Grey BlairPoliticians have the reputation of being boring and grey, and also predominantly male. So how does the UK cabinet shape up? And what might there be on the horizon? If you read until the end of this entry you’ll find the table of stats but – in short – the demography of the UK Cabinet is not promising.

The average age of the 24 members of the Cabinet is today (18th December) 54.39 years – i.e. born in 1952, right in the middle of the baby boom period (population pyramids for the UK here). Only 5 of the 24 members of the Cabinet do not count as Baby Boomers – John Prescott and Margaret Beckett are too old, and David Miliband, Douglas Alexander and Ruth Kelly too young.

When it comes to gender balance things are fractionally better – 8 of the 24 are women, i.e. 1/3. This compares favourably to the situation in business – according to the 2006 Female FTSE report [pdf from Cranfield University here] female held directorships account for only 10.35% of all directorships in FTSE 100 companies.

Yet what is to come? I have not had the time to look at the dates of birth of all of the long list of UK ministers, but the gender balance is not promising – 19/69 of the Ministers of State and Parliamentary Secretaries are women – 27.5%, making it worse than the cabinet.

So the next time that someone (normally a man) makes the sort of comment that women’s representation is assured just reel off some of the facts.

Alternatively, when one of the baby boom generation claims that years of life experience are necessary before assuming a government job, just remind that person that all bar three of the cabinet are closer to retirement than they are to their time at university, and get them to reflect on how that looks to a young generation that are increasingly turned off by politics.

UPDATE – 30.12.2006
I’ve since come across this article from Paul Anderson in Tribune last year that takes the same sort of line, and this post from Antonia that develops the point further about Labour’s problems with the 1980s that cause such problems today. Some interesting food for thought there…

The Data

Compiled from The Number 10 website and Wikipedia. Data correct as of 18th December 2006. For the sake of these statistics, the Lords Chief Whip and Captain of the Gentlemen at Arms is included.

NAME POSITION DoB AGE
Tony Blair MP Prime Minister, First Lord of the Treasury andMinister for the Civil Service 6-May-53 54
John Prescott MP Deputy Prime Minister and First Secretary ofState 31-May-38 69
Gordon Brown MP Chancellor of the Exchequer 20-Feb-51 56
Jack Straw MP Leader of the House of Commons and Lord PrivySeal 3-Aug-46 60
Margaret Beckett MP Secretary of State for Foreign andCommonwealth Affairs 15-Jan-43 64
Alistair Darling MP Secretary of State for Trade and Industry 28-Nov-53 53
John Reid MP Secretary of State for the Home Department 8-May-47 60
Patricia Hewitt MP Secretary of State for Health 2-Dec-48 58
Tessa Jowell MP Secretary of State for Culture, Media andSport 17-Sep-47 59
Hilary Armstrong MP Minister for the Cabinet Office and for SocialExclusion (and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster) 30-Nov-45 61
Peter Hain MP Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, andSecretary of State for Wales 16-Feb-50 57
Valerie Amos Leader of the House of Lords and LordPresident of the Council 13-Mar-54 53
Charlie Falconer Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairsand Lord Chancellor 19-Nov-51 55
Hilary Benn MP Secretary of State for InternationalDevelopment 26-Nov-53 53
Alan Johnson MP Secretary of State for Education and Skills 17-May-50 57
Ruth Kelly MP Secretary of State for Communities and LocalGovernment, and Minister for Women 9-May-68 39
John Hutton MP Secretary of State for Work and Pensions 6-May-55 52
David Miliband MP Secretary of State for Environment, Food andRural Affairs 15-Jul-65 41
Des Browne MP Secretary of State for Defence 22-Mar-52 55
Douglas Alexander MP Secretary of State for Transport and Secretaryof State for Scotland 26-Oct-67 39
Hazel Blears MP Minister without Portfolio 14-May-56 51
Jacqui Smith MP Chief Whip (Parliamentary Secretary to theTreasury) 3-Nov-62 44
Stephen Timms MP Chief Secretary to the Treasury 29-Jul-55 51
Bruce Grocott Lords Chief Whip and Captain of the Gentlemenat Arms 1-Nov-40 66

3 Comments

  1. Jon
    For what is supposed to be a progressive left wing blog you seem to have no place in your views for inter-generational solidarity and seem to take the US neo-con view that different age groups will be in conflict over income tax.

    I don’t know how old you are, but I don’t know where you get the idea you have to work “10 years longer”. The planned changes to state retirement age is to raise it gradually from 65 to 68 years in 2044. So at most it’s 3 years longer, which is nowhere near 10 years now is it! Of course being a middle class blogging type it’s highly probable that you will earn higher than aveage income over your working life and will therefore, in all likelihood, have the choice of retiring early anyway.

    Be wary, be very wary of right wing ideology which wants to use population ageing as a cover for dismantling the European social model.

    As for the age of cabinet members, if they’re are good enough to do the job they are old enough. No-one should be blocked or promoted purely on the basis of their age. That is age discrimination, something, quite rightly, we on the left oppose.

  2. Well, yes, damn to quite a large extent. As a result of the disproportionately large baby boom generation that are all going to retire in the next decade I am going to have to work 10 years longer and the state will have to use a far higher proportion of tax income to support those people. That’s before you start looking at the lower amount of risk taking from a population with an older age structure – see this post.

  3. Baby boomers!? Damn.

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