A Labour MP has accused Rishi Sunak of “silencing women’s voices at the top table” over the lack of women the new PM has selected for his cabinet.
Kate Osborne, who sits on the women and equalities committee, told The Independent she is not surprised the new cabinet is male-dominated, due to the Conservatives treating women as “second-class citizens”.
Women make up 22 per cent of the politicians allowed to go to cabinet meetings under Mr Sunak’s premiership, which is a fall from 32 per cent of women at the beginning of Liz Truss’s short stint as PM.
It is also lower than the equivalent proportion for Boris Johnson’s cabinet, where women made up 24 per cent of cabinet ministers, while Theresa May had 30 per cent. Just five of the 31 members of Mr Sunak’s cabinet are not white.
Ms Osborne, MP for Jarrow, said: “We shouldn’t be surprised that Sunak’s cabinet has more jobs for the boys.
“There are just seven women in Sunak’s cabinet, but it’s not just silencing women’s voices at the top table but the impact the policies Sunak’s government have on women.
“It is women who face the brunt of the consequences of Conservative chaos, women hit hardest by cuts and the cost of living crisis they have caused.”
Ms Osborne noted that Kemi Badenoch, the new minister for women and equalities, had voted last week against buffer zones that protect women seeking abortions – as she warned that Ms Badenoch’s “track record is hugely worrying” for the LGBT+ community.
She added: “Representation matters, but let’s be clear: more Tory women in the cabinet wouldn’t change the damage their policies are doing to our communities.”
Frances Scott, director and founder of 50:50 Parliament, a cross-party campaign to reach gender equality in Westminster, told The Independent it was “a shame” there are fewer women in cabinet under Mr Sunak, but added: “When you haven’t got the women on the back benches, then you can’t bring them forward to the front.”
She said: “We all need to be working to build a better democracy and one in which women are rightfully represented.
“Women are the majority in life, but the minority in parliament. The low number of rape convictions, the lack of midwives, the prevalence of violence against women, and unaffordable childcare are all issues in the UK that might be remedied by better representation.”
Mandu Reid, leader of the Women’s Equality Party, said the Conservative government is “utterly failing women – both in representation and in policy”.
While Amy Whitelock Gibbs, of the Fawcett Society, the leading UK gender equality charity, said: “We are disappointed that the proportion of women in cabinet has dropped, and urge the government to put women’s voices and gender equality at the heart of the UK’s economic recovery, which must prioritise the most marginalised.”