There was much black humour last week when Paula Bennett was PM for day, highlighting how short National is on talent and depth. Perhaps coincidentally, Stacey Kirk in the Sunday Star Times took a look at National’s women – John Key’s got 27 problems and women are up to 50 per cent of them
OPINION: To say gender equality at the Cabinet table can’t be achieved at the expense of merit, is to say there aren’t enough capable women on the Government benches.
The problem for Prime Minister John Key, however, is that in the Government he leads, there aren’t.
He’s mulling his options as Cabinet requires a reshuffle, likely to happen in the new year.
Whatever its configuration, the A-team that National takes to next year’s election will predominantly be made up of middle-aged white men.
No change there then.
That’s certainly not to say Cabinet’s ranks don’t feature a formidable set of strong and very capable women; including Paula Bennett, Amy Adams, Anne Tolley, Judith Collins and Maggie Barry.
Maggie Barry? Anne Tolley? Really? Amy who?
But it is to say that all the female National MPs probably deserving of one of the 27 Cabinet positions are already there.
Kirk discusses the Nats’ lower order women – and doesn’t find them very impressive.
The reshuffle, though typical of a Key Government a year out from the election, has partly been precipitated by the loss of two key figures – unfortunately, both highly capable women.
In Nikki Kaye’s case, that’s by not necessarily permanent as she takes time off to focus on her treatment following a shock breast cancer diagnosis.
Key will also have a decision to make over whether to keep Education Minister Hekia Parata in her portfolio until she retires from politics at the election.
Good luck to Nikki Kaye with her treatment.
The female vote is a constituency National has performed well with under Key – though it’s by no means a given, and one they have to work to hold.
As senior Minister Murray McCully now famously put it in a 2004 internal email to party strategists: “We do look like a bunch of conservative, honky males in suits.”
Quite. As a government National is no friend to women, shutting down the Pay and Employment Equity Unit in 2009, ignoring a steadily growing gender pay gap, and undermining social services (such as Rape Crisis) that support women. As a party National has structural problems with selecting and supporting women. Problems that are coming home to roost.