12 May 2010
When British people voted for change last Thursday, it seems to me that two events of the past year were motivating them: the expenses scandal and the bankers' bailout. Thus we would have expected to be governed by people who would take a strict approach to financial shenanigans and who would better represent us, in the sense of being people like us, people who have experienced difficulties paying their bills and who understand how to use a bus.
The shape of the cabinet indicates that this is very far from the case. Apart from token Teresa, they are fairly uniformly white, male, and public-school educated. Worse still, of the Liberal Democrats included, two have made their money in the financial markets and the third - apparent darling of the chattering classes Vince Cable - is a former Chief Economist at Shell.
Here is a brief summary of the education, age and gender of the cabinet appointments made so far, plus any experience they had outside politics (where relevant):
David Cameron: PM –Eton, Oxford University, born 1965, male
Nick Clegg: Deputy PM – Westminster, Cambridge University, born 1965, male
William Hague: Foreign Secretary – local comprehensive, Oxford University, born 1961, male
George Osborne: Chancellor – St. Pauls, Oxford University, born 1971, male
Theresa May: Home Secretary - grammar school, Oxford University, born 1956, female (employment background in banking)
Ken Clark: Justice Secretary - grammar school, Cambridge University, born 1940 (corporate directorships and commentator on financial markets)
Liam Fox: Health Secretary – St. Bride’s High School, Glasgow University, born 1961, male (worked as a GP)
Vince Cable: Business Secretary – grammar school, Cambridge University, born 1943, male (Chief Economist at Shell)
Chris Huhne: Energy and Climate Change Secretary – Westminster, Oxford University, born 1954, male (made a personal fortune on the stock-market)
David Laws: Chief Secretary to the Treasury - independent school, Cambridge University, born (investment banker and former Vice-President of JP Morgan)
If it weren't for Liam Fox, you might think this country had only two universities.
Far be it from me to compare UK plc with a company or even a local authority, but if you were to engage in any sort of unbiased selection process to choose people to run a large and struggling economy at a time of crisis you might wish at least a significant proportion to have some experience that was relevant. The cabinet we have are PR men, economic advisers and professional politicians. They have nothing between them that could possibly act as preparation for the sitution they find themselves in.
But what they do share, and this is far more important in these days when a politician with principles seems so last century, is an adherence to a neoliberal philosophy and a sense of entitlement to power and privilege.
If you're surprised by the pedigree of those Liberal Democrats who have made it into the cabinet then you need to think back to the coup that took place in the party in 2004. This revolved around the Orange Book, co-edited by David Laws, which claimed to 'reclaim Liberalism' but in reality moved the party sharply to the right. The contributors are almost all key players in today's Liberal Democrat Party, including all those who are now Cabinet members. Presumably the movement of the Liberal Democrat Party away from its heritage of imaginative, alternative policies - such as land tax and citizens' income - is not unrelated to the party's presence in the Cabinet today. Tweet