Thoughts on politics and life from a liberal perspective

Tuesday 20 October 2009

Women only shortlists would be unneccesary under STV

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.

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.


Jennie Rigg said...

Two words to back you up: Barbara Castle.

Have you sent me a list of specs yet?

* be's a nagging wumman *

Mark Wadsworth said...

I think multi-member constituencies is the way to go. I'm not sure if STV is necessary on top of that.

Women-only shortlists are an abomination anyway, in the same way as men-only shortlists would be.

Dippyness. said...

Good point.
I object to being patronised in this way. Shouldn't be necessary. I'm totally against any form of special treatment on the grounds of sex, race, colour & or creed. It's morally wrong.

Kalvis Jansons said...

You make a very good point!

Cardinal Richelieu's mole said...

"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."

Ah yes! This must be true - given how racist,ageist and sexist are the electorate, presumably.

Mark Thompson said...

CRM - I don't understand the point you are making. Can you clarify?

sanbikinoraion said...

I dunno, I can see that in an area with 20%+ of a particular minority that the result would be a minority candidate being elected (so, more women all round) but in areas with <20%, the majority of voters are going to be more likely to pick someone like themselves, and therefore it seems to me like there's a possibility in those areas that representation of non-WHAMs would actually go down.

Cardinal Richelieu's mole said...

Yes I can: my point is that race, age and sex ought not to be especially relevant, or even relevant at all (although the very youthful might have to be remarkable in other ways to overcome lack of experience) in the selection of parliamentarians.

Of course, to the extent that the electorate is driven to make its choice by consideration of those qualities, so employing an approach where Martin Luther King's dream is eclipsed from their view, then the point you make stands. It is still, or even more so, a poor point.

Citizens go to parliament to represent the rest of us: they as a body do not have to be (and indeed cannot be) some facsimile of the rest us as a body. (The reason they are necessarily different from the rest of us is that we are all too sane to stand: this may sound a flippant point but it is not.) I would want the best qualified people standing that a party can muster. As "best" ought not to rely upon the characteristics you cite, it seems rather disappointing that your words can be taken to infer that they might be as influential as you suggest.