This morning I read about the Commons' Speaker's conference. In order to address the relatively small number of women in parliament plans to legislate for female quotas was discussed. I hate the idea of quotas, they are divisive and counter-productive. I then read that the idea of all ethnic shortlists was also doing the rounds.
No, no, no, no, no!
I will make this commitment now, I will never apply for any constituency that selected its candidate via an all ethnic shortlist.
Parliament does not reflect the country that it is meant to represent. There are proportionally too many Scots, too many men, too many white people, too many barristers, too many well educated people, etc. etc. Some of these differentials are seen as problematic, others are not.
Some of this is caused by pull factors, the disproportionate number of lawyers is a reflection of the link between creating laws and practising law. This pull factor is logical and appropriate, other differentials are caused by push factors, things which dissuade some groups from entering parliament. The under representation of women and black people is almost certainly caused by push factors. Creating quotas will not address those push factors.
Becoming an MP isn't a logical course of action, the money isn't great, the hours are long, there is a huge amount of pressure and most MPs go through 4-12 year battle to get elected at their own expense. Rather than ask why so few women and black people try to become MPs we should ask why so many white men do.
I can only assume that the expectation that many lawyers go to the commons is pervasive in chambers across the country, the same may well be true in union offices. For the mass of people outside these traditional feeder groups, the idea of going through all that crap to get a job that everyone seems to hate and that keeps you away from your family just seems daft. Maybe women and black people just aren't that stupid? Just a thought.
Until parliament has the guts to ask some serious questions about what it is and what it does it will struggle to attract candidates from outside the traditional MP recruiting pools. The changes to the sex and ethnic mix of parliament will then be subordinate to the changes in sex and ethnic mix of those feeder organisations.
Making a career in parliament more widely appealing won't be easy, won't be quick and won't create any high profile battles, but it will be more effective. It seems that the Speaker wants to be seen as radical but, like his reaction to MPs' expenses, mistakes taking controversial actions with radical actions.
Extremism taskforce after Woolwich
8 hours ago