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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To heal Britain’s cracks, it’s time for us northern graduates in London to return home

Isn’t it time for people like me, who’ve had privileges and experiences not open to everyone, to start heading back to our local communities, rather than reinforcing London’s suffocating dominance?

I’m from Warrington. The least cultured town in the UK. My town.

I moved to London almost exactly five years ago. Not because I particularly wanted to. Not because I wanted to depart the raucous northern town that I still call home. Because it was my only choice, really. I’d done my stint in the call centres and had some fun. But that couldn’t, surely, be my lot?

After university, I’d already started feeling a little weird and out of place back in Wazza. There were fewer and fewer people who didn’t look at me like I’d just fallen off a futuristic space flight that’d given me a different accent and lofty ideals.

Of course, that’s because most people like me had already skipped town without looking back and were all in the capital trying to strike beyond the ordinary.

The young, the cities, the metropolitan elite are still reeling after last week’s vote and wondering how people, half of our people, have got it so horribly wrong. We’re different, divided, done for.  

One thing I’ve clung onto while I’ve been in London is the fact that I’m from Warrington and proud. It might not be a cultured town, but it’s my town.

But I wasn’t proud of the outcome of the EU referendum that saw my town vote 54.3 per cent to 45.7 per cent to leave.

To be fair, even in my new “home” borough of Hackney, east London, the place with the third-largest Remain vote, one in five people voted for Brexit.

Yes, in one of London’s hottest and most international neighbourhoods, there are quite a lot of people who don’t feel like they’re being taken along to the discotheque.

Perversely, it was the poorest places in the UK that voted in largest numbers to leave the EU – that’s the same EU that provides big chunks of funding to try to save those local economies from ruin.

In many ways, of course, I understand the feelings of those people back in the place I still sometimes think of as home.

Compared to many suffering places in the UK, Warrington is a “boom town” and was one of the only places that grew during the last recession.

It’s a hub for telecoms and logistics companies, because, ironically, its good transport links make it an easy place to leave.

But there are many people who aren’t “living the dream” and, like anywhere else, they aren’t immune from the newspaper headlines that penetrate our brains with stories of strivers and scroungers.

Warrington is one of the whitest places in the UK, and I’m sure, to many locals, that means those immigrants are only a few towns away. There’s already a Polski sklep or two. And a few foreign taxi drivers. Those enterprising bastards.

We have never seriously addressed the economic imbalance in our economy. The gaping north-south divide. The post-industrial problem that politicians in Westminster have handily ignored, allowing the gap to be filled by those who find it quick and easy to blame immigrants.

When schemes like HS2, which is plotted to smash right through the place I grew up, are pushed against all of the evidence, instead of a much-needed, intercity Leeds to Liverpool investment to replace the two-carriage hourly service, it’s like positively sticking two fingers up to the north.

But I am also a big problem. People like me, who get educated and quickly head off to London when things aren’t going our way. We invested in ourselves, sometimes at state expense, and never really thought about putting that back into the places where we grew up.

There weren’t the right opportunities back home and that still stands. But, rather than doing something about that, people like me lazily joined the gravy train for London and now we’re surprised we feel more kinship with a 20-something from Norway than we do with someone who we used to knock on for when we should have been at school.

That’s not to suggest that our experiences in the capital – or mine at least – haven’t made us a thousand, million times better. 

I’ve met people who’ve lived lives I would never have known and I’m a profoundly better person for having the chance to meet people who aren’t just like me. But to take that view back home is increasingly like translating a message to someone from an entirely different world.

“You know, it’s only because you live in a country like this that a woman like you is allowed to even say things like that,” assured one of my dad’s friends down at the British Legion after we’d had a beer, and an argument or two.

Too right, pal. We live in what we all like to think is an open and tolerant and progressive society. And you’re now saying I shouldn’t use that right to call you out for your ignorance?

We’re both Warringtonians, English, British and European but I can increasingly find more agreement with a woman from Senegal who’s working in tech than I can with you.

It’s absolutely no secret that London has drained brains from the rest of the country, and even the rest of the world, to power its knowledge economy.

It’s a special place, but we have to see that there are many people clamouring for jobs they are far too qualified for, with no hope of saving for a home of their own, at the expense of the places they call home.

It’s been suggested in the past that London becomes its own city-state, now Londoners are petitioning to leave the UK.

But isn’t it time for people like me, who’ve had privileges and experiences not open to everyone, to start heading back to our local communities, rather than reinforcing London’s suffocating dominance?

We can expect local governments to do more with less, but when will we accept we need people power back in places like Warrington if we want to change the story to one of hope?

If this sounds like a patronising plan to parachute the north London intelligentsia into northern communities to ensure they don’t make the same mistake twice... Get fucked, as they say in Warrington.

It was Warrington that raised me. It’s time I gave something back.

Kirsty Styles is editor of the New Statesman's B2B tech site, NS Tech.