Sunday, January 31, 2010

A Boy Named Sue

Earlier this month there was a report in The Times that political parties could be obliged by law to have women-only and BME-only [Black, Minority, Ethnic] lists when selecting candidates to stand for Parliament. Dizzy was spitting blood. The aim is to make Parliament more representative of the people it is there to serve. Harry Harperson says:

“We should take all the steps we can to increase diversity in Parliament, which must reflect the country in which we live and the public we serve.”

OK. I’ve been having a think about this and what I want to know is this. Do the political parties themselves, i.e. their membership, reflect the country they aspire to serve? And more to the point do they actually know if that is the case? I have some experience with membership databases and they are only as accurate as the information asked for, which is not necessarily the same as that supplied – often in illegible handwriting. I have had a peep at the on-line membership forms for a range of parties, from Left to Right as they appear on the B21 political axis.
Green, Labour, LibDem, BNP, Conservative and UKIP.

Only one of them has a field for the applicant’s sex [not Gender, Sex] and asks the ethnic question but not the specifics. Mysteriously the sex question disappears from the printable version but retains the question “are you a member of an ethnic minority”. This would be the Labour Party.

Most of the on-line versions also have a Title field that is mandatory. So this could give an indication – we can reasonably assume that a Mrs is female. But what about Doctors and Reverends? Can we have female Reverends now, I’ve lost track? But look, most people don’t bother to fill that bit in when they are using a piece of paper and a pen and even if they do it is not neccesarily clear as to what they have written. And they have a habit of shortening their First name to things like Chris, Pat or Sam! Even when first names have different spellings like Leslie for boys and Lesley for girls it is not necessarily a guide. Leslie Ash does look like a girl to me. And what’s Wikipedia doing describing her as an “actress”? Don’t they know that is sooo un-Politically Correct? They are now all “actors”, just as we now don’t have WPCs, Waitressess, Headmistresses etc. Then there are the historic records created before these issues and questions were even thought of.

So, having eliminated the literary devices by which we can tell if we are dealing with a male or a female, [because it is the person and not the sex that is important] our politicians have encountered a problem of their own making.

Of course when 25% of the electorate can elect a government with a whopping majority it does make me wonder if there is something much more fundamentally wrong with our “representative democracy” which needs addressing.

Title with thanks to Johnny Cash.


  1. I have the distinct feeling that legally imposed diversity will simply create further division with self interest being the over-riding theme. I presume that ability would take a back-seat under these proposals.