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Will only quotas increase women MPs?

I know there is all party support for more women MPs, the problem is getting women candidates selected by associations in winnable seats. But is it just lip service?

Tina Fahm 039 Of course women want to be stand alongside men and be chosen on merit, but it doesn’t necessarily work that way, which is why there are currently 126 women in the House of Commons compared to 519 men, and 15 MPs from ethnic minorities: it would have been considerably less without the 1997 influx of Labour women from all women shortlists, which Conservatives might also introduce to narrow the gap.

This is why I support recommendations from the Speaker’s Conference which warns that quotas of women parliamentary candidates could be made mandatory unless there is a significant number of women MPs at the next election.

And, also controversially, the Speaker’s Conference called for the law to be changed to allow parties to exclude white candidates when drawing up shortlists to increase BME representation. This is a brave move too, though harder for me to support as they do not represent the same large proportion of society as women.

As I have said before, parliament is not representative of the electorate, the majority of MPs are white, middle class men. We need MPs from different backgrounds and experiences with different perspectives which will strengthen the way we are governed.

I am meeting Anne Begg (pic) this week, vice-chairman of the Speaker’s Conference, who firmly believes the case for equality of representation has not yet been won. I look forward to discussing this with her. Anne, who is wheelchair bound, constantly faces the immense challenges of disability, of ‘being invisible’. I shall also be meeting Theresa May, Shadow Minister for Women, and Jo Swinson, a Lib Dem member of the Speaker’s Conference.

The Speaker’s Conference has facilitated considerable electoral reforms. The first conference was held between 1916-18 and resulted in votes for women, and the conference held in 1965 led to votes at 18.

I do hope that associations take note and select competent women candidates in winnable seats and BME candidates too.  I just hope they will not be regarded as second rate MPs because of this; all new MPs need to be supported, not denigrated.


22 Comments

  1. Regarding childcare, as I understand it, they would like facilities to be available as and when needed for emergencies, rather than a permanent creche. The Treasury has a good creche, apparently, which is going to be looked at.

  2. Thanks for your reply, Ellee. I will read your update with interest.

    Of course a creche begs the question of why the tax payer is forced to fund child care when the mother should be doing it herself. But that’s a whole new debate.

  3. I think women are not attracted to politics as a career choice, in the same numbers as men are, the number of women MPs will not change any time soon, and nor should it if you truly believe in equality.

  4. Disaffected, I didn’t realise myself until I rad this in an FT report. I am seeing Anne Begg and Theresa May today and will get a full copy of the report and update you later.

  5. disaffected

    Ellee your latest posting on this and details therein utterly prove the point that this Speakers Conference was a ridiculous exercise .
    Told you that they would be talking creches etc !
    Do you wonder that the public is less than convinced that David Cameron and Co will be any the different or any the better than the useless bunch already in power when Tory party workers such as yourself are expounding all this trash.
    Melanie Phillips ( woman ,Jewish so ethnic minority )was wriing only a few days ago that there is really nothing to choose between Brown and Cameron as Cameron has simply failed to push forward a true Tory agenda but instead does the PC mantra when ever asked to state what he intends to do if in power with all the ills of ” modern ” Britain .

  6. Btw, other recommendations include more family-friendly hours, the opening of a creche on the parliamentary estate, more modern voting methods and bursaries for aspiring candidates who struggle with the costs of selection.

  7. Pip, I agree we should “fix the process,” that’s what Speaker’s Conference aims to do.

  8. Women died to give us the vote because that made level playing field. But Ellee you are not advocating a level playing field that is fair to all. You are not advocating doing anything to the playing field, you are advocating just shoving certain favoured folk in the team.

    Fix the process, not the results.

  9. I hear what you say, and respect your views, but I do not believe there is a level playing field to getting women into parliament, which is why the issue needs to be forced. I can understand that it is hugely divisive, but so was giving women the vote in the first place. And I’m not a feminist, I just believe in being fair to all.

  10. Heperiment said:

    I believe in equality of opportunity, everyone is given the same chance – a Libertarian viewpoint.
    You believe in equality of outcome, people are discriminated against to achieve notional equality – a Socialist viewpoint.

    that’s such a good point I’d like to sew that on a cushion so I don’t forget it.

  11. disaffected

    Best quote of the day yesterday on this subject was from MP Anne Widdicombe ( a woman )
    ” The concept of merit is going out of the window.
    I dont care whether an MP is male or female , black or white , rich or poor , old or young .
    What matters is the merit they bring.We really cannot have targets for particular catagories. It’s frankly insulting to because it suggests that women and ethnic minorities cannot get there on their own merits ”
    With respect Ellee youd be far better off going and talking to Anne Widdicombe before she stands down that all these other disgruntled losers on your lisr to see .
    Typical too that that leftie Mr Sqeaker Bercow should use this first speakers conference in ages to spout forth all this drivel instead of such subjects as the war in Afghanistan and the dangers of the Islamic groups in Pakistan .

  12. quotas are only a cushion for women MPS to consolidate themselves in the future…..

  13. “As I have said before, parliament is not representative of the electorate…”

    Parliament does not need to be representative of the electorate, it just needs to represent them. The problems of our Parliament are that MPs spend far more time representing Parliament and their party than they do their constituents. They have turned their backs on us. Parachuting women in will not change this.

  14. Hexperiment

    I believe in equality of opportunity, everyone is given the same chance – a Libertarian viewpoint.
    You believe in equality of outcome, people are discriminated against to achieve notional equality – a Socialist viewpoint.

    As long as women are not attracted to politics as a career choice, in the same numbers as men are, the number of women MPs will not change any time soon, and nor should it if you truely believe in equality.

    An example: If say 30,000 men apply to be candidates, and say only, 5,000 women apply.

    Broadly speaking, 5/6 of the candidates selected will be men. But changing the outcome so that half of the candidates are women, you reduce the pool of talent from which you can select from, leaving the electorate ‘short changed’.

    Can you not see that this sort of gerrymandering is EXACTLY what is turning people off politics, specifically the three main parties?
    It goes against the British sense of fair-play.

    The only way to change this without discriminating is to attract more women to be candidates.

  15. You either believe that it is unfair to discriminate against any human being – or you believe that discrimination is permisable. The opposite to unfairness is fairness, not a different flavour of unfairness.

    Parliament has a serious problem with the very poor quality of many of its members (from the PM downwards). It is essential that everything possible is done to attract the competent and experienced managers to stand in every constituency. All women, or non-white lists are unfair and do nothing useful in improving the quality of the people who represent us. just examples of the PC thinking

  16. I’m afraid I’m with Richard on this one and disagree with all women short lists or positive discrimination of any kind for any reason.

    If the selection procedures are rotton then deal with that, don’t try to twist the results to compensate.

  17. “…women want to be stand alongside men and be chosen on merit, but it doesn’t necessarily work that way, which is why there are currently 126 women in the House of Commons compared to 519 men, and 15 MPs from ethnic minorities…”

    What is your basis for this? There is no evidence whatever that this is the reason for the disparity. There are several other possible reasons.

  18. Ian Lidster

    I think there are other issues involving women that need to be addressed, and I don’t believe this sort of affirmative action addresses those. I don’t personally believe that gender is a factor in a woman being politically successful, or Mrs. Thatcher and Hillary Clinton would have been abysmmal failures.

  19. I can see a much stronger case for all-women shortlists than for all-BME shortlists; the latter could be positively divisive in areas like Cambridge City, which has minorities from all over the world, not all of whom see eye-to-eye.

  20. disaffected

    Come on Ellee you know as well as I that this is nothing to do with modern versus traditional .
    Its the dumbing down touchy feely spin as fast as you can train that unfortunately so many silly women are now clambering to board.
    The life of an MP is not and should not be an easy one , one of the main downsides ( as also in the private sector ) is that it puts huge demands on those chosen to serve .
    As a woman Im sick to death of hearing all this stuff about ” how unfair we are treated ” its rubbish .
    The problem for all of us are these silly creatures who are for ever harping on about this as though its important.
    Really strong determined women never even consider it an issue , especially with all the ills of the country and the economy to consider .
    Thats why those that do are clearly not ( and never will be ) up to the mark.

  21. Disaffected, why shouldn’t parliament be a modern workplace, as well as retaining its heritage? I believe changes are going to be inevitable.

    I’m not so sure about the BME shortlists as these groups don’t represent the same numbers, while women make up 52% of the population and deserve a fairer chance of getting elected.

  22. disaffected

    Dont get me started on this subject again Ellee !
    As for excluding white candidates ( the largest and indigenous group ) pure pc gone mad , possibly even blatent racism against the indegenous majority .
    Theres nothing brave about all this its just dumbing down .Surely these wenches realise that theres bigger problems in the country than playing to their gripping for themselves .
    Wait till a whole new load of wimmin there at The House , watch them demanding more creches, shorter working days for themselves to fit in with little Tamsin and Georges Nativity plays , more breast feeding facilities , more time spent on “wimmins ” issues , butch haircuts for all ( so no one feels different from the blokes )
    More debating time for every and any ” minority ” issues ( the more bizarre the better attended no doubt )
    The majority of us are sick to death with the ones there already , Hewitt, Harperson, Abbott, even kitten heels .
    Lord give me the likes of Anne Widdicombe , tough as old boots and quite confident of herself without all the gender nonsense .

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