David Cameron's announcement today that he is going to impose all women shortlists in some seats for the next election has met with a mixed reaction, not least from Conservative bloggers, many of whom think that this is a profoundly unconservative move.
Tuesday, 20 October 2009
I absolutely agree with Mr Cameron that we should have more women in parliament but I do not think women only shortlists are the answer.
At risk of seeming a bit like a broken record, I think the answer is electoral reform. Bear with me here...
If we had Single Transferable Vote in multi-member constituencies (with say 5 members per constituency) then each party would be encouraged to supply a diverse range of candidates in terms of gender, ethnicity, age etc. Any party just supplying white, middle aged male candidates would likely find themselves suffering electorally. It would then be up to the electorate to choose the MPs from the various available candidates from all parties but crucially, no party would feel they had to go with a traditional candidate profile "just to be on the safe side" as I fear all too often has happened in the past.
I firmly believe that if we had such a structure in place then strong candidates of both genders and all sorts of different backgrounds would end up as MPs. There would be no need to restrict shortlists to any particular type.
The answer is staring Mr Cameron in the face.