David Cameron speaks at the World Economic Forum on Jan. 24, 2014. Photograph: Getty Images.
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New women's minister Nicky Morgan to "report directly" to Cameron

Minister's boss is still a man - just a different man.
 

One would have thought that even David Cameron could execute a minor cabinet reshuffle without controversy. But seemingly not. After naming Nicky Morgan as the new women's minister, but denying her the related equalities brief (owing to her opposition to equal marriage), the question arose of who was ultimately responsibility for the portfolio: Morgan or Sajid Javid (the new Culture Secretary and minister for equalities)?

At the post-PMQs briefing,  Cameron's spokesman said: "He is the cabinet minister. She attends cabinet", a response that suggested that, for the first time ever, the women's minister would be subordinate to a man. But at this afternoon's lobby briefing, the spokesman withdrew his earlier remarks ("a mistake") and announced that Morgan would instead "report directly to the Prime Minister on women's issues" (not Javid). He added: "She will have an office as Minister for Women supported by DCMS staff. But with regard to her responsibilities for women, she will report to the Prime Minister." In other words, Morgan's boss is still a man - just a different man.

Asked who had responsibility for issues relating to gay women, Cameron's spokesman simply replied that "ministers work as a team", a response that suggests that Morgan is still best described as "minister for straight women".  And, of course, there is now no full member of the cabinet responsible for women. Even by the standards of this government, quite a mess.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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You may call me a monster – but I'm glad that girl's lemonade stall got shut down

What's wrong with hard-working public servants enforcing perfectly sensible regulations?

Who could fail to be moved by the widely shared tears of a five year old whose innocent lemonade stall was brutally shut down by evil bureaucrats? What sort of monster would not have their heartstrings tugged by the plaintive “I've done a bad thing” from a girl whose father tells us she “just wanted to put a smile on people's faces”?

Well me, actually.

There are half a million cases of food poisoning each year in the UK, and one of the reasons we have stringent controls on who can sell food and drink, especially in unsealed containers, is to try to cut those figures down. And street stalls in general are regulated because we have a system of taxation, rights and responsibilities in this country which underpins our functioning society. Regulation is a social and economic good.

It’s also pretty unfair to criticise the hard-working public servants who acted in this case for doing the job they are no doubt underpaid to do. For the council to say “we expect our enforcement officers to show common sense” as they cancelled the fine is all very well, but I’m willing to bet they are given precious little leeway in their training when it comes to who gets fined and who doesn’t. If the council is handing out apologies, it likely should be issuing one to its officers as well.

“But these are decent folk being persecuted by a nanny state,” I hear you cry. And I stand impervious, I’m afraid. Because I’ve heard that line a lot recently and it’s beginning to grate.

It’s the same argument used against speed cameras and parking fines. How often have you heard those caught out proclaim themselves as “law-abiding citizens” and bemoan the infringement of their freedom? I have news for you: if you break the speed limit, or park illegally, or indeed break health and safety or trading regulations, you are not a law-abiding citizen. You’re actually the one who’s in the wrong.

And rarely is ignorance an excuse. Speed limits and parking regulations are posted clearly. In the case of the now famous lemonade stand, the father in question is even quoted as saying “I thought that they would just tell us to pack up and go home.” So he knew he was breaking the rules. He just didn’t think the consequences should apply to him.

A culture of entitlement, and a belief that rules are for other people but not us, is a disease gripping middle Britain. It is demonstrated in many different ways, from the driver telling the cyclist that she has no right to be on the road because she doesn’t pay road tax (I know), to the father holding up his daughter’s tears to get out of a fine.

I know, I’m a monster. But hooray for the enforcers, I say.

Duncan Hothersall is the editor of Labour Hame