Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Equal representation in parliament

Nick Clegg is currently on TV giving evidence to the Speaker's conference, talking about the problems his party has in finding black/Asian candidates. Isn't it most likely attributable to the fact that most Lib Dem seats are in places like Cornwall and Devon and other rural areas where there are, quite simply, not many black people? And also that the Lib Dems, of all parties, emphasise the 'local' nature of a candidate and promote the kind of pavement politics which usually requires a local candidate? I'm not saying this as a criticism, just as a fact.

As for why they don't have more women MPs (and are likely to have even fewer after the next election, given the marginality of so many seats), it's probably just because they haven't adopted the affirmative measures that Labour has, or the wielding of central office muscle that the Tories have from time to time employed. Left to their own devices most parties will still go for the local man. Nick Clegg says the Lib Dems are trying to encourage local parties to choose a wider range of candidates, describing it as a 'bottom up' approach. I think history - for example, Labour's dropping of all-women shortlists in 2001, which resulted in only four new women MPs - shows that this is at best a very slow and tortuous route towards achieving equal representation.

I'd be interested to know what people think about the idea of a 'Dorothy's List' which has been set up within the Labour Party to promote LGBT representation. I can see the need for an organisation to support such candidates, and I know of one lesbian candidate who had a hard time in a recent selection, but not sure if the same approach should apply in this instance as for female and BME representation. Is a commitment to equality and tackling homophobia more important than the actual sexuality of an MP? Discuss!


Chris Lovell said...

I don't think the Lib Dem approach is a bad way of doing things to be honest. It won't be the quickest process but I'd argue that its the 'right' one.

I still find the idea of closed shortlists really patronising and would much rather have support structures in place for women (campaign for gender balance), BME (BME Lib Dems) and LGBT (DELGA) candidates that the Lib Dems have within the party.

splinteredsunrise said...

What Chris said. And over here, there's a whole gay subculture in the DUP - heavily closeted of course - but that hasn't prevented Iris Robinson giving the gay community the benefit of her thoughts. There's a strong argument that LGBT candidates have a better insight into the issues, but I'd rather have a straight candidate with a strong stance on equality than a gay candidate who didn't.

Malcolm Clarke said...


I would like to offer my thoughts.

It is very superficial to feel better about representation in parliment by saying we have x number of white, x number of black etc. It is about representing everyone, we are all human, lest we forget. See my blog for my full post.


Steven_L said...

I don't think discrimination on the grounds of sexuality is any less of an evil than on the grounds of race or gender.

It's besides the point though. No one cares who their MP is having it off with, they just want their house prices to go up without their currency collapsing at the same time.

Bristol Dave said...

Part of the problem surely must be the perception of parliament as being incredibly male-dominated - I'd imagine it still is. Wasn't it Russell Howard who said the noise MPs make during PMQ's (Yeahyeahyeahyeahyeahyeah) sounds like Boris Johnson in a blender? It's true.

A couple of my favourite MPs are/have been women - Mo Mowlam, Sayeeda Warsi. I know that sounds a bit like the old "some of my best friends are black" thing, but I guess what I'm trying to say is the public appreciate and recognise female MPs, I think it's just that women are less likely to want to go into an environment which comes across as particularly male dominated - more's the pity, as it's a vicious circle.