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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There are risks as well as opportunities ahead for George Osborne

The Chancellor is in a tight spot, but expect his political wiles to be on full display, says Spencer Thompson.

The most significant fiscal event of this parliament will take place in late November, when the Chancellor presents the spending review setting out his plans for funding government departments over the next four years. This week, across Whitehall and up and down the country, ministers, lobbyists, advocacy groups and town halls are busily finalising their pitches ahead of Friday’s deadline for submissions to the review

It is difficult to overstate the challenge faced by the Chancellor. Under his current spending forecast and planned protections for the NHS, schools, defence and international aid spending, other areas of government will need to be cut by 16.4 per cent in real terms between 2015/16 and 2019/20. Focusing on services spending outside of protected areas, the cumulative cut will reach 26.5 per cent. Despite this, the Chancellor nonetheless has significant room for manoeuvre.

Firstly, under plans unveiled at the budget, the government intends to expand capital investment significantly in both 2018-19 and 2019-20. Over the last parliament capital spending was cut by around a quarter, but between now and 2019-20 it will grow by almost 20 per cent. How this growth in spending should be distributed across departments and between investment projects should be at the heart of the spending review.

In a paper published on Monday, we highlighted three urgent priorities for any additional capital spending: re-balancing transport investment away from London and the greater South East towards the North of England, a £2bn per year boost in public spending on housebuilding, and £1bn of extra investment per year in energy efficiency improvements for fuel-poor households.

Secondly, despite the tough fiscal environment, the Chancellor has the scope to fund a range of areas of policy in dire need of extra resources. These include social care, where rising costs at a time of falling resources are set to generate a severe funding squeeze for local government, 16-19 education, where many 6th-form and FE colleges are at risk of great financial difficulty, and funding a guaranteed paid job for young people in long-term unemployment. Our paper suggests a range of options for how to put these and other areas of policy on a sustainable funding footing.

There is a political angle to this as well. The Conservatives are keen to be seen as a party representing all working people, as shown by the "blue-collar Conservatism" agenda. In addition, the spending review offers the Conservative party the opportunity to return to ‘Compassionate Conservatism’ as a going concern.  If they are truly serious about being seen in this light, this should be reflected in a social investment agenda pursued through the spending review that promotes employment and secures a future for public services outside the NHS and schools.

This will come at a cost, however. In our paper, we show how the Chancellor could fund our package of proposed policies without increasing the pain on other areas of government, while remaining consistent with the government’s fiscal rules that require him to reach a surplus on overall government borrowing by 2019-20. We do not agree that the Government needs to reach a surplus in that year. But given this target wont be scrapped ahead of the spending review, we suggest that he should target a slightly lower surplus in 2019/20 of £7bn, with the deficit the year before being £2bn higher. In addition, we propose several revenue-raising measures in line with recent government tax policy that together would unlock an additional £5bn of resource for government departments.

Make no mistake, this will be a tough settlement for government departments and for public services. But the Chancellor does have a range of options open as he plans the upcoming spending review. Expect his reputation as a highly political Chancellor to be on full display.

Spencer Thompson is economic analyst at IPPR