Westminster: All Women Shortlists ‘the only way’


12:52 am - January 11th 2010

by Newswire    


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Mandatory quotas for the number of female parliamentary candidates could be set unless there is a significant increase in the number of women MPs at the next election.

A cross-party review concludes that legislation may become necessary to force political parties to field more female candidates. The Speaker’s Conference also called for the law to be changed to allow parties to exclude white candidates when drawing up shortlists.

The conference, chaired by John Bercow, the Speaker of the House of Commons, was commissioned by Gordon Brown to investigate the under-representation in the House of women, ethnic minorities and the disabled.

The report says: “If the political parties fail to make significant progress on women’s representation at the 2010 general election, Parliament should give serious consideration to the introduction of prescriptive quotas, ensuring that all political parties adopt some form of equality guarantee in time for the following general election.”

The committee also calls for the equivalent of all-women shortlists to be introduced for black and ethnic minority candidates. It acknowledged that all-BME (black and minority ethnic) shortlists were “controversial”.

…more at The Times

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1. So Much For Subtlety

Yeah. If the people won’t elect the Government the Government wants, it is time to dissolve the people and elect another.

This is an asinine proposal. I have no problems voting for a decent female candidate but if anyone thinks that they have a right to limit my choices to fit their pre-formed political agenda they are wrong. This is “take to the streets” stuff.

We choose. Not the Government. That is the point of this democracy thing.

While I do favour positive discrimination, given the absurd level of disparity between sexes in parliament, it cannot and should not be made legally binding. That would be an affront to democracy and an attack on the freedom of people to organise themselves into parties according to their beliefs and principles.

Parties are not a part of the state machinery, they are free associations of citizens. They are not there to do the government’s or parliament’s bidding. If people support the idea of all women short-lists then vote for parties that use them.

Why do we need ‘all-women shortlists’? The Tories ran two full open primaries and they have a 100% record at appointing women. Give the people a choice of party and representative separately, and you’ll get better representation (people have to prove ability, rather than proving they know how to negotiate the old boys network).

Why is it that egalitarian politicians cannot understand that the interests and propensities of individuals can be influenced by their gender?

Positive discrimination necessitates the electorate being denied choice on who they can vote for and therefore must result in the overall quality of those elected being of a lower calibre than otherwise.

Given the quality of our current batch of MPs such an outcome would clearly be unhelpful.

Incidentally on the handicapped- people with mental health problems are seriously under represented in parliament. Aren’t they?

5. So Much For Subtlety

4. pagar – “Incidentally on the handicapped- people with mental health problems are seriously under represented in parliament. Aren’t they?”

Not according to Guido Fawkes. In fact they are not even under-represented in Number 10 according to him. I am not with him on Number 10, but Parliament as a whole, certainly.

“Incidentally on the handicapped- people with mental health problems are seriously under represented in parliament. Aren’t they?”

I’m not being flippant when I suggest that quite a lot of full time political activists have mental health issues.

I propose that Rod Liddle be the judge as to who goes on any woman only shortlist.

About bloody time. Parliament is incredibly unrepresentative at the moment; well, I say ‘at the moment’, but that ought really to be ‘as it has been for the whole time it’s existed, and now we’re in the twenty-first century and nothing has changed”.

I don’t think the knee-jerkers should worry just yet though; if they were serious about dealing with this gross imbalance, they’d be doing something about it *before* the election, not making vague promises to look at the situation afterwards.

—“Yeah. If the people won’t elect the Government the Government wants, it is time to dissolve the people and elect another.” —

I’m not sure you’re really getting the concept of shortlists for parliamentary candidates here. If women and minorities aren’t being selected to stand, the people don’t actually get a choice.

— “Why is it that egalitarian politicians cannot understand that the interests and propensities of individuals can be influenced by their gender?” —

I think that’s exactly why this review has been commissioned. Because having a huge majority of men in Parliament representing a population of which 50% are men does a grave and shameful disservice to the women of this country.

— “Positive discrimination necessitates the electorate being denied choice on who they can vote for and therefore must result in the overall quality of those elected being of a lower calibre than otherwise.
Given the quality of our current batch of MPs such an outcome would clearly be unhelpful.” —

I’m sorry, your argument seems to be that “the electorate” shouldn’t be “denied choice”, because the choices they have made so far have resulted in shite MPs.

The denial of choice is, in fact, inherent in the candidate selection system as it already stands. The local selection committees (and central party offices) control who is allowed to stand, and so far, they have managed to ensure that men are massively over-represented. This needs to change.

I think Unity made very good points here last year in comments 48 and 49 wrt equality’, representativeness and quotas.

10. So Much For Subtlety

8. Finisterre – “Parliament is incredibly unrepresentative at the moment”

Actually Parliament is perfectly representative. We elect the ones we pick. They represent us. What you mean is that it is not statistically representative, which is true but irrelevant. As a statistical representation that is not a genuine political representation is worse than useless. I assume that it would be possible to pick a Parliament that would have exactly the right number of women, BMEs, old and young, convicted felons and so on – and yet still be 100 percent Tory. You think that would be a good idea or in any way representative?

“I’m not sure you’re really getting the concept of shortlists for parliamentary candidates here. If women and minorities aren’t being selected to stand, the people don’t actually get a choice.”

Actually they do. There are dozens of people standing for election. The three main parties do not have a monopoly. People simply prefer them. Which is because they tend to pick the best candidates. And if they wanted more women in Parliament, they would vote for them. Can anyone point to a single British constituency that has not had at least one female candidate on the ballot since the 1990s at least? Just one?

“Because having a huge majority of men in Parliament representing a population of which 50% are men does a grave and shameful disservice to the women of this country.”

A trite opinion that manages to be so divorced from reality it does not even need refuting. Why do you believe something so absurd?

“I’m sorry, your argument seems to be that “the electorate” shouldn’t be “denied choice”, because the choices they have made so far have resulted in shite MPs.”

Yes. And replacing a bad system with a worse one is not going to make anything better is it? You would have to show (or actually think of a remotely plausible reason why) this system would be better.

“The denial of choice is, in fact, inherent in the candidate selection system as it already stands. The local selection committees (and central party offices) control who is allowed to stand, and so far, they have managed to ensure that men are massively over-represented. This needs to change.”

This is a delusional conspiracy theory. The local selection committees are not, as far as evidence in the real world goes, acting to keep women out of politics. Even if they did, that would only affect a few parties. There are any number of parties out there and they do, in fact, select women as candidates. They may not get elected often but that is beside the point.

The system does not need to change in this particular way. Democracy is not improved by removing choice and being less democratic.

S.M.F.S.: “Can anyone point to a single British constituency that has not had at least one female candidate on the ballot since the 1990s at least?”

Guessing genders from names, so apologies for any inaccuracies:

2005: Bassetlaw – http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/shared/vote2005/html/32.stm
2005: Blaby – http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/shared/vote2005/html/64.stm
2005: Bosworth – http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/shared/vote2005/html/78.stm
2005: Chesterfield – http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/shared/vote2005/html/141.stm
2005: Corby – http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/shared/vote2005/html/159.stm

That’s 5 out of 11 (East Midlands region, A-C, 2005), of which Blaby, Bosworth and Corby are also on the 2001 list, and Blaby and Bosworth are also on the 1997 list (i.e. no women have been selected as candidates in Blaby and Bosworth for at least the last 3 elections)

Never mind “a single constituency”: numerous constituencies have not had any women selected as candidates for any party in multiple elections.

“Can anyone point to a single British constituency that has not had at least one female candidate on the ballot since the 1990s at least? Just one?”

I think the spamfilter must have eaten my previous comment since it was full of links to the candidate lists.

Blaby and Bosworth have not had any female candidates in any of the 1997, 2001 and 2005 elections. I picked the East Midlands region at random, and then started looking alphabetically. Having found those two in A-C alone, I stopped looking for more, so that’s 2 of 11. (Bosworth didn’t have any in 1992 either, though Blaby did, in case you meant the start of the 1990s rather than the end)

5 of those 11 had no female candidates in 2005, 3 of 11 in 2001, 9 of 11 in 1997 and 6 of 9 (boundary changes) in 1992.

Given those numbers, I would guess that there are probably some constituencies that have never had a female candidate.

So according to these rules Gordon, a white hetrosexual male who choses not to publicise a mild disability as he feels it does not affect his political activities, might in his (nearly) home town of Dunfermeline not be able to stand because he was not female or not ‘BME’ or not openly disabled. Seems to be discriminatory to me.

This is what you get when some idiot mistakes the party system as democracy. Parties are something you get in democracy, but they are not part of it. A simple example of the lack of logic here: MPs represent a particular constituency, not the country as a whole or a party. Therefore, if you are going to choose MPs on the basis of ethnicity (and they are not all just going to be sensible and say British) then surely it would have to be to reflect the ethnicity of their constituencies, not the country as a whole.

So a conclusion which not only discriminates on grounds of gender, ethnicity and possibly disability (all of which are illegal in most fields, so why not in government?) and which ignores the basis of our democracy in favour of the democraticly limiting power of the party is suggested. Why is anyone taking this seriously?


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. Garry Dent

    RT @libcon: :: Westminster: All Women Shortlists 'the only way' http://bit.ly/8gmAFb

  2. Liberal Conspiracy

    :: Westminster: All Women Shortlists 'the only way' http://bit.ly/8gmAFb

  3. irene rukerebuka

    RT @libcon :: Westminster: All Women Shortlists 'the only way' http://bit.ly/8gmAFb





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