Boris Johnson wrote a highly-regarded biography of Winston Churchill, published in 2015, The Churchill Factor: How One Man Made History. Thanks to an estimable Conservative MP, both Paul Elam and I are the proud owners of signed and dedicated hardback copies.
When reading a depressing piece in today’s Times about BoJo’s capitulation to Rosie Duffield, a whiny feminist Labour MP, during PMQs yesterday, I was reminded of one of Churchill’s quotations, which I included in one of my international bestsellers (but sadly out of print today) Buchanan’s Dictionary of Quotations for Right-Minded People (2010).
Never give in – never, never, never, never, in nothing great or small, large or petty, never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.
Churchill’s quotations occupy six pages of the book. Sadly BoJo didn’t tell Duffield he would appoint people on the sole basis of merit, and invite her to take a long walk off a short pier.
The Times piece:
Boris Johnson has suggested that he could carry out another reshuffle after being told that there are too few women in government and among his scientific advisers.
Mr Johnson was asked at prime minister’s questions why there are only a “handful” of women on the Sage committee of scientific advisers and only one female cabinet minister has given a Downing Street press conference.
Rosie Duffield, a Labour MP, said that there needs to be a “change of tone” and “more female voices at the top of government”.
“Women make up the majority of the workforce in our NHS, social care sector and schools,” she said. “However, there is only a handful of women on the Sage committee and only one woman in the cabinet has led the Downing Street briefing in the past eight weeks.
“Does the prime minister agree with me, as the chair of the largest group of female MPs in the House, that we need a change of tone and more female voices at the top of government? If not, why not?”
Mr Johnson replied: “The honourable lady has an extremely important point, [J4MB: With this absurd statement, BoJo waved the white flag] and I have taken action, even before a reshuffle. One reason we are making such progress on test and trace is that Dido Harding has come on board, and Kate Bingham is leading the national effort to co-ordinate our search for a vaccine with other countries.”
Baroness Harding of Winscombe is chairwoman of NHS Improvement and former chief executive of Talk Talk, the telecoms company. Ms Bingham is chairwoman of the Vaccine Taskforce, and has worked in pharmaceuticals and investment.
Amber Rudd, the former home secretary who quit over Brexit, has previously said that the government would make “better decisions” if more women were in senior positions. It was not a matter of “optics” but of “good government”.
She said: “We hear a lot from No 10, and particularly from Dominic Cummings in the past, about wanting to make sure that we have diverse talent at the top of government. I would start by making sure there are some women at the top. The most senior posts are generally held by men and the prime minister needs to do something about that.” [J4MB: No, he doesn’t need to, and shouldn’t.]
The government’s coronavirus response is being led by Mr Johnson and an all-male “quad” of ministers: Rishi Sunak, Michael Gove, Matt Hancock and Dominic Raab.
Questions have been raised [J4MB: Hmm, who by?} about why senior figures, including Thérèse Coffey, the work and pensions secretary, and Liz Truss, the international trade secretary, have not led the daily coronavirus press conferences. Ms Truss has said that the “excessive focus on gender” does a “disservice to women”. She said: “I don’t like tokenism. I don’t like the idea that somebody should just appear at a press conference or in a media interview because they’re a woman.”
The prime minister’s last reshuffle left his team more male, white and privately educated than his previous cabinet. Despite briefings that Mr Johnson wanted to promote record numbers of women, three quarters of cabinet ministers are male.
In the running
Promoted to party chairwoman in the last reshuffle, the MP for Cannock Chase was born and brought up in Staffordshire and her vision of how the region’s mining past created a thriving small business sector is one Boris Johnson would like in post-industrial seats captured from Labour. She could become a full member of cabinet.
Another winner in the last reshuffle, Ms Braverman replaced Geoffrey Cox as attorney-general. A former chair-woman of the European Research Group of Eurosceptic Conservative MPs, she was an enthusiastic supporter of Mr Johnson in the leadership campaign. She could be promoted to full cabinet.
The former culture minister was promoted to health minister after featuring prominently in the general election campaign. She is seen as reliable, although she has endured difficult interviews during the coronavirus crisis.
The junior Home Office minister, a former barrister, was tipped at the last reshuffle but missed out. She offered last November to sit down with Mr Johnson to talk about the language he used in columns when he was a journalist, which did not go down well with the prime minister’s supporters.
The MP for Saffron Walden was moved to the Treasury in February and is exchequer secretary, having been undersecretary of state at the education department. She was born in London and grew up in Nigeria, before returning to the UK when she was 16. She backed Brexit.
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