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.

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How tribunal fees silenced low-paid workers: “it was more than I earned in a month”

The government was forced to scrap them after losing a Supreme Court case.

How much of a barrier were employment tribunal fees to low-paid workers? Ask Elaine Janes. “Bringing up six children, I didn’t have £20 spare. Every penny was spent on my children – £250 to me would have been a lot of money. My priorities would have been keeping a roof over my head.”

That fee – £250 – is what the government has been charging a woman who wants to challenge their employer, as Janes did, to pay them the same as men of a similar skills category. As for the £950 to pay for the actual hearing? “That’s probably more than I earned a month.”

Janes did go to a tribunal, but only because she was supported by Unison, her trade union. She has won her claim, although the final compensation is still being worked out. But it’s not just about the money. “It’s about justice, really,” she says. “I think everybody should be paid equally. I don’t see why a man who is doing the equivalent job to what I was doing should earn two to three times more than I was.” She believes that by setting a fee of £950, the government “wouldn’t have even begun to understand” how much it disempowered low-paid workers.

She has a point. The Taylor Review on working practices noted the sharp decline in tribunal cases after fees were introduced in 2013, and that the claimant could pay £1,200 upfront in fees, only to have their case dismissed on a technical point of their employment status. “We believe that this is unfair,” the report said. It added: "There can be no doubt that the introduction of fees has resulted in a significant reduction in the number of cases brought."

Now, the government has been forced to concede. On Wednesday, the Supreme Court ruled in favour of Unison’s argument that the government acted unlawfully in introducing the fees. The judges said fees were set so high, they had “a deterrent effect upon discrimination claims” and put off more genuine cases than the flimsy claims the government was trying to deter.

Shortly after the judgement, the Ministry of Justice said it would stop charging employment tribunal fees immediately and refund those who had paid. This bill could amount to £27m, according to Unison estimates. 

As for Janes, she hopes low-paid workers will feel more confident to challenge unfair work practices. “For people in the future it is good news,” she says. “It gives everybody the chance to make that claim.” 

Julia Rampen is the digital news editor of the New Statesman (previously editor of The Staggers, The New Statesman's online rolling politics blog). She has also been deputy editor at Mirror Money Online and has worked as a financial journalist for several trade magazines.