22 October 2009

Discrimination is discrimination

David Cameron is ready to use that Labour favourite - the all-women shortlist, to get more ladies in Parliament

Allison Pearson, like most people from the middle through to the right, says she is totally against giving women a leg-up, it's patronising

Quite right, Allison, it is - so why do you support it?

She says it's because the Tories, despite having the second biggest party and nearly a third of the seats, have only 19 female MPs (and one is Ann Widdecombe...) - out of the total 125 females - only 15% of the entire female collective, and only 9% of their own seats

The Lib Dems are marginally better, with nine out of their 63, but it's barely any better - Labour of course, have 94 female MPs, so they win!

Clearly with this dire situation, something must be done, and for now all-women shortlists solve the problem, in Allison's view

In other words she's happy to go against her own judgement because the situation is so bad and we really need some women in there

So say we get 300+ women in there - great, women are represented!

Except, why should they have my respect? They would be there as a result of a 'leg-up' as she describes it, simply because some people feel that Parliament should be numerically representative of society, it's almost like 'picking' our MPs (which, I admit, is hardly worse than at present)

I could understand that logic if we were a draconian nation where our women were oppressed, but I'm fairly sure they're not anymore - they are in fact, given every advantage and are increasingly dominating the best jobs - even if they don't run the banks, Hattie

Where are the hordes of women demanding a fair go, saying that they get no representation? I've never actually met one, those most keen on it, ironically, seem to the ones who are already elected - but apparently the silent majority of women sit at home, just wishing there were more of them to speak up for them

Because, the truth is, women can get elected, in the same way that they can get onto boards and run businesses - only most don't - now there are two likely explanations for this - either society is inherently sexist and keeps women out, or less women are actually interested

Now considering that every single party has been mad keen on women MPs for over a decade it seems a rather strange piece of reasoning for it to be the former, maybe the party say one thing but then in private say 'look, I know we said we wanted you, but you really don't have the balls for this and we'll be putting forward my old Oxford chum, Percy, forward instead'

So either this is happening in the old boys' clubs, or just women are really turned off by politics - perhaps that is bad in itself, and should be addressed - but that, in my view, then assumes that women are somehow a homogenous, special-interest group that need their collective needs pushed - it basically says that somehow Harriet Harman, Jacqui Smith and Ann Widdecombe are representatives of all women (rather than their electorate) - yet, I don't think I've ever met a man who think David Cameron or Alan Johnson or Vince Cable, 'represents' them as a male, nor have I ever heard them talk about men's interests - they seem to like political debate, economics, the law, and so should all MPs even if they 'have boobs'

Do we assume that all women voters vote for women and are drowned out by the gerrymandered constituencies, of which they always represent half? It's not like there is an actual party out there that gets over six million votes and only a tenth of the seats or anything, women are far more disenfranchised

Why is it that women are a collective group, but men are individuals? The domination by middle aged white men does not mean that we men (or white men, or middle-aged men) are any better represented because we share a few physical traits, we are not Freemasons! Fact is, I have about as much chance of getting into these elite clubs as a goldfish does, despite being a white male - so why exactly does replacing a few male members with ones with ovaries balance anything? We are basically saying that 'this half of Parliament represents women', when no one would ever say the men in there represent males, I would find it quite offensive if it wasn't so ridiculous

And of course, the irony is that if indeed less women are interested in politics, then promoting them by positive discrimination is not only patronising and unfair, it is actually making Parliament less representative, as the bulk of the candidates (men) are being denied a voice

So if we wish to say that it is somehow right that 50% of the electorate are proportionally represented, then surely the fairest way to do this would be to make men and women vote in separate elections for their own genders - it seems to me the only way to fairly produce a parliament without second-class citizens, if we assume that it is a fair outcome in the first place

Or how about you stop voting for parties that are dominated by an elite that happens to be male, and support a party formed by real people?

(it'd probably still end up mostly male though)

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