Ok, let’s start with a very short bit of modern history.
The UK government role of Minister for Women and Equality was created in 2007 (superseding the previous role of Minister for Women). The position was renamed Minister for Women and Equalities in 2010. Under both titles – and in keeping with the established pattern with the Minister for Women – the portfolio had always been combined with another cabinet-level post. Until today, all three positions had always been held by women.
The first Minister for Women and Equality was Harriet Harman. She was replaced, following the election in 2010, by Theresa May as Minister for Women and Equalities. That appointment was quite heavily criticised by LGBT people because the Equalities role meant that May was responsible for LGBT equality when her House of Commons voting record showed she had either abstained or voted against many LGBT rights measures.
It seems likely this criticism – together with his determination to press ahead with marriage equality – lay behind David Cameron’s decision to remove the Women and Equalities portfolio from Theresa May in 2012 and hand it to Maria Miller, the Culture Secretary. Miller’s own voting record on LGBT issues was ambiguous, but at least the substitution meant that the legislation to allow English & Welsh same-sex couples to marry would be piloted through the Commons by someone who had voted in favour of civil partnerships.
That brings us up to the present day – as in, literally, today. This morning, Maria Miller resigned from all her Ministerial positions. She has been replaced, as Culture Secretary, by Sajid Javid. Javid is a man, and as such it would have been politically difficult to appoint him as Minister for Women. As a result, David Cameron took the decision to appoint Nicky Morgan as Minister for Women.
You’ll note that’s just Minister for Women, not Minister for Women and Equalities. This is because Cameron took the decision to split the Women and Equalities portfolio, appointing Javid as Minister for Equalities and Morgan as Minister for Women, with both reporting directly to him. Why the split, you may be wondering. Clearly Javid couldn’t be appointed Minister for Women (not without a great deal of controversy, anyway), but why not hand the entire Women and Equalities portfolio to Morgan?