Women and Parliament

7:48 pm - February 6th 2008

by Gracchi    

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Just a quick post but this is a wonderful graphic from the electoral reform society which exposes quite how poor our record of getting women into Parliament has been. Many constituencies have never had a female MP, let alone don’t have one at the moment and there are whole zones of the country like the rural north, much of East Anglia, most of central and northern Wales, the outskirts of London and rural Scotland┬áthat appear never to have had female MPs at all. The fact that this map could be put together is a disgrace and symbolises in a very accurate form the vast distance we have to go until we attain full equality between the genders. Three cheers to the Electoral Reform Society for putting it up: its about time that this situation changed for the better. Otherwise we are perpetuating a situation in which we miss out on half the available political talent out there- and that can’t be a good thing for anyone.

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About the author
'Gracchi' is a regular contributor to Liberal Conspiracy. He started a blog last year which deals with culture and politics and history, where his interest lies. He is fascinated by all sorts of things including good films and books and undogmatic discussion of ideas. This seems like a good place to do the latter... Also at: Westminister Wisdom
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Reader comments

I’m a bit suspicious of this kind of argument. The people who make it rarely say that the gender balance in prisons is highly skewed, and that the criminal justice system should therefore jail more women.

If you want to argue that this is because men and women tend to behave differently on average, fine. But that argument works just as well well dicussing the gender balence amongst politicians.

Fantastic Map! Really instructive and shocking.

ad – that’s not a very valid comparison. It matters that women are not equally represented in Parliament, because that is how we run the country.

An unequal prison population has no direct bearing on the way we run the country, but it may well be a result of cultural tropes of masculinity and femininity, etc.

Thanks for linking to the map Gracchi.

We don’t run the country – Parliament does. And I care more about the background of its inhabitants than their sex.

For example, I never believed that labour would make the public sector more efficient, because so many of its MPs were connected with it, and therefore with vested intersts within it.

Whereas most people are closely connected with people of either sex.

So they want to rig things in favour of their daughter, as well as their son.

i entirely agree with add, the prison population is a very good comaprion -does tha mean men are marganoized- a lot more men are in jail than parliament if we’re going to go for this kind of collective guilt assesment’s. Perhpas it’s the patriarchy putting men down? why not have a graph like that?

Also why should women

I note gracchi has not made the same argument about people who dinbt’ go to top univeristies, or univeristy , which would seem to be much a matter of priviledge than sex is.

If you believen in evolution there are incredibly good reasons why men will be disproportionatley among lifes’ worst failures and greatest sucesses- simple answer they can have more kids and so “high stakes” evolutionary “gambles” make more sense . in fact if this were not the case I’d go so far as to say it’d cast doubt on the credibility of evolution of humans as a scientific theory.

If you believe in democratic acco8untaiby women vote a bit more than men-so have more say in running the country

Jess I think the really interesting issue is the geography of it- I’d never thought of it this way but the constituencies which choose women seem to be clustered together- I wonder if it represents in a very crude way a map of perceptions of women in politics in the UK. I do realise that is excessively crude but it would be interesting to think about that- and whether different parts of the country have different attitudes- might even be a good case for say looking at communities or groups of people that were very hostile to women as MPs and trying to work out ways to persuade them to have a more equal look at things. I don’t know I’m thinking on my feet here.

Ad Edmund- I think you are both wrong.

On the point of the prison population- yes indeed men predominate, I don’t think there is anything neccessarily male about going to prison- I think there are lots of reasons that men predominate in the prison population, mostly to do with the inequalities in society and the cultural construction of masculinity. Could that be the other side of some of the same trends that don’t send women to the House of Commons as Jess said above?

Edmund you are entirely wrong about the evolutionary side of things- I think you confuse high achievement today with high acheivement in evolutionary terms- furthermore I think you are wrong to read across from Parliamentary attendance to evolutionary advantage in the direct way you do. And furthermore just saying there are other injustices in the world doesn’t mean that this isn’t an injustice. The real issue here is that in my experience I have met as many intelligent women as intelligent men- you seem to suggest that your experience is different, have you told the women that you know that they aren’t as capable as the men you know? Or have you told them that they shouldn’t aim as high- most women I know want to aim high and succeed like most men. The Exam results at A-Level, GCSE and for getting higher degrees (2.1 and above) at university don’t exactly support your argument.

Ultimately you will never achieve complete balance between the sexes in Parliament- you wouldn’t want to, Parliament is a representative institution and naturally given the lottery of a general election, you never will achieve precise percentages. But it is also a deliberative institution, and I think that if you selected the 600 best deliberators in the UK you would find that 300 of them would be women, therefore its my belief that roughly there should be around 300 women in the House of Commons and that if there were there would be more good MPs and more good decisions would be taken. Its a simple position- based on the idea that talent is shared pretty equally between the sexes and I’d base that opinion on my own experience of the sexes and also the exam results of every year going back to the eighties.

The difference between the prison population and parliament is surely that in an ideal world there wouldn’t /be/ a prison population, whereas we will always need governance?

Worth noting here is the strong correlation here between electoral systems and descriptive representation, btw. PR is far more successful at getting a nation’s parliament to “look more like” the country. Obviously, there are many other factors to take into account in judging an electoral system (it isn’t sucessful *just* because it represents women/minorities/class etc. proportionally), but that representation is so skewed ought to set alarm bells ringing.

Not that they weren’t already…

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