Friday, May 09, 2014
All-women shortlists, Nick Clegg and equality
I am not one of those who will be outraged by Nick Clegg's suggestion that the Liberal Democrats should bring in all-women shortlists for some parliamentary candidate selections.
As I blogged last October, I have come round to the idea myself - if only because of the shortcomings of our current efforts to get more Lib Dem women elected to Westminster.
And really there is more to my change of heart than that. I feel more strongly about such equality issues than I did a few years ago. Society has changed, but I think I have too.
But having said all that, reading a piece on the Guardian website this evening by Miranda Green makes we want to enter a couple of caveats.
The first that the number of women getting into parliament is not the only measure of equality: there is also the question of how they fare when they get there.
If the debate over whether the Lib Dems should bring in all-women shortlists is going to be spun as progressive Clegg against a reactionary party, we have to ask what Nick Clegg has done in this direction as party leader. There have, to take one example, been no Lib Dem women appointed to the Cabinet since the Coalition was formed.
The second caveat is to point out that the underrepresentation of women is not the only equality of issue we have to look at - a point neatly illustrated by the fact that Miranda (whose television appearances I greatly admire) attended the same expensive private school as Nick Clegg.
The increasing estrangement between leading politicians and the voting public is in part a question of social class. Politics is increasingly becoming a profession like any other, and one that requires the connections that only the children of wealthy parents can have.
So if the introduction of all-women shortlists merely leads to the selection of the daughters of such families rather than the sons, I shall not greet the outcome with much enthusiasm. These shortlists would have to be part of a wider movement to change the party and to change politics.