A posh bloke’s government: No wonder they cocked up Covid crisis

Big companies are more successful when they have a large group of women at the top. That’s the conclusion of an analysis by Pipeline, a company which advises firms on how to make themselves more diverse.

The report says that firms listed on the London stock exchange are “more profitable when women make up more than one in three executive roles… listed firms where at least one-third of the bosses are women have a profit margin more than 10 times greater than those without.”

The co-founders of the company, former Labour general secretary Baroness Margaret McDonagh and ex-MP Lorna Fitzsimons, write that “companies with diverse leaderships perform better and have higher profit margins, indicating that they are making better commercial decisions than companies without diverse leadership.”

Their report has a foreword by former Tory Prime Minister Theresa May, who says “there can be no good explanation for the massive underrepresentation of women at the top of British business – so it must change.”

It is therefore interesting to contrast the Cabinets of May and her predecessor David Cameron, who both appointed 30 per cent women, with Boris Johnson’s who, according to Huff Post let that slip to 25%. They are not just blokes, but posh blokes. The old Etonian “elevated 21 privately educated MPs, 64% of his Cabinet”.

Johnson’s women ministers are virtually invisible, as John Crace observed back in April. “Coronavirus is man’s work. At least, that appears to be the government’s assessment of it, for in the three weeks of daily Downing Street press briefings, not once has a woman minister been allowed out to be front-of-house compere. Priti Patel, Liz Truss and Thérèse Coffey … might as well not exist.”

Keir Starmer leads a party with more than 50% women MPs and that is reflected in a Shadow Cabinet with 16 women out of 32. His deputy is, of course, someone who started her working life in a care home, Angela Rayner.

And care homes were raised by Starmer in his first PMQs. Johnson’s stand-in Dominic Raab admitted the government didn’t know how many care home staff had died from Covid-19.

The Office for National Statistics reckons nearly 20,000 care homes deaths involved COVID-19 - around 30% of all deaths of care home residents.

Now, the all-party Public Accounts Committee has accused ministers of being slow to support social care during the crisis. The decision to allow hospital patients in England to be discharged to care homes without Covid-19 tests at the start of the pandemic is described as "reckless" by MPs.Government failures extend across a broad field including a slow lockdown, a lack of protective equipment and no track and trace app.

The stumbling performances of Johnson and key ministers at Downing Street briefings served to emphasise that Brexit loyalty, not talent, was the selection yardstick used by Johnson and Dominic Cummings.

It has prompted speculation that Boris Johnson will be out of Downing Street well before the next election. Mike Smithson of Political Betting says bookmakers are offering short odds that he will be gone before then and that his departure might not be voluntary. He quotes the Conservative commentator Iain Martin, who tells Sunday Times readers: the “great unspoken truth of Tory affairs right now -- it will be surprising if Mr Johnson fights the next election. The prime minister does not look like a man up for another five to ten years in No 10… This whole PM business isn’t really his thing.”

Chancellor Rishi Sunak looks favourite to succeed, but Labour should be wary of him – he was picked because he was willing to let Cummings choose his advisers - a condition his predecessor Sajid Javid rejected.

And Sunak is pretty posh. The former hedge fund manager is reputed to have made his multi-billion pound fortune during the 2008 crash. He is also reported to own a dozen houses, including a Kensington home worth £7 million. He also, of course, voted for austerity, with huge cuts to public services and tax cuts for the rich.

At the start of July, he unveiled a gimmicky £30 billion mini budget and set off on a round of photo opps to cement his front-runner status. But Bridget Phillipson, number two in Labour’s Treasury team, warned “we needed a Back to Work Budget. We didn't get one. What we saw didn’t match the scale of the challenge facing the country. It was policymaking on the hoof - and policymaking to mask failure. This was the Chancellor's last chance to avoid a job crisis. He missed it.”

As Johnson flirts with policies on cycling and obesity, designed to shift attention from the continuing Covid crisis, we can expect Sunak to be the prime target for Labour attack. Undermining his appeal is the key to Labour’s continued advance under Keir Starmer.

By Don Brind - Labour Movement for Europe Press Officer & Former BBC political correspondent

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