Minister with final say on women’s issues is now… a man
For the first time ever, the new minister with the final say on women's issues is going to be… a man.
This appears to be the astonishing outcome from a rushed mini-reshuffle which has seen Maria Miller's old job of 'women and equalities minister' split into two.
Sajid Javid's official job title, as David Cameron tweeted this morning, is secretary of state for culture, media, sport and equalities.
Under him, for the first time, is a minister for women, Nicky Morgan. She will even get a desk in the Department for Culture, Media and Sport to prove it.
Downing Street claims this is a "beefing-up" of the role of women's issues in the Cabinet. Before there was one Cabinet minister dealing with women's issues, and two junior ministers. Now Morgan has been appointed there are four ministers looking at women's issues in total – and Morgan will also attend Cabinet, too.
That doesn't change the awkward truth that Morgan remains subordinate to Javid. He retains responsibility for the entirety of the equalities portfolio, No 10 confirmed. The conclusion – that a man is in charge of the women's portfolio – is inescapable.
Everyone in Westminster suspects the real reason for this mess is that Morgan couldn't simply take on the whole equalities and women job herself – because she voted against equal marriage.
There is not a chance No 10 will admit this. But neither can it come up with a decent alternative explanation for the decision to split the job, either. Officials don't seem certain who will take the lead role in the women's and equalities questions which take place every six weeks in the Commons, for example.
Labour thinks this is bad news: it's going to be a "very difficult time for the equalities agenda", a spokesperson for Ed Miliband said. There are, after all, now just three government departments run by women out of a possible total of 22.
Cameron had a women problem before today, fuelled by examples of everyday sexism and the terrible paucity of women in senior positions in his government.
Now he has achieved the seemingly impossible and found a way of making it even worse.
Following a rather embarrassing afternoon of chaos, the prime minister's spokesperson has now clarified the position. Sort of.
Nicky Morgan, it turns out, is not reporting to Sajid Javid after all. She will continue to have an office in Javid's department and answer questions in the Commons alongside him. But Morgan is no longer subordinate to Javid in the general sense of the word.
Instead she will sit in the Cabinet as women's minister and report directly to the prime minister. This, as far as we can see, is an unprecedented arrangement in this government.
The position is clear. Javid takes the lead on equalities. Morgan takes the lead on women's issues.
This is fine as long as the women's issues being discussed have nothing to do with the equalities agenda – on childcare, or pensions, or domestic violence, for example.
But the moment you have an issue that relates to both equality and a woman's issue, who exactly takes charge?
Across government there are areas of overlap, the prime minister's spokesperson says. This is no different.
Yet it is different – because the whole reason for this kerfuffle is the fact that Morgan can't be trusted to take on the entirety of the women and equalities brief.
She would have preferred denying lesbian couples the chance to get married. So, presumably, in Cameron's ideal world she would never give an answer on that, ever.
Only that's not going to happen, is it? It seems inevitable that she will have to comment on the issue sooner or later. Just because she now answers to a very important man rather than a slightly important man doesn't fix the problem at the heart of today's mess.