Why am I a white, middle-class male supporting the latest initiative by the Liberal Democrats
to encourage more female and ethnic minority candidates? The answer is simple, the supporters and people who vote for our party are diverse, in fact they are as diverse as the people who make up our country; even in West Lothian with a small ethnic population this is true. We need, as a party, to truly represent that community and multi-cultural.
A quick scan down the list of names supporting the three leadership candidates shows anyone just how diverse our party is. Look at the number of
councillors who names betray their ethnicity and of course their gender. There are people out there who already hold elected office, who know what being a politician is all about at local level. Why are they not coming out to stand for key and target parliamentary seats? As a party we are making inroads into urban seats where the greater proportion of our ethnic communities live so these seats are targets and some of the most diverse.
The candidates and elected representatives who have come through from the initiatives of the Gender Balance Task Force are a sterling example that this focus is producing good, no make that great candidates. This work can continue and be expanded to aid ethnic diversity and balance as well.
Will it be harder for us white, middleclass men to get selected? Definitely, but that only means that we too have to lift our game. In other words the cream will be rising to the top; and when that happens with high calibre candidates of all genders and ethnic origins we will have a team that is ready to govern Britain. Surely that is something we can aspire and look forward to.
Now I've not been drawn into the Scottish Blogosphere debate on All Women Short lists, until now but Mrs Tactical Voting making a rare trip into the Political scene made a very strong point.
The problem is very simple. You can never give power to anyone. They have to take it. If it is given it is still the giver that possesses it and the one that controls it. Women cannot and most of all should not be dependent on men to give them power.
We should take it. Take it in a way so that no one can say that we don’t deserve it or we didn’t earn it. Because let’s face it, we do deserve it, we do earn it and we do not need anyone to give it to us as if we were small children with our hand stretched out hoping for candy.
Isn't that just what a certain Margaret Hilda Thatcher (nee Roberts) did? Isn't that what the late Benazir Bhutto did? And Tansu Çiller and Golda Meir and Angela Merkal amongst others have done? Both of these women rose through the mysogeny of a male dominated world, is Ms Bhutto's case even more so in a rigid Islamic state.
But yes each of the women listed above had to work harder than any male colleague to get to the top. That is sad because it is the perception of voters both male and female that is keeping good women down. One of my female commenters recently commented that the actions of cartain men in the political sphere's behaviour was one reason she was disillusioned with politics as a whole. The whole adversorial nature that our election system throws up makes it hard for women to engage in the process (having said that some of them are good at it). Is it the system of winner takes all, both in selection and then election that makes this so?
Having been a Lib Dem activist or supporter since I first signed up at freshers fair 21 years ago I've often found myself voting for committees or shortlists looking at what is a fair representation of skills and experiences. My top preferences in those STV situations always go to achieve that sort of balance. Being the sad anorak that I am I keep a note of most of those votes I notice that my trend is to knock men who have pretty much a guarnateed position on such committees way down the list (a bit like a reality show I'm sure others will vote for them) and boostering the strongest women and ethnic candidates higher up the list than I would do (all other things being equal). It doesn't always work mind but I still think that all women short lists is the wrong way to go, just as having parishes in the CofE having flying Bishops look after those opposed to women vicars is wrong.
Yes women candidates, as with ethnic minorities (something most of the bloggers have ignored) have to work at it, still. But I'm proud that the only woman on my candidates approval day Katy Gordon is standing in the Glasgow North seat. Yes our party has given her support and training which us blokes are not eligible for, but not an AWS. She is a worthy candidate who deserves the chance and position she has acheived nobody can deny she has got there on her merits either, but like many of our other female representatives she has had to do that little bit more work, the end result is that unlike many of the Labour MPs who take their electorate, or LCP, for granted she never will do.
If you are guaranteed a chance to shine in an AWS somewhere why bother challenging for a tougher seat? Why lock horns with the men? The end result is unpreparedness to take them on once elected, feeling out of place and like many of Blair's babes, many of whom came off AWS you drop out soon after. I'd argue they aren't the best preparation to get the best out good women candidates, far better to give them the support and training to face the challenge head on and as Susan Dalgety says over on Kez's Soapbox "The electors [of Rwanda] chose women candidates over men." over and above twofold the quota system that they introduced. They ceased their chance time for our woman to do the same, then I might join Jeff reading Good Housekeeping.