New equality minister Lynne Featherstone says government not diverse enough

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a white background.

Newly-appointed junior equality minister Lynne Featherstone has criticised the coalition government for not having enough women.

Ms Featherstone, whose appointment was announced this morning, said she was “very disappointed” at the lack of female and ethnic minority representation.

Only four figures in the cabinet are female, and the only ethnic minority politician, Sayeeda Warsi, is an unelected peer.

None are openly gay, although gay Tory MPs Nick Herbert and Alan Duncan have been given junior ministerial positions.

Ms Featherstone told BBC Radio 4’s World at One today: “I am very disappointed.

“I think that is an issue. But if I look at the five Liberal Democrats, including Nick Clegg, who have gone into the cabinet, they are, and this is one of the difficulties, extremely talented, extremely experienced and the heavy hitters in the Liberal Democrats.”

She added that when David Cameron appointed her, she told him: “We must do better.”

Ms Featherstone continued: “When you look at the negotiating teams, they were male and pale.

“So the issue is how do you get women through the ranks of parliament to those positions where they are then in a position to be in the cabinet?”

The former Liberal Democrat equality spokeswoman admitted that her own party had not done as well as the Conservatives in improving its number of female MPs.

She said: “The Conservatives have made great improvements in the number of women coming through in the parliament, sadly the Liberal Democrats have not.

“We did actually have able women in place; winnable seats were covered by 40 per cent women but unfortunately we didn’t have the greatest of nights and we didn’t win those seats.”

Ms Featherstone, who has a good voting record on gay rights, announced her appointment as junior equality minister on her blog before it was declared.

She wrote that she was “optimistic” about securing most of her party’s election equality promises.

She added: “Will I get our whole agenda agreed? Well I might – but there are a few things I can see causing ructions – but I am optimistic about most of it.”