Articles

All-women shortlists

In candidates on October 22, 2009 by dadge

A couple of days ago Tory leader David Cameron hinted that he might have to impose all-women shortlists on some constituencies that are selecting their candidate for next year’s General Election. Many in his party are up in arms at this suggestion, but most of the arguments they make against it are easy enough to gainsay.

Iain Dale admits that other methods that have been tried have done very little to improve the chances of women being selected as candidates. Yet he can’t bring himself to admit that all-women shortlists might be the only way to redress the balance. He says:

“As a Conservative I believe in equality of opportunity. I believe in a meritocracy.”

as though this was an argument against them. But how can he believe in equality of opportunity when so many women in his party are denied the opportunity to become MPs? And how can he believe in a meritocracy when only 1 in 10 of Tory MPs are women? That is, unless he believes that women are rarely as good as men. Which is, of course, bullshit.

Tim Montgomerie is apoplectic at Cameron’s suggestion, charging that all-women shortlists are, among other things, an affront to democracy. This misses the point. Democracy refers to the General Election itself, not to how parties choose their candidates. Parties can choose any method of selection they like – who gives a fuck, really – as long as someone ends up on the ballot paper who has an interest in representing the constituency in parliament.

He also complains that women who’ve been selected as candidates have polled less well than men. Well, I’m sorry, that’s part and parcel of the problem of sex discrimination that each party should be working to overcome. And though I’m no fan of Labour, they have risen to the challenge much better than the Tories have done, and it’s a real shame to see Dale, Montgomerie and others still kicking out against progress.

Don’t get me wrong, affirmative action is a difficult issue. When universities say they are going to impose quotas according to sex, ethnicity, sexual orientation, disability or whatever, I can empathise with those straight white able-bodied males like me who might not get their first choice of course because of them. But I don’t kid myself that what would be unfair to me is unfair in the general scheme of things.

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