Public Policy

May 28, 2021

Boris Johnson’s Cabinet: will more women take a seat at the table?


As the Johnson Government shifts its focus from responding to the pandemic and rolling out its vaccine programme, it is looking toward economic recovery, the green industrial revolution and resetting the team in readiness for a possible early election in 2023. As they do this, inevitably Boris Johnson and his team of top advisors will be thinking about how they sell the new Cabinet and give the British public confidence.

Picking a new Cabinet is hard – the Prime Minister needs a team he knows is loyal but will also challenge in private to make sure the decisions being made are the right ones for the country and the Conservative Party. In addition to loyalty, he needs to balance educational backgrounds, cultural and gender diversity, where on the Conservative spectrum they sit and what part of the UK they represent; and this is all before one even considers their ability to do the job.

When unveiling his first team after becoming Prime Minister, Johnson selected the most ethnically diverse Cabinet the UK had ever had. When putting together his new Cabinet, what is the story Johnson wants to tell the country? The Prime Minister, arguably, has a women problem – both in terms of his current Cabinet make up, but also the perception of him and his Government.

This summer, the story of the Cabinet reshuffle could be the appointment of the UK’s most gender balanced Cabinet with more women taking a seat at the table.

Who’s going to have a good day?

Though it lags behind the Labour Party and the Liberal Democrats, the 2019 General Election saw more Conservative women elected (as a percentage) than ever before, with a raft of very able and talented women ready and able to join the Ministerial ranks.

As the Prime Minister prepares to announce possibly the most gender-balanced Cabinet in UK Government history there are quite a few female MPs who are likely on the call list for a meeting with Boris Johnson at Downing Street. The big shift in female Ministerial appointments won’t just be in the Cabinet, with many female MPs expected to move to more senior roles or join the Ministry for the first time.

Contenders are:

  • Digital and Culture Minister Caroline Dineage,
  • Solicitor-General Lucy Frazer,
  • Opponent of woke politics and Treasury Minister Kemi Badenoch,
  • Popular former Scottish Tory Leader Ruth Davidson,
  • Ex-banker and Treasury special adviser Claire Coutinho,
  • Safeguarding Minister Victoria Atkins,
  • Constitution and Devolution Minister Chloe Smith,
  • Ex-political adviser in the Number 10 Policy Unit Laura Trott,
  • Former Westminster City Council Leader Nickie Aiken,
  • Previous charities adviser Siobhan Baillie, and
  • Champion of the north and levelling up Dehenna Davison.

Departing stage left?

Where the Sound of Music asked how you solve a problem like Maria, the question most want to know the answer to is how Johnson solves a problem like Matt Hancock. There is no doubt that Hancock’s membership of and role in Cabinet is precarious and many pundits thought, after Covid, that Hancock might want to move to a different Department. The challenge for the Prime Minister is the frustration many backbench MPs have with some of the decisions the Government made during lockdown and the fear of what Dom Cummings might tweet next. To completely remove Hancock from Cabinet brings risks – many will argue the Prime Minister and the Chancellor must bear equal responsibility with Hancock for the decisions made and a dumping from Cabinet is an admission the Government got it wrong. However, with allegations brewing, and a former senior advisor hellbent on exacting revenge, Hancock may be sacrificed to preserve the Government’s consistently high poll ratings and Johnson’s premiership.

Cabinet 2

Click image to enlarge.