lib Dems say the fact that Stoke was a two-horse race between Labour and Ukip ultimately worked to their disadvantage. The prospect of Nuttall as their MP may well have been enough to convince a good number of the Labour waverers mentioned earlier to back Snell. 

With his party hovering at around 10 per cent in national polls, last night’s results give Farron cause for optimism – especially after their near-wipeout in 2015. But it’s easy to forget the bigger picture in all of this. The party have chalked up a string of impressive parliamentary by-election results – second in Witney, a spectacular win in Richmond Park, third in Sleaford and Copeland, and a strong fourth in Stoke. 

However, most of these results represent a reversion to, or indeed an underperformance compared to, the party’s pre-2015 norm. With the notable exception of Richmond’s Sarah Olney, who only joined the Lib Dems after the last general election, these candidates haven’t - or the Lib Dem vote - come from nowhere. Zulfiqar Ali previously sat on the council in Stoke and had fought the seat before, and Witney’s Liz Leffman and Sleaford’s Ross Pepper are both popular local councillors. And for all the excited commentary about Richmond, it was, of course, held by the Lib Dems for 13 years before Zac Goldsmith won it for the Tories in 2010. 

The EU referendum may have given the Lib Dems a new lease of life, but, as their #LibDemFightback trope suggests, they’re best understood as a revanchist, and not insurgent, force. Much has been said about Brexit realigning our politics, but, for now at least, the party’s new normal is looking quite a lot like the old one.