Should Nick Clegg have appointed more female government ministers?

by Stephen Tall on October 13, 2012

Lib Dem Voice polled our members-only forum before conference to discover what Lib Dem members think of various political issues, the Coalition, and the performance of key party figures. More than 550 party members have responded, and we’re publishing the full results.

44% say ‘gender is irrelevant’; but 35% say Clegg should have appointed female cabinet minister by now

LDV asked: The Cabinet, which includes five Lib Dems, comprises four women (all Conservative MPs) and 19 men following the reshuffle. Of the Lib Dems’ 20 junior government posts, six are held by women of whom three are MPs. The Lib Dems have nine female MPs [NB: actual figure = 7 MPs: apologies for the slip. ST]. Which of the following statements best reflects your view?

    44% – Gender is irrelevant. It’s important for Nick Clegg simply to pick the best person for the job.
    35% – We urgently need to increase female representation at senior levels. Nick Clegg should by now have appointed at least one female Lib Dem cabinet minister and brought other talented female Lib Dem MPs into government
    19% – Neither
    2% – Don’t know / No opinion

A plurality of members opted for the view that it’s more important to pick the best person for the job, an echo of the decision by the party conference in 2001 to reject all-women short-lists. A substantial 35%, though, believe Nick Clegg is wrong not to have promoted at least one of the party’s nine female MPs into the cabinet. Of the almost 1-in-5 who opted for ‘Neither’ the most common comment was that the party desperately needs to boost female representation in the Commons in order to give the party leader a greater pool of talent to draw on. Others also made the point that we shouldn’t only focus on the male/female balance: many other groups within society are also under-represented within senior Lib Dem ranks.

By the way, to the person who commented, “Gender is not the same as sex. Gender is masculine or feminine and pertains to one’s sexuality or sexual orientation. Some argue that there is no such thing as gender. I presume sex is what is meant by gender here.” – I agree with you, and I was aware I was misusing the word even as I wrote the question. However, using the word ‘sex’ accurately can also often introduce confusion.

And here are the results of the other reshuffle-related questions we asked…

Bare majority (51%) say reshuffle has changed the Government for the worse

LDV asked: This month David Cameron and Nick Clegg reshuffled the Coalition Government. From what you have seen or heard about the reshuffle, do you think it has changed the Government for the better, for the worse, or has it made no real difference?

    7% – Has changed the government for the better
    51% – Has changed the government for the worse
    39% – Has made no real difference
    3% – Don’t know / No opinion

But bare majority (53%) also say it’s made no difference to Lib Dem influence on the Government

LDV asked: Do you think the reshuffle has increased the amount of influence the Liberal Democrats have in government, reduced the amount of influence the Liberal Democrats have, or made no real difference?

    13% – Has increased the amount of influence the Liberal Democrats have
    30% – Has reduced the amount of influence the Liberal Democrats have
    53% – Has made no real difference
    3% – Don’t know / No opinion

Three-quarters say reshuffle was a Tory ‘lurch to the right’

LDV asked: The reshuffle of Conservative cabinet ministers was described by some as a ‘lurch to the right’. Do you agree with this description?

    75% – Agree
    14% – Disagree
    11% – Don’t know / No opinion

Members back Laws’ return by 2:1 majority

LDV asked: David Laws was appointed Joint Minister of State in the Department for Education and Cabinet Office two years after he resigned from the Cabinet because of allegations about his expenses. Do you support or oppose his return to Government?

    59% – Support
    32% – Oppose
    9% – Don’t know / No opinion
  • Over 1,200 Lib Dem paid-up party members are registered with More than 550 responded to the latest survey, which was conducted between 19th and 22nd September. NB: most responses received before Nick Clegg’s apology broadcast.
  • Please note: we make no claims that the survey is fully representative of the Lib Dem membership as a whole. However,’s surveys are the largest independent samples of the views of Lib Dem members across the country, and have in the past offered accurate guides to what party members think.
  • For further information on the reliability/credibility of our surveys, please refer to FAQs: Are the Liberal Democrat Voice surveys of party members accurate? and polling expert Anthony Wells’ verdict, On that poll of Lib Dem members.
  • The full archive of our members’ surveys can be viewed at
  • * Stephen Tall is Co-Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice, a Research Associate for the liberal think-tank CentreForum, and also writes at his own site, The Collected Stephen Tall.