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5 September 2012

Cameron has reshuffled a Tory government into power

Against abortion, in favour of homeopathy, indifferent to gay marriage - why didn't we get a say on these new ministers?

By Caroline Criado-Perez

Legitimate rape. Forcible rape. Anti-abortion. It’s not been a good time to be a woman in the US. 

Over here in the UK we’ve watched with mounting concern as American women have had to fight so hard to assert their rights as individuals. To assert their claims over their own bodies – over their own “personhood”.

I’ve been a spectator of the US election rhetoric with a mixture of disbelief, anger, and a sense of “there but for the grace of God…”

But suddenly, I feel wrong-footed. I feel like the rug has been pulled out not just from under me, but from behind me. It suddenly feels like the things I’ve been watching women, minorities – and anyone who doesn’t represent Mitt Romney – fight against for an upcoming election in the US, have just been imposed upon me by stealth here in the UK, and no one asked me what I thought about it.

Perhaps you think I’m being over-dramatic. It was only a reshuffle after all. What’s the worst that could happen?

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I fear we’re about to find out.

This is the reshuffle where a man who repeatedly voted to shorten the abortion limit, a man who has shown he is no friend to fair dealing, has been named as the new Secretary of State for Health. This is the reshuffle where a woman who is anti-abortion and anti gay marriage has been made Minister for Women and Equalities (or should that be Minister Against Women and Equalities?). This is the reshuffle where the Justice Secretary who listened to statistics that demonstrate that community sentences, although not overly popular with the Daily Mail, are more effective than custodial sentences at combating crime, was replaced with a man who promotes “tough” prison sentences and supports homophobic B&B owners.

The new cabinet we have had foisted on us today represents a group of mainly white, mainly male, mainly privately educated and immensely privileged rich people, who, on the whole, and after all’s said and done, say “no thanks” to abortion. They say “ooh, gay marriage, that’s a bit off isn’t it?” They say, “bang ‘em up and throw away the key”, never mind that their damaging social policies contribute hugely to the “poverty of aspiration” and just plain poverty that fosters petty crime.

Despite facing one of the most unpopular and incompetent prime ministers in recent history, David Cameron couldn’t win an outright mandate in 2010. He has nevertheless seen fit to impose, not just a Tory government on his electorate, but a government that exceeds the wildest fantasy of your average Daily Mail columnist. This is shameful. It demonstrates an utter disregard, nay, contempt for the democratic process. This country did not elect a Tory government. And yet here we are, having one forced on us without elections, by the back door.

For the first time in many years, I am starting to wish I were American. Things look scary there. But at least I’d get a say.

Caroline Criado-Perez has just completed at degree in English Language & Literature at Oxford as a mature student, and is about to start a Masters in Gender at LSE. She is also the founder of the Week Woman blog and tweets as @WeekWoman. A version of this post first appeared on her blog here