Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Corbyn's top appointments may all have been male, but they all made logical sense

I feel a bit sorry for Jeremy Corbyn after the flak he's taken over failing to appoint women to shadow any of the 'Great Offices of State'.  I'm sure he's serious about achieving gender balance at the top of politics, but if you look at the appointments individually, they all make perfect sense.

John McDonnell was the right choice as Shadow Chancellor, because the most common faultline in divided party leaderships is between the leader and the Chancellor/Shadow Chancellor.  In Chris Mullin's A Very British Coup, the nemesis of the left-wing Labour PM Harry Perkins is the moderate he appoints as Chancellor to reassure the City.  OK, that's fiction, but it's not hard to think of real world examples - Thatcher/Howe, Thatcher/Lawson, Blair/Brown.  It's probably better for the leader to avoid that problem by appointing a friend and ideological fellow traveller, and there is simply no female MP who fits that bill for Jeremy Corbyn - with the sole exception of Diane Abbott, who even her most fervent admirers would probably concede is unsuited to the role.

Just about the only thing Harriet Harman did as interim leader that could be described as a stroke of genius was to appoint Hilary Benn as Shadow Foreign Secretary.  He's by far Labour's best Foreign Secretary or Shadow Foreign Secretary since Robin Cook (although admittedly the competition isn't exactly stiff).  He's also a unifying figure, liked and respected across different wings of the party - a moderate, but one who proudly voted for his dad Tony Benn in the leadership and deputy leadership contests of the 1980s.  If he was willing to stay on in the role, surely Corbyn had no choice but to bite his hand off?

That only leaves Shadow Home Secretary, which by a process of elimination had to go to a defeated leadership candidate who was willing to serve.  It's scarcely Corbyn's fault that Yvette Cooper and Liz Kendall were both refuseniks, making the appointment of Andy Burnham inevitable.

There's been a lot of talk of 'tokenism' in relation to the female appointments Corbyn has made to the lower ranks of the Shadow Cabinet, but surely the true tokenism would have been to appoint the wrong person to one of the top jobs simply because she is a woman.  If all-female appointments had been made on merit to the top three posts, isn't that something we would celebrate, rather than fret about?

18 comments:

  1. Totally agree with you.

    Additionally Corbyn makes a fair point that at some of these "great offices of state" are only important historically.

    Today the Home Office is a shadow of what it was before it lost Justice from its remit, and the Foreign Secretary is little more than a mouthpiece for America's Secretary of State, having lost the Empire, the Commonwealth and even the International Aid function, and with Britain's foreign policy being largely decided in Washington.

    In Scotland, of course, much of every day governance is devolved to our own government. I reckon that Foreign Affairs affects my day to day life a lot less than Education, Health, Law and Order, Environment, Transport and Energy.

    The trouble is that the London establishment has been allowed to live in the past. And wouldn’t you if you were surrounded by the House of Lords, the Royals and all the protocol that goes with them.

    I see that they are now carping about Corbyn not doing up his top shirt button and not singing their anthem at a military ceremony.

    Apparently that is disrespectful to the "brave boys"…unlike sending them to an illegal war badly equipped while they spend the bulk of the defence budget on an unusable WMD capability to retain their top table seat at the UN. Or indeed allowing the survivors of their illegal adventures to die begging on the streets after being cut off from social security payments.

    Ah but they were all in Saville Row suits and sang heartily of saving their noble queen while they did it, so that was alright.

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    1. "Apparently that is disrespectful to the "brave boys"…unlike sending them to an illegal war badly equipped while they spend the bulk of the defence budget on an unusable WMD capability to retain their top table seat at the UN. Or indeed allowing the survivors of their illegal adventures to die begging on the streets after being cut off from social security payments."

      This, yes, THIS, absolutely this, thank you.

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  2. I genuinely cannot believe people are attacking Corbyn for perceived sexism in not giving women top roles when he's managed to make a female majority cabinet in a party that's 60% male MPs. It's, like, pick your targets, people!

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    1. You mean like the pro Trident Brit Nats that he also picked for his shadow bench. I wonder if he will force a three line whip on the Trident vote when it happens. Murray voted with Tories to keep VAT on Scotland's emergency services. Same old anti Scottish Red Tories. Nothing has changed.

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  3. Watch Dennis Skinner turn the tables on BBC reporter spinning against Jeremy Corbyn! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XHGDDMAP5qU&feature=youtu.be&t=3m8s

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  4. Glasgow Working ClassSeptember 15, 2015 at 10:52 PM

    Emily M would be subject to some scrutiny from some on the Islamic Fascist left. I believe she is Jewish however the interview in my mind was not controversial. Sad to see the auld yin losing it. He has to appreciate he is not the only joker around.

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  5. I've been torn about Corbyn for months. I didn't vote for him in the leadership election. But there's no doubt that he has one hell of a mandate, given that he won such a landslide among full members, not just the £3 supporters. It all feels strange, too. Even though I didn't vote for Corbyn, he's refreshing. He actually believes in something and isn't just another PR man. At the end of it all, I've never felt more proud to be a member if the Labour party. Given my cynical outlook on the world and on politics in particular, that's something I never thought that I would say.

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    1. Glasgow Working ClassSeptember 16, 2015 at 12:04 AM

      I think any labour party member must know what Corbyn stands for and moreso the 3 quiders.

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    2. Glasgow Working ClassSeptember 16, 2015 at 12:16 AM

      You said twice you did not vote for him but he is refreshing! Is that the parts no other beer can reach?

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    3. Seems he doesn't sing God Save the Queen.

      I like that in a man. However, seems the UK media are not so impressed.

      https://pbs.twimg.com/media/CO-aPLOWoAAXfmF.jpg

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  6. Already talk of some Labour MPs crossing the floor to the Tories following Corbyn's election.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-34267886

    Hardly a surprise; a good few did the same the other way when Blair came to power and it looked like the Tories were going to be out of power for a long time.

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  7. Glasgow Working ClassSeptember 16, 2015 at 2:20 PM

    I did like the way the PM totally destroyed Angus Robertson.... So Nat sis get on with using your tax raising powers or shut up about austerity and foodbanks. Tax the rich.

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  8. I think Angus was referring to the Vow that wasn't delivered. But why let facts get in the way of a bigots opinion.

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    1. Glasgow Working ClassSeptember 16, 2015 at 5:03 PM

      Anon. So you think but did not listen. In any case what about using the powers the Nat sis have!

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  9. I see the police have handed their findings on alleged Tory postal vote fraud in the referendum to the Crown Prosecution Service.

    http://www.heraldscotland.com/news/13738934.Police_hand_Ruth_Davidson_details_to_Crown_after_probe_into_referendum_postal_votes/

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  10. If all-female appointments had been made on merit to the top three posts, isn't that something we would celebrate, rather than fret about?

    ...but they weren't and hence the need for positive discrimination. Without it very little changes; every example remains hypothetical. Merit is not an objective term.

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    1. No, that misunderstands the point I was making. You're implicitly accepting that an all-female top team would have been a positive thing - how then can an all-male top team appointed for the right reasons be a negative thing?

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