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Whose Tory meritocracy is it anyway?


2:40 pm - October 21st 2009

by Sunder Katwala    


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291 women and 4559 men have been elected to the House of Commons since women were enfranchised in 1918. So those shouting “not in my name” and “meritocracy” to argue against the possible means of all women shortlists do have a prima facie case to answer.

David Cameron’s claims that his party gets it enough to continue if he fell under a bus is rather challenged by the ferocity of the response from the Tory netroots. Aspiring candidate Iain Dale declares not in my name while the Isaby/Montgomerie co-premiership at ConservativeHome seems to think the sky might fall in. (Tory ppc Joanne Cash has offered a rare pro-leadership view).

By definition, meritocrats must share the goal of “fair chances and no unfair barriers”.

The simple question: what is the cause of the scale of under-representation? And what is the solution to deliver fair chances and equal representation?

2001 was the last General Election in which no party used an all women shortlist measure. How did we do on gender equity? Most noticed a small drop from 120 to 118 women in the Commons. The real story was missed. Just 9 out of 92 MPs elected in mainland Britain were women. Not quite 10%. The Conservative class of 2001 – 38 white men and 1 women (2.5%)- was well below the post-1918 historic Commons average.

So whose meritocracy is it anyway?

By contrast, 26 of Labour’s 40 new MPs in 2005 were women: the only party group in history to contain more women than men. 23 of them elected using all women shortlists. Now, each of the three major parties selects women in around one in four Parliamentary selections.

This does mean that the party using all women shortlists is not now selecting more women candidates than the other two major parties which are not. Nevertheless, easily the main reason for the Conservatives and LibDems speeding up progress is that Labour went so far ahead (while still, itself, being only halfway to equity). The progress of the non-shortlist using parties is a politically necessary response to the progress made by a political rival.

This is, in large measure, a result of Labour’s use of all women shortlists. The graph makes a dramatic point See too the glacial progress before 1997:

Labour female MPs
1979: 11/269 (4.1%); 1983: 10/209 (4.8%); 1987: 21/229 (9.2%); 1992: 37/271 (13.7%) 1997: 101/419 (25%)

Conservatives
1979: 8/339 (2.4%); 1983: 13/397 (3.3%); 1987: 17/376 (4.5%); 1992: 20/336 (6.0%); 1997: 13/198 (6.6%)

I think that there are only three possible broad categories of reason why there might be systematically less women then men in our politics.

(i) That women are less able – and have less aptitude for politics than men;

(ii) That women are less interested in politics than men;

(iii) That there are structural and/or cultural barriers to fair chances which mean that women are systematically less likely to selected and elected as MPs than men.

The first is simply prejudice. It may, however, be subconsciously more widely held than people realise.

Have you ever heard a vociferous critic of John Major, Norman Lamont or Gordon Brown generalise about what this reveals about the problem of having men in senior political roles? Yet those who disagree with Margaret Thatcher, Harriet Harman, Jacqui Smith or Theresa May very often tell us that this says something about women in politics. Under-representation and the novelty factor routinely legitimise this sexist response.

For the anti-shortlists argument to be plausible – and I don’t rule that out – it needs to be based on more than polemic. It needs to be rooted in the evidence about what is happening, and to develop a serious account of why we don’t have fair chances and how we might get there. The Tory grassroots are not offering it.

——————
A longer version is at Next Left

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Bad Conscience: Tories in a tizzy

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About the author
Sunder Katwala is a regular contributor to Liberal Conspiracy. He is the director of British Future, a think-tank addressing identity and integration, migration and opportunity. He was formerly secretary-general of the Fabian Society.
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Story Filed Under: Blog ,Conservative Party ,Equality ,Sex equality ,Westminster

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Reader comments


In my evidence to the speakers conference, I also wrote
“It appears there is a dilemma here. All-women shortlists were necessary to make progress, and remain so, but may demonstrate diminishing returns. Greater emphasis is needed on combining cultural pressure and change with such mechanisms, to counter the danger that they are seen as an alternative to cultural change”.
http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/spconf/167/167we45.htm

there is a bit more on those pros and cons in this earlier post on liberal means and feminist goals
http://www.nextleft.org/2009/05/liberals-for-feminist-goals-but-can.html

To be fair, he not only has to pander to the most spread-out (in terms of ideology) party in the country but also to a future electorate, but I just don’t see the point in all-women shortlists. If there are lots more women in the HOC because of all-women shortlists then all it does is dilute the accomplishments of women in the HOC who actually got in on merit.

So those shouting “not in my name” and “meritocracy” to argue against the possible means of all women shortlists do have a prima facie case to answer.

I’m not sure that they do. Rejecting one proposed solution does not amount to denying that there is a problem. Anyone saying “business as usual” might have a prima facie case to answer; but it’s clear that no-men shortlists amounts to the imposition of an unfair barrier, and it’s not unreasonable to object to them as such.

If there are structural and/or cultural barriers to fair chances, then let’s knock them down, rather than building more of them.

Yes – the real reason why we all hate MP’s is because they lack *diversity*.

Not because they are spineless, troughing tossers who fail even remotely to understand the laws they wave through and who generally treat ordinary voter concerns with contempt.

Sunder,

I think there is an answer to the problem that does not require all women shortlists. Bring in STV with multi-member seats for the Commons. I blogged about this here yesterday:

http://markreckons.blogspot.com/2009/10/women-only-shortlists-would-be.html

Mark.

cjcjc: perhaps if the MPs were more diverse and more similar to the general UK population – as opposed to heavily over-representing the minority of white upper-middle/upper-class men – they might be (on average) less contemptuous of the concerns of the ordinary voter, having previously experienced those concerns themselves. Conversely, if gender (et al) was not a biasing factor in who got elected (currently meaning that at least some of these white men are less competent that some alternative candidates who are not white men), the MPs might be (on average) better at their jobs.

Well, we could try forcing Eton to admit girls… Or we could figure out why it is that so many of our MPs are educated in private schools in the first place.

They’re horribly unrepresentative in many ways, of which gender is just one. An important one, certainly, but possibly not the most important one. I suspect that reducing the class barriers would go some way towards lowering the gender barriers too. Perhaps we could have “all comprehensive-educated” shortlists?

Mark Reckons: I’m not sure that’s true. I don’t think the Northern Ireland MPs, who are already elected by STV, are particularly different demographically to the mainland MPs, are they?

I like STV for a lot of reasons, but I don’t think this is something it can do, assuming that parties don’t put up more candidates than they think they can reasonably get quotas for (as happens in NI now), and assuming that most voters would rather vote for some demographically different from their preferred party than someone demographically similar from their less-preferred parties. Again: the discrimination has already occurred in the construction of the shortlists and in the structural inequalities in wider society that influence who applies for the shortlists.

I know several women who are involved in politics, are able and yet won’t stand. I have heard several reasons but think they worry that they won’t get selected so why bother. AWS wouldn’t breach this fact/mindset {delete as appropriate} but simply replace one real/perceived barrier with a system of patronage. Hardly progress.

Chiming in again, the issue here (And I might work on a blogpost if I can find the time around college work) is the party structures, and how difficult it makes it for a woman to stand.

If there are no actual obstacles in a woman going for a seat, I don’t see why it should be forced via shortlists.

@6 – yes, those “Blair Babes” have all turned out to be really impressive, haven’t they…?

@6 – yes, those “Blair Babes” have all turned out to be really impressive, haven’t they…?

Yes, I was wondering when some misogynist troll was going to start using that as an excuse.

Because all women are the same aren’t they cjcjc? Funny how you don’t say that the troughing of various male MPs makes the entire male sex ineligible for Parliament. Eedjat.

cjcjc: Have they been more or less impressive than the “Blair Blokes” elected at the same time have been, or for that matter the “Callaghan Chaps” that they replaced, or the “Major Males” that they beat in elections? (allowing for the fact that newly-elected backbenchers of any large party and gender are rarely going to become nationally renowned within the first few years of their career).

In more seriousness, Dunc’s point about it not only being about gender is the real answer: replacing a few upper-middle-class white men with some upper-middle-class white women isn’t going to have a massive effect on how representative or useful Parliament is.

Mark,

I am a fan of your stuff, and am aware there are relatively few public policy issues to which the answer is not STV.

But I would throw in a caveat.

Firstly, nobody really knows what the impact would be of having preferential voting, including a choice between candidates of the same party, on parliamentary diversity: I think that applies to both STV and to primaries.

Secondly, there could turn out to be a range of different effects with regard to gender, race, sexuality, disability. It could be the case that STV is good for gender equity but bad for the equal representation of BME candidates across the parties, for example.

We do have evidence that candidates gender or ethnicity is not particularly important to voters, one way or the other, in our current elections. (A recent study there is a small penalty effect for a minority ethnic candidate when first standing, which disappears when seeking re-election). But what this shows us is that party preference in a General Election trumps these factors.

The joint ‘academic consensus’ submission to the Jenkins Commission suggested there could be some positive effects of proportional systems, which could “facilitate an increase in social representation but was not a sufficient condition to achieve it” – http://www.archive.official-documents.co.uk/document/cm40/4090/volume-2/contents.htm

see page 10 of the PDF document from the academics. But it also highlighted some potentially negative.

There might be good reasons to think that either STV or primaries would help with increasing women’s representation. (Though the comparative evidence is that list systems have most impact on this particular factor; Ireland has had historically low women’s representation, but that reflects Irish society more than STV I expect). Academic simulations at the 1992 and 1997 election found Labour/LibDem voters selected women as often as men, but that some Conservative voters (particularly in the south-west) seemed to prefer male candidates. (I don’t know what you would find now: it is a reasonable hypothesis that any persisting electoral bias against women is weaker than the current outcome of party selections).

The impact on fair chances for minority ethnic candidates may be different. Women are 51% of the electorate. The Dunleavy simulation in 1997 reported one quite striking effect, where Ashok Kumar was listed top of a Labour list for the North and got one-third of first preferences, against an average of three-quarters of first preferences for the first candidate listed for any particular party. (This is a much stronger effect than is found in General Elections).

Douglas Carswell points out open primaries have a 100% (1 out of 1) record of selecting women.

One other point – which I think is true of STV and primaries. IF primaries were widely adopted, AND did see a very very strong preference for local candidates (though Totnes is not Britain), then one consequence could well be to put a brake on the recent progress of black and Asian candidates in the Tory party. That would be a regressive outcome, I think.

The current Tory BME candidates running for safe or winnable seats are not “local” candidates – and that partly reflects the electoral and demographic geography of the country. (Adam Afriye was born in Wimbledon, and represents Windsor; Sheilash Vara was born in Uganda, went to school in Aylesbury, and represents Huntingdon, Cambs; Priti Patel grew up in London and is standing in Witham, Essex; there may well be other “local candidate” cases, but I can’t immediately think of one in the most winnable seats).

(Of course, there could be local candidates in Tory seats from BME backgrounds, and that will become increasingly likely in a 3rd/4th/5th generation scenario … and I am not then suggesting that local non-white candidates would lose the “local” edge, though that is another thing we don’t know).

This would mirror one reason why the LibDems have not been able to select BME candidates in winnable seats: they have a strong tendency to select ‘local’ candidates which means a high proportion of BME candidates in high %BME population seats, which the LibDems don’t have much chance in,

Such an effect might also see Labour move back towards the vast majority of BME candidates in high minority population seats – ie less Parmjit Dhanda/Ashok Kumar examples of representing areas with low BME populations – but one difference between Labour and the other parties is that Labour does hold such seats, and so the effect of very strong local preferences in the other parties would be stronger.

We don’t know this would happen. The hyper-localism focus could be a phase, or only a major factor in some areas and not others.

Umm, not sure this is the important point about Dave’s announcement. The important thing is that CPHQ now get to decide who goes on shortlists. The Tory Party has always allowed constituency parties to do that.

As to fewer women MPs: I take it as a sign that fewer women are posturing, preening and gagging with the desire to exercise power over the rest of us.

@15 – Tim is right to note the first point.

But he takes (ii) women are less interested,

with perhaps a dash of (iii): political system/culture particularly awards egotistical preening

as a man, one naturally takes offence at said stereotyping!

“Nevertheless, easily the main reason for the Conservatives and LibDems speeding up progress is that Labour went so far ahead (while still, itself, being only halfway to equity). “

Equity isn’t a synonym for equality. If only 25% of people who want to be MPs and willing to apply are women then 25% is a perfectly equitable outcome.

Sunder,

Thanks for the detailed response. I realise I am sounding like a stuck record on this but it frustrates me when I see someone like Cameron who goes out of his way to denigrate any argument for electoral reform going down the road of AWS when there are better ways to try and resolve this problem available in my view, albeit ones that would not allow him 50 or 60 odd % of the seats on 40 odd % of the vote.

You make some interesting points. What STV multi-member would give is the chance for the electorate to choose from a more diverse range of candidates. It would of course still be up to the electorate who they chose but there would be a built in incentive for parties to present a broader range of candidates without the need for stacking shortlists in favour of any one group. I am sure in some areas of the country there would still be a predominance of white, male candidates but there would be other areas where currently under-represented groups within parliament would have a better chance at getting elected.

I guess what I am saying is that I have faith that the majority of the UK population would rather just vote for the best candidate irrespective of gender, colour etc.

I have an idea – why not have candidates that represent the people? Regardless of gender, colour, sexuality?

I know this is a bit radical and could make some steam around the collar – but let’s give it a try, eh?

I think that (ii) they’re less interested in politics is spot on. Obviously there are many women into politics, of course, but the vast majority of political anoraks are men. I don’t have much of an explanation as to why, but I am certain it is true.

And as an aside, I’m pretty sure Eton does take girls, at least in the sixth form, Dunc @#7

the anti-shortlist argument is always plausible if what you’re aiming for is equality of opportunity. The idea, in any way, that the adequate way to deal with this problem is to give the party a choice of potentially below standard mp’s in order to bump up percentages, is hilarious when uttered in the same breath as equality. If you are advocating all female lists you are never promoting equality, only proportionality, and certainly not Quality.

Lee@21

Why don’t you think that there is a greater sum total of mediocrity among the 519 male MPs than among the 126 women?

19 – I don’t want to look like a big old Marxist, but in my opinion the diversity that the House of Commons is most in lack of is not sexual diversity but class diversity. We seem to be left with a Parliament stuffed full of identikit political wonks.

That’s not a party political point really – there’s not an atom to choose between Balls, Miliband and Brown on the one hand and Osborne and Cameron on the other. While, obviously, I’m not against the upper middle class, I don’t think they should have a monopoly on parliamentary representation.

Ou sont les Bevins de nos jours?

23- I definately agree with you about the political wonks. But what can be done about it?

@23

Tim – I am inclined to agree with you. Yet I should have added the class bit, but when you do you get fired down as this is irrelevant and way too 1970s.

Is the under representation of women and issue to be addressed – well that is, in my eyes, a given. But you do make a perfect point that there is little to no representation of the classes (which are as strong today as they always have been).

Should there be classes – I feel there should not, but as there are we should deal with that first. Last time I looked there are women in the working-class who were oppressed just as much, if not more, than women who were going for that top job at RBS.

As I am a working-class ‘bloke’ I do get a tad pissed off that the working-class are being ignored in the wider political argument – all for the illusion that some class themselves more progressive than others.

I agree with TimJ@19 and others on the class dimension.

The point about class was well made in the Commons debate establishing the Speakers Conference by Tony Wright MP, which I reported on it on LC at the time
http://www.liberalconspiracy.org/2008/11/13/speakers-conference-on-diversity-in-parliament/

I am sure that if we could get what would make sense – a holistic approach to gender, ethnic and other barriers to fair chances – it would bring you very squarely to class. I have tried to suggest that the question “why is the ethnic penalty to selection diminishing much faster than that for gender”, which I think arises from current candidate selection evidence, would bring the issue of class sharply back into focus, by focusing attention on the time and economic aspects of seeking selection.
http://www.nextleft.org/2009/04/women-still-face-political-glass.html

22. I don’t, nor have i even implied otherwise. Should i be as facetious to ask you why your all woman shortlists will improve quality, or is it just a given that such an outcome would be a coincidence despite the process?

Forgive of if i’m wrong, but all your arguments seem to be in favour of sorting out the representative proportionality of our parliament before sorting out the mediocrity issue. Am i the only one that thinks this is completely arse about face? Presentation before substance is all i can see in your ‘solution’

23. I think i’ve said it before, all mp’s can be straight, upper class, trust fund males… If they are good enough representatives what they ‘are’ makes on difference as professionally speaking they are nothing more than a set of ears and a loud voice. I would take a the least diverse house that had proven it’s ability to make every voice in the country heard than one that reflects our diversity and is led by the media and party whips.

Indeed what is the point of diversity anyway when how you’re going to vote will be determined by half a dozen people at the top?

lee

in trying to make a rhetorical point, i accept i shouldn’t have attributed a view to you.

but what are your proposals on quality/mediocrity … i will tell you if i support/oppose them.

my central point is not pro-AWS. that is one means which did make a difference. there are pros and cons. i also think there has been too heavy a reliance on this approach. my central point is that the various parties should scrutinise where there are unfair barriers to fair chances, and find ways to overcome these. that would mean bringing the class issue in.

it would also mean the ‘meritocracy’ advocates telling us what they would do to retain their meritocratic credentials. (I faced similar challenges when arguing all minority shortlists would be regressive. my response to that is that I think the Labour party has broken the ethnic barrier to fair chances, and so should continue its current approach, and while many people are on the other side of the argument, I have yet to hear any attempt at a rebuttal of the evidence about rates of selection).

‘Perhaps we could have “all comprehensive-educated” shortlists?’

Are you serious?

Let’s have all-gay, all-straight, all-lesbian, all-Muslim, all-Christian, all-atheist, and all-vegetarian shortlists.

@5: “Bring in STV with multi-member seats for the Commons”

Multi-member constituencies are a really splendid idea to get us out of the present bind in the many rock-solid constituencies where the incumbent MP is dumb and there until he retires. Which is precisely why we are unlikely ever to get multi-member constituencies.

Sunder concludes

“For the anti-shortlists argument to be plausible – and I don’t rule that out – it needs to be based on more than polemic.”

I’d suggest that the onus is on those doing the discrimination to make an argument based on more than polemic.

While I’d like to see electoral change – I’d probably plump for multi-member constituencies matching local authority boundaries elected by STV – I would like to say, given that current system, that women-only shortlists are very much in my name.

xD.

Praguetory@32

re: ““For the anti-shortlists argument to be plausible – and I don’t rule that out – it needs to be based on more than polemic.”
says: I’d suggest that the onus is on those doing the discrimination to make an argument based on more than polemic.


– There is a very substantial body of comparative academic work in this field, which does precisely that. Pippa Norris is one good source on that literature http://ksghome.harvard.edu/~pnorris/

– Do you support the meritocratic premise that women and men should have fair chances to be selected and elected?

– And do you agree with the fairly universally held view that there have historically been legal, social, economic and or cultural barriers to women’s equal participation in power and society? One not very controversial example is that women did not have the vote for a long period, while men did. Most people think that might help to explain the 291 women vs 4559 men issue, (I have yet to see anybody claim this pattern is random statistical ‘noise’ across the 25 or so Parliamentary elections)

If you wouldn;t contest either of those starting points the question to address is (i) whether or not any legacy of this persists in a way which is having an impact on ‘fair chances’ and (ii) if so whether or not any particular means might address it.

– So do you think women have fair chances now, when they are winning 25% of selections, and if so do you think it is because they are (a) less able or (b) less interested, or for another reason? (i see there have been several takers for “less interested” though few for less able).

– Do you also think women had fair chances in 2001, when men won 97.5% of the Tory candidacies for safe and winnable seats? (Or perhaps you would take the position that there were quite significant barriers then, which have now dissolved entirely?)

It seems to me agreement on what the evidence shows ought not to be too difficult. The question of what can or should be done about it is legitimately contested.

I would be surprised if anybody could really defend the 2001 outcome as “meritocratic”; I would disagree with those who think the status quo is meritocratic, though some might think that a somewhat more arguable case.

None of that compels support for all women shortlists as the particular remedy, but understanding whether critics accept these premises, but want a different approach, or would challenge these foundations of the argument too would help to identify what issues an evidence-based or less polemical discussion of the issue might focus on.

Nadine Dorries goes for “women are less interested”
http://conservativehome.blogs.com/goldlist/2009/10/nadine-dorries-mp-explains-her-fear-that-allwomen-shortlists-will-create-two-classes-of-conservative.html#comments

But could somebody send her a statistics textbook or an idiot’s guide or something …

“As only 30% of applications to become an MP are from women, and that’s after all the hype and window dressing, we have to ask the question, what do women really want? Because it’s becoming pretty obvious that 70% of them don’t want to be an MP.

I’m in the 30%”


She then defends that comment with some absolute gibberish

“Sorry! I was working on the basis that 72% of all women are employees and that if you average out the number of MPs of all parties and make an assumption as to the average number of applications… I didn’t mean it to be exact. Based on my own experience, I would say that if anyone asked ten women right now would they want to be an MP, only three would answer positively. More often than not, it’s less. In a recent talk I gave to a hall of 400 sixth formers, only a dozen or so of the girls put up their hands when I asked the question …

nd so, on the basis of my own experience, as raw as my assumption on figures was, I would say Im being a bit on the generous side when I say 70% of women don’t want to be an MP, its probably more like a good 85%”

Conservative woman who become MP’S hate their own sex. It is a well known fact.

Part of it is down the to the old tory view of” I’ve got mine, fuck you.” But mostly it is down to the fact that they hate other woman.

Tories are by nature hypocrites and nothing is more hypocritical than woman who don’t agree with woman in the work place except for themselves.

Still, it is always funny watching the tories show their true colours. Anti woman, anti gay, anti science, anti brown people. No matter what ‘call me Dave’ tries to pretend, the evidence is that they have not changed one bit.

“Conservative woman who become MP’S (sic) hate their own sex. It is a well known fact.”

I never realised that was a fact until now. Well done.

34 – That link didn’t really help me and in any case appeared to be for another country. Can you be more specific?

1. Of course I support the meritocratic premise that women and men should have fair chances to be selected and elected?

2. I take the view that there is little or no inherent bias in selections and so men and women do have fair chances.

Based on my observations I would suggest that there are less women interested in being an MP (just as I would note that an even smaller percentage want to be MEPs). An element of this is down to differing levels of interest in politics, but just as significant is the personal upheavals/sacrifices involved with any job that involves working in two locations.

What to do? I would try to make working as an MP more female friendly. For example, I have long supported the idea of MPs voting remotely so they can spend more time in their constituencies (which I think would have many other positive spinoffs). Personally, I give especial support to female candidates and non-white candidates both in encouraging and supporting them with selections and then with their campaigns. To me that is enough.

praguetory

Thanks. We don’t seem a million miles apart on the shape of the problem.

I think the personal upheavals issues are part of the broader issue of time/economic costs having a greater impact on women, those with children in particular. I would place a quite high priority on political parties and institutions trying to address those barriers as part of ‘meritocracy’. (And it seems to me less legitimate for a political institution – Parliament or parties – as compared to say, a law firm, to say ‘society is society: we can’t change it so just take the candidates who come forward’).

I think those factors probably are quite important, not least because we can now see that the next intake of BME MPs is likely to be 7% (against 8% of population) of the population, up from 1-2% against 8% in 1997, so there is a strong case for the argument that BME candidates have reached a ‘fairness tipping point’ while there has been little progress in gender equity heading towards 50% in the same period. (Labour was selecting over 20% women in 1992, and now is at 26%; the Tories have made more progress but from a negligible base).

So it seems to me plausible that factors which affect women but not BME candidates might deserve more weight, and that also implies that “stereotypes about MPs being male, white and middle-aged” are probably less important now than they were pre-97, since there is little reason to think these would not affect both groups equally. (Of course, one could argue there is stronger direct/indirect sexism than direct/indirect race discrimination, if there were evidence of that, but I haven’t convincing evidence to support that).

I think there were/have been strong direct and indirect discrimination effects, in all parties and especially the Tory party. For example, the Tories had a greater share and usually more women voters than any other party in post-war elections up to 1997 yet were very unlikely to select women candidates. Part of the reason for the v.low selection of women (cf 2001) were strongly sexist attitudes among key gatekeepers in the selectorate process, about whether women should be MPs: that is reported in studies of both aspiring candidates and ‘gatekeepers’. Eg, the question ‘what will your husband do for sex in the week’ to a candidate from a selection panel is not apocraphyl: that was in a Fawcett study in I think candidate interviews from the 2001 selections. (Sometimes these views were strongly held by women in the voluntary party, with a view about the right division of labour between professional/voluntary politics and the role of women in that).

It seems plausible to argue that the recent Tory progress – selecting candidates at a similar rate to other parties, though due to a lot of political capital at the top – means the relative strength of these factors is now less; and so the external/social factors (time, money issues for women with caring responsibilities) are more. But it is also plausible to argue that those attitude barriers remain at a weaker level. (There are also such attitudes in other parties, though these seem to have, overall, been weaker than in the Tory party).

PS: On academic evidence, a lot of the journal published academic literature is behind paywalls online; nor are book length studies available. Norris is British, based at Harvard, and her site does contain some of her articles (in the ‘articles’ section), both UK and comparative. She has run with Ronald Inglehart projects to construct robust attempts at comparative analysis which try to separate out how much changes in political institutions vs broader socio-cultural factors affect this, and one paper on that is here
http://ksghome.harvard.edu/~pnorris/Articles/Articles%20published%20in%20journals_files/Cultural_Obstacles_JofD2001.pdf

One quite early piece (1989) on whether British women candidates/MPs are likely to affect political outcomes (on which there has been some post-97 work) is here
http://ksghome.harvard.edu/~pnorris/Acrobat/Norris_Lovenduski_Women_Candidates_BJPS1989.pdf

Others may know of other hubs of academic info which can be accessed freely online.

I’m really trying to get the point of this article and failing – “For the anti-shortlists argument to be plausible – and I don’t rule that out – it needs to be based on more than polemic. It needs to be rooted in the evidence about what is happening” and yet Sunder produces no evidence that any problem even exists other than a bare recitation of numbers.

We get @17 correctly stating that “If only 25% of people who want to be MPs and willing to apply are women then 25% is a perfectly equitable outcome.” as well as the circular reasoning displayed @9 “I know several women who are involved in politics, are able and yet won’t stand. I have heard several reasons but think they worry that they won’t get selected so why bother.”

So women won’t stand because they think there’s no chance of being selected and this is based on a perceived bias towards men, which could be seen as a natural occurrence due to the low number of women standing.

Sure there may well be male bias in the process, but could we have some evidence that it exists before we start trying to create solutions to it?

sunder, i’m all for breaking down barriers, it’s why i generally support the arguments here about stv. It isn’t a final solution but it is the most democratic way to break barriers.

My feeling though is that you can break down as many barriers cs you like, and make parliament reflect our national makeup as closely as possible, and the only thing you’ll be guaranteed to do is make parliament look pretty.

While we have to endure party whips and a legislative house that conflicts representation with power struggles there is literally no point trying to improve anything. Unless your goal is to brag about diversity while ignoring effectiveness of representation.


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  1. Liberal Conspiracy

    Article:: Whose Tory meritocracy is it anyway? http://bit.ly/DgnOE





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