New minister raps 'male and pale' British government

14th May 2010, Comments 0 comments

A junior minister in Britain's new coalition government voiced disappointment Friday at the number of women in the cabinet, lamenting the "male and pale" makeup of the policy-makers.

Lynne Featherstone of the Liberal Democrats, the junior partner in Prime Minister David Cameron's administration, said she told him "we must do better" when she was appointed as junior equalities minister.

"I am very disappointed," she told BBC radio, adding: "We must do better."

Cameron appointed just four women ministers in his cabinet this week -- fewer than in Labour premier Tony Blair's first cabinet in 1997 -- the most of senior of which is Home Secretary Theresa May.

Britain's first coalition administration since World War II, was only forged after five days of haggling between the Conservaties and Lib Dems.

Featherstone noted the lack of women among the main negotiators who thrashed out the joint programme between the Conservatives' and Lib Dems.

"When you look at the negotiating teams, they were male and pale," said Featherstone, who works under May.

She acknowledged that boosting the number of women in government was a complex issue.

"If I look at the five Liberal Democrats, including Nick Clegg, who have gone into the cabinet, they are, and this is one of the difficulties, extremely talented, extremely experienced and the heavy hitters in the Liberal Democrats," she said.

"So the issue is how do you get women through the ranks of parliament to those positions where they are then in a position to be in the cabinet?"

She added: "There are plenty of able and talented women who do want it, who are coming through the ranks slowly now.

"The Conservatives have made great improvements in the number of women coming through in the parliament, sadly the Liberal Democrats have not," she said.

© 2010 AFP

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