Cameron's reshuffle creates even more of a white, male-dominated monoculture

This is now a cabinet even less representative of British society.

There’s only one political subject in the news today: Cameron’s cabinet and ministerial reshuffles. You might think there were political plates shifting, that the shape of British politics was changing – but of course it isn’t – it’s just drifting ever further rightwards. (Yes, apparently this is still a coalition, though it’s the most right-wing Lib Dems like returnee David Laws who have any impact – reinforcing Tory ideology.) And it’s a move even further towards a white, male-dominated wealthy mono-culture.

Chancellor George Osborne is still firmly in place, whether David Cameron likes it or not, together with his clearly failed Plan A of government cuts and austerity. There’s no sign – even though the IMF (that usual champion of cuts and social pain) is clearly signalling its opposition.

Britain desperately needs government investment – in housing, in public transport, in energy conservation and renewables – that would create jobs, help relocalise the British economy, and prepared for the essential low-carbon future. It doesn’t need more government cuts to through more into unemployment, with all of its economic and social costs. But this is a government wedded to failed 20th-century neoliberalist ideology – not open to any form of economic sense.

Despite the growing opposition to the savage, destructive, inhumane benefit cuts, Iain Duncan Smith is still in place in Work and Pensions - pushing on with changes that can only see a further explosion in the work of food banks, a fracturing of communities by housing benefit changes, and many more rightful protests about the failure to provide people with disabilities with the support they need.

And this is now a cabinet even less representative of British society than before. Look at the full list, and you’ll see that we’re now down to four women. As the Fawcett Society has pointed out, men now outnumber women five to one in the cabinet. And there’s not one single member from an ethnic minority, as Andrew Sparrow pointed out in his live blog of the day's events.

So Cameron has managed one feat that could hardly have been thought possible. He’s taken his cabinet of millionaires and made it even less representative of the British public than it was before. And his pledge to ensure a third of his ministers would be women by the end of the government’s term looks further away than every – and that’s a pretty weak pledge anyway, given Francois Hollande’s gender-balanced team, for instance.

I was elected this week as the new leader of the Green Party – its second ever leader after Caroline Lucas. You might notice that makes us the only national parliamentary party now led by a woman – and the only British political party to have only ever have been led by women. I’m sure that will change eventually – but given that of the four candidates for leader, three were female (contrast that with Labour’s contortions to see that they had at least one female candidate out of five in 2010), perhaps not soon.

But back to the new cabinet – there’s individual causes for concern too. The forcing of Justine Greening out of Transport at the behest of the airport lobby, the appointment of the firmly anti-abortion Murdoch-mate Jeremy Hunt to health (surely one of the most surprising rewards for failure in recent politics), and the pushing of Ken Clarke, who sought to make sensible cuts in the number of incarcerate Britons, out of Justice.

Overall, however, there should be one top story. We’re governed by rich white males with an agenda of economic destruction in the cause of ideology.

Natalie Bennett is the leader of the Green Party in England and Wales

You might think the reshuffle would have changed politics, but it hasn't. Photograph: Getty Images

Natalie Bennett is the leader of the Green Party of England and Wales and a former editor of Guardian Weekly.

Photo: Getty Images
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Autumn Statement 2015: George Osborne abandons his target

How will George Osborne close the deficit after his U-Turns? Answer: he won't, of course. 

“Good governments U-Turn, and U-Turn frequently.” That’s Andrew Adonis’ maxim, and George Osborne borrowed heavily from him today, delivering two big U-Turns, on tax credits and on police funding. There will be no cuts to tax credits or to the police.

The Office for Budget Responsibility estimates that, in total, the government gave away £6.2 billion next year, more than half of which is the reverse to tax credits.

Osborne claims that he will still deliver his planned £12bn reduction in welfare. But, as I’ve written before, without cutting tax credits, it’s difficult to see how you can get £12bn out of the welfare bill. Here’s the OBR’s chart of welfare spending:

The government has already promised to protect child benefit and pension spending – in fact, it actually increased pensioner spending today. So all that’s left is tax credits. If the government is not going to cut them, where’s the £12bn come from?

A bit of clever accounting today got Osborne out of his hole. The Universal Credit, once it comes in in full, will replace tax credits anyway, allowing him to describe his U-Turn as a delay, not a full retreat. But the reality – as the Treasury has admitted privately for some time – is that the Universal Credit will never be wholly implemented. The pilot schemes – one of which, in Hammersmith, I have visited myself – are little more than Potemkin set-ups. Iain Duncan Smith’s Universal Credit will never be rolled out in full. The savings from switching from tax credits to Universal Credit will never materialise.

The £12bn is smaller, too, than it was this time last week. Instead of cutting £12bn from the welfare budget by 2017-8, the government will instead cut £12bn by the end of the parliament – a much smaller task.

That’s not to say that the cuts to departmental spending and welfare will be painless – far from it. Employment Support Allowance – what used to be called incapacity benefit and severe disablement benefit – will be cut down to the level of Jobseekers’ Allowance, while the government will erect further hurdles to claimants. Cuts to departmental spending will mean a further reduction in the numbers of public sector workers.  But it will be some way short of the reductions in welfare spending required to hit Osborne’s deficit reduction timetable.

So, where’s the money coming from? The answer is nowhere. What we'll instead get is five more years of the same: increasing household debt, austerity largely concentrated on the poorest, and yet more borrowing. As the last five years proved, the Conservatives don’t need to close the deficit to be re-elected. In fact, it may be that having the need to “finish the job” as a stick to beat Labour with actually helped the Tories in May. They have neither an economic imperative nor a political one to close the deficit. 

Stephen Bush is editor of the Staggers, the New Statesman’s political blog.