Why David Cameron really is worse than Voldemort

We've seen a lot of so-called progress in the last few years - but when you really look at the facts where women are concerned, it looks like we may be going backwards.

It’s a strange beast, progress. Like sitting on a train in a tunnel, unsure whether you’re moving or not, it can be hard to get one’s bearings. Sometimes, you might even be going backwards and not realise it.

The quest for women’s rights is a bit like sitting on that train, and quite frankly, it’s not so much of a suped up supervoyager (when nature calls, these high-tech, high-speed Virgin trains now genuinely have toilet robots which tell you ‘hilarious’ jokes about what you can and can’t flush), than it is like something from Arriva Trains Wales. It’s filthy, it crawls along at a snail’s pace, and it only ever takes you as far as fucking Crewe.

We’ll stop with the engine analogies lest someone mistake us for enthusiasts, but there is a point there. The assumption that we’re always moving forwards, slowly throwing off shackle after shackle of patriarchal norm, isn’t actually the case. We’re not saying that things are so bleak that we’re all at risk of becoming 1950s housewives, poised to re-don our pinnies, set our hair, and get cracking on the pavlova - not quite. To our grandmothers, progress looks like the Great British Bake Off (men! In jumpers! Making giant pouffy meringues! And loving it), but if things could, you know, jog on a bit, then that would be ace.

Thing that happened: An Indian American Woman won Miss America

But that’s progress, right? Well, ish. Say what you want about Miss America (OK, we will: it’s an outdated, steaming shit of an event which has women flouncing up and down in bikinis like tap-dancing barnyard animals and pretending that they’ve ‘always had a passion for world peace’), but this is a triumph for diversity, and the fact that an Indian medical student won the crown represents the melting pot that is the United States of America. Hey, maybe it even shows the American Dream in action. Right?

Well. As the comedian George Carlin quoth, it’s called the American dream because you have to be asleep to believe it. And there seem to be a hell of a lot of sleepy racists out there. Some feminists were this week confused as to what they should be more angry about: the fact that Miss America exists in the first place, or the deluge of racist abuse that aspiring doctor Nina Davuluri received on winning (clue: both are rubbish). Questions as to whether Davuluri was ‘American enough’ to be Miss America of course completely ignored the fact that everyone in that mass of a country was an immigrant once, bar of course Native Americans (FYI, the first Native American winner was in 1926. They didn’t even let black women compete until 1970.)

Thing that happened: Playboy published a party guide that was all about consent

But that’s progress, right? It would have been incredible had it been real, but it was the work of a group of anti-rape culture college hackers (the same guys were responsible for tricking everyone into believing that Victoria’s Secret had brought out a line of anti-rape ‘panties’ in 2012). Labelled the ‘Playboy 2013 Top Ten Party Commandments’, the document poses as a student’s guide to good sex which, ‘Playboy’ says, involves ‘asking first’. Hugh Hefner even declared himself a feminist in a mock question-and-answer session.

Unfortunately, Playboy still exists, and it’s busy concentrating on things other than sexual consent. Things like announcing that Kate Moss is to model nude for its cover to celebrating its fortieth birthday, hosting parties for disappointing Vogue editor Alexandra Shulman (we thought better of you, we really did), and invading Gymboxes around the country with its ‘Playboy Bunny Bootcamp’ and new form of BMI (‘Bunny Measurement Index’ – vom). Apparently, the Playboy brand is still set to be a part of our consciousness for a very, very long time. What the hell, 2013?

Thing that happened: France has moved to ban child beauty pageants

But that’s progress, right? As probably the best response ever to a row with Vogue magazine which saw the fashion rag dress up a bunch of ten year olds in tight clothes and heavy make-up, the French Parliament voted ‘non’ to creepily dressing kids up like their own Barbie dolls. The bill protects the under-16s from not only appearing in the pages of Vogue with peacock feather eyelashes, but also from being marketed child-size products from the sexy adult world, such as padded bras and high heeled shoes.

Unfortunately, as you can probably deduce from the whole Miss America charade, beauty pageants for ‘adults’ (let’s face it, teenagers) still abound everywhere. And anyone who’s sat down to a relaxing session of ‘Toddlers and Tiaras’ knows that the government in the US and UK haven’t been quite as enlightened as France.

Thing that happened: Theresa May was appointed to David Cameron’s cabinet as Home Secretary, one of only four women to hold one of the Great Offices of State. The cabinet boasts three other formidable females, and has benefited in the last few years from the voices of enthusiastic female MPs such as Louise Mensch.

But that’s progress, right? As an organisation that has never been particularly friendly to women yet brought us the first female Prime Minister, feminism’s relationship with the Tory party has always been ambivalent. And while enough Conservative supporters have brought up the four women in the cabinet with us as proof that the historically misogynistic state of Tory Towers is ‘improving’, it’s, well, four women. Four women who aren’t exactly flying the flag for women’s rights. As @Sophia_Phan pointed out on Twitter recently, even Voldemort had more women in his cabinet. We’re not outright saying that therefore David Cameron should get a tattoo saying ‘Worse than Voldemort’ across his neck, but in the event that he did come to this fully autonomous position, we’d be fully supportive.

On the bright side, Mumsnet’s survey into the political affiliations of women shows us deserting the Tories in our droves. Most of us would rather vote Labour, whose shadow cabinet is a lot more female-friendly (and has therefore been given the affectionate term ‘Millie’s Fillies’ by the Daily Mail.) Cameron take note: we can and will vote with our feet.

Voldemort's cabinet. Female friendly? Image: Getty

Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett and Holly Baxter are co-founders and editors of online magazine, The Vagenda.

Show Hide image

Commons confidential: Vive May's revolution

It's a risky time to be an old Etonian in the Tory party. . . 

The blond insulter-in-chief, Boris Johnson, survives as Theresa May’s pet Old Etonian but the purge of the Notting Hell set has left Tory sons of privilege suddenly hiding their poshness. The trustafundian Zac Goldsmith was expelled from Eton at the age of 16 after marijuana was found in his room, unlike David Cameron, who survived a cannabis bust at the school. The disgrace left Richmond MP Goldsmith shunned by his alma mater. My snout whispered that he is telling colleagues that Eton is now asking if he would like to be listed as a distinguished old boy. With the Tory party under new, middle-class management, he informed MPs that it was wise to decline.

Smart operator, David Davis. The broken-nosed Action Man is a keen student of geopolitics. While the unlikely Foreign Secretary Johnson is on his world apology tour, the Brexit Secretary has based himself in 9 Downing Street, where the whips used to congregate until Tony Blair annexed the space. The proximity to power gives Davis the ear of May, and the SAS reservist stresses menacingly to visitors that he won’t accept Johnson’s Foreign Office tanks on his Brexit lawn. King Charles Street never felt so far from Downing Street.

No prisoners are taken by either side in Labour’s civil war. The Tories are equally vicious, if sneakier, preferring to attack each other in private rather than in public. No reshuffle appointment caused greater upset than that of the Humberside grumbler Andrew Percy as Northern Powerhouse minister. He was a teacher, and the seething overlooked disdainfully refer to his role as the Northern Schoolhouse job.

Philip Hammond has the air of an undertaker and an unenviable reputation as the dullest of Tory speakers. During a life-sapping address for a fundraiser at Rutland Golf Club, the rebellious Leicestershire lip Andrew Bridgen was overheard saying in sotto voce: “His speech is drier than the bloody chicken.” The mad axeman Hammond’s economics are also frighteningly dry.

The Corbynista revolution has reached communist China, where an informant reports that the Hong Kong branch of the Labour Party is now in the hands of Britain’s red leader. Of all the groups backing Jezza, Bankers 4 Corbyn is surely the most incongruous.

Labour’s newest MP, Rosena Allin-Khan of Tooting, arrived in a Westminster at its back-stabbing height. Leaving a particularly poisonous gathering of the parliamentary party, the concerned deputy leader, Tom Watson, inquired paternalistically if she was OK. “I’m loving it,” the doctor shot back with a smile. Years of rowdy Friday nights in A&E are obviously good training for politics.

Kevin Maguire is the associate editor (politics) of the Daily Mirror

Kevin Maguire is Associate Editor (Politics) on the Daily Mirror and author of our Commons Confidential column on the high politics and low life in Westminster. An award-winning journalist, he is in frequent demand on television and radio and co-authored a book on great parliamentary scandals. He was formerly Chief Reporter on the Guardian and Labour Correspondent on the Daily Telegraph.

This article first appeared in the 28 July 2016 issue of the New Statesman, Summer Double Issue