Paris has changed everything.
Russia and France have become wary allies. Britain is on the brink of authorising a bombing campaign in Syria. Suddenly, everyone feels a little less safe.
At a time when defence and security has rocketed up the political agenda, it’s a woman holding the government to account. Maria Eagle is the first ever woman to hold the post of Shadow Defence Secretary and, let’s be honest, she’s had a tricky week.
Usually when politicians do media interviews, straight forward policy questions are the easy ones.
Asking about their, you know, actual brief is hardly a curve ball question.
But for Labour shadow cabinet ministers the simplest questions are the deadliest, because there’s nowhere to hide.
At times during her Radio Four interview yesterday, Shadow Defence Secretary Maria Eagle must have wished there was a nearby rock that she could crawl under.
John Humphry’s lethal weapons were straight forward, direct questions about Labour’s defence policy.
Could Jeremy Corbyn back air strikes against Islamic State targets in Syria?
“My understanding is that he is not a pacifist and that means it is conceivable,” was the reply.
In other words, Maria Eagle has no flipping idea.
The questions remained simple, but the answers became increasingly confused.
What is Labour going to do when David Cameron puts air strikes in Syria to a vote?
“It all depends… We are in a position in which we will make a decision after the Prime Minister puts forward his rationale.”
Will Labour MPs be whipped?
“We will make decisions about whipping arrangements, whether there is a whip, after we have made the decision about our policy on this and whether or not we’re going to support it.”
David Cameron’s position is no secret: he wants Parliament to authorise air strikes on Islamic State targets in Syria. (You can even sum it up in a sentence.) Labour’s policy, however, is still opaque and it seems that even the Shadow Defence Secretary hasn’t got the foggiest what it is.
Her wings have been clipped at every turn
But it’s hardly surprising that, when asked, Maria Eagle has trouble articulating just what Labour’s position is (or at least, a policy that she can guarantee won’t change by the time David Cameron does call a vote in the House of Commons on strikes in Syria.)
It’s easy to criticise Maria Eagle, but in truth the Shadow Defence Secretary has seen her wings have been clipped at every turn.
Firstly, on policy. Maria Eagle believes in Trident, Britain’s nuclear deterrent. Her boss, however, is vehemently opposed to its renewal. When she was offered the job of Shadow Defence Secretary, Maria Eagle gently pointed out that she was pro-Trident. She got the job anyway, but you don’t have to be a fortune teller to realise this could be a problem.
Secondly, on the defence review. Maria Eagle was casually browsing Twitter when she discovered that Ken Livingstone had been appointed as her co-chair on what is probably the most important aspect of her brief. Ms Eagle may be the first female Shadow Defence Secretary – but she still has a man marking her homework.
Jeremy Corbyn announced his Shadow Cabinet with great fanfare about the commendable achievement that, for the first time, over half the appointments went to female MPs. It’s an admirable step by a man who promises a new kind of politics and has what seems to be a genuine urge to advance equality and fairness in his role as Labour leader.
But there’s no point in having a Cabinet that is gender balanced if you don’t allow the women to do anything. It’s hardly a blow for equality if they’ve only earned their seat to look pretty and make up the numbers.
The virtue of having women around the top decision making tables is that they can, you know, make decisions. And until that happens, don't expect them to give knock-out media interviews either.