It began after midnight, with Baroness Warsi’s now-infamous 2am tweet, where she broke the news that she was no longer the Conservative party’s co-chairman. Warsi, who was the first female Muslim MP, was quickly joined by Cheryl Gillan, who announced she had been removed from her post as Welsh Secretary. And so began the cabinet reshuffle that by the end of the day would see Cameron’s government lose 60% of its female MPs, including Warsi, who was their only ethnic minority MP, making this cabinet the most white, male and least culturally diverse one possible, highlighting the Conservative’s failure to modernise their own party.
In the cold, clear light of morning, more departures were announced, albeit, not always by Twitter, as the departures also included Kenneth Clarke, the Justice Secretary, or the one that made those ignorant comments about ‘serious rape’ last year, although he is to remain in the government.
However, perhaps the most surprising change was David Cameron’s decision to appoint Jeremy Hunt as the new Health Secretary, who replaces the much-maligned Andrew Lansley. While Lansley is set to become the Leader of the Commons, Hunt, the MP whose ties to the Murdoch media empire, and a man incapable of ringing a bell without injuring someone, is now in charge of the nation’s health.
Let me be frank, there are a number of reasons why the former Secretary of State for Culture, the Olympics, Sport and media should not be the new Health Secretary: his connections to Rupert Murdoch during News Corp’s failed BSkyB takeover bid have been well-documented, as his desire to disband the NHS, our national health service, which provides free healthcare for every citizen. In 2009, he was one of three MPs named by the Mirror (the others were Greg Clark and Michael Gove) as in favour of dismantling the NHS. They claimed it was “no longer relevant” in the book, Direct Democracy. Hunt is also a well-known fan of homoeopathy, and is one of a few MPs who voted to decrease the abortion limit from 24 weeks to 12 weeks or under.
Hunt’s extreme views on abortion control limit womens’ options during an unplanned pregnancy. Considering that many women don’t realise that they are pregnant until around 6 weeks, and with waiting times for abortions being more than two weeks at some clinics, that leaves very little time to make a difficult decision. Hunt is also against stem cell research.
Another notable promotion was that of Hunt’s replacement, Maria Miller, a former disability minister who will take over the departure of Culture, and will also take on the responsibility of Women and Equalities from Theresa May, as these departments are to become part of the culture department. While some sources claim that Miller is more connected to culture than Hunt and his predecessors, her track record in both women’s issues and equalities is damning.
Miller has amongst other things, voted to raise university fees and voted against gay marriage. She is opposed to gay couples adopting and lesbian couples receiving fertility treatment. She is against abortion, and like Hunt, voted to change the abortion limit, but from 24 to 20 weeks. She backed Nadine Dorries’ failed attempt to allow independent and faith-based groups to counsel women seeking abortions, rather than abortion providers, such as BPAS, who provide balanced and unbiased information for women facing the challenges of an unwanted pregnancy.
In place of what we had before, we now have an anti-choice, anti-NHS, minister in charge of our health and an anti-choice, anti-equal rights minister in charge of women rights, women’s health and equal rights of gay couples. Whichever way you look at it, things are only going to get worse.