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
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In focusing on the famous few, we risk doing a disservice to all victims of child sexual abuse

There is a danger that we make it harder, not easier, for victims to come forward in future. 

Back in the 1970s when relations between journalists and police were somewhat different to today a simple ritual would be carried out around the country at various times throughout the week.

Reporters, eager for information for their regional newspaper, would take a trip to the local station and there would be met by a desk sergeant who would helpfully skim through details in the crime Incident Book.

Among the entries about petty thefts, burglaries and road accidents there would occasionally be a reference to an allegation of incest. And at this point the sergeant and journalist might well screw-up their faces, shake their heads and swiftly move on to the next log. The subject was basically taboo, seen as something ‘a bit mucky,’ not what was wanted in a family newspaper.

And that’s really the way things stayed until 1986 when ChildLine was set up by Dame Esther Rantzen in the wake of a BBC programme about child abuse. For the first time children felt able to speak out about being sexually assaulted by the very adults whose role in life was to protect them.

And for the first time the picture became clear about what incest really meant in many cases. It wasn’t simply a low level crime to be swept under the carpet in case it scratched people’s sensitivities. It frequently involved children being abused by members of their close family, repeatedly, over many years.

Slowly but surely as the years rolled on the NSPCC continued to press the message about the prevalence of child sexual abuse, while encouraging victims to come forward. During this time the corrosive effects of this most insidious crime have been painfully detailed by many of those whose lives have been derailed by it. And of course the details of the hundreds of opportunistic sexual assaults committed by Jimmy Savile have been indelibly branded onto the nation’s consciousness.

It’s been a long road - particularly for those who were raped or otherwise abused as children and are now well into their later years - to bring society around to accepting that this is not to be treated as a dark secret that we really don’t want to expose to daylight. Many of those who called our helpline during the early days of the Savile investigation had never told anyone about the traumatic events of their childhoods despite the fact they had reached retirement age.

So, having buried the taboo, we seem to be in danger of giving it the kiss of life with the way some cases of alleged abuse are now being perceived.

It’s quite right that all claims of sexual assault should be investigated, tested and, where there is a case, pursued through the judicial system. No one is above the law, whether a ‘celebrity’ or a lord.

But we seem to have lost a sense of perspective when it comes to these crimes with vast resources being allocated to a handful of cases while many thousands of reported incidents are virtually on hold.

The police should never have to apologise for investigating crimes and following leads. However, if allegations are false or cannot be substantiated they should say so. This would be a strength not a weakness.

It is, of course, difficult that in many of the high-profile cases of recent times the identities of those under investigation have not been officially released by the police but have come to light through other means. Yet we have to deal with the world as it is not as we wish it would be and once names are common knowledge the results of the investigations centring on them should be made public.

When it emerges that someone in the public eye is being investigated for non-recent child abuse it obviously stirs the interest of the media whose appetite can be insatiable. This puts pressure on the police who don’t want to repeat the mistakes of the past by allowing offenders to slip through their hands.  And so there is a danger, as has been seen in recent cases, that officers lack confidence in declaring there is a lack of evidence or the allegations are not true. 

The disproportionate weight of media attention given to say, Sir Edward Heath, as opposed to the Bradford grooming gang sentenced this week, shows there is a danger the pendulum is swinging too far the other way. This threatens the painstaking work invested in ensuring the public and our institutions recognise child abuse as a very real danger. 

Whilst high profile cases have helped the cause there is now a real risk that the all-encompassing focus on them does both victims of abuse and those advocating on their behalf a fundamental disservice.

As the public watches high -profile cases collapsing amidst a media fanfare genuine convictions made across the country week in week out go virtually unannounced. If this trend continues they may start to believe that child sexual abuse isn’t the prolific problem we know it to be.

So, while detectives peer into the mists of time, searching for long lost clues, we have to face the unpalatable possibility that offences being committed today will in turn only be investigated fully in years or decades' time because there is not the manpower to deal with them right now.

So, now the Goddard Inquiry is in full swing, taking evidence about allegations of child sex crimes involving ‘well known people’ as well as institutional abuse, how do we ensure we don’t fail today’s victims?

If they start to think their stories are going to be diminished by the continuing furore over how some senior public figures have been treated by the police they will stay silent. Therefore we have to continue to encourage them to come forward, to give them the confidence of knowing they will be listened to.

If we don’t we will find ourselves back in those incestuous days where people conspired to say and do nothing to prevent child abuse.

Peter Wanless is Chief Executive of the NSPCC.