Baroness Stowell of Beeston has replaced Lord Hill of Oareford as Leader of the House of Lords and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster in David Cameron’s latest reshuffle (the office of ‘Leader of the House of Lords’ technically doesn’t exist, so the occupant has to be given a sinecure that actually draws a salary). But while Lord Hill was a full member of the Cabinet, Baroness Stowell has been demoted to ‘also attending’ status (i.e. she’ll only pop in from time to time).
This is an unfortunate development. It has long been customary for the leaders of both Houses to be full members of the Cabinet. This was even the case prior to 1999 when the House of Lords tended to be a meek, sleepy chamber. Demoting the Leader of the Lords when that House is arguably more assertive and aggressive than it has been for many years seems like an incredibly foolish move.
It also exacerbates the public’s perception that Cameron has a “women problem.” Replacing a male minister with a woman and then expecting her to do the same job in reduced circumstances is practically inviting negative comment. Indeed, Labour is already doing its best to make hay over that. All in all, it seems like a spectacular own goal on Cameron’s part.