Reflecting Britain?

A while back, I added my name to a campaign aimed at trying to get more women and ethnic minorities elected to parliament. The reasoning was simple, rather than mess around with complicated and undemocratic short lists, if we simply have enough strong female and ethnic minority candidates putting themselves forward, then more will get selected, and more will get elected, and the Lib Dems will have done our bit in making the running of our country that bit better.

As it was (and possibly still is) few women were putting themselves forward. Fewer women than men have the competitive traits that drive people in politics, and many feel daunted by the whole process of getting elected, quite sensibly not wanting to put themselves through the wringer. There are plenty of people who have the qualities to make good politicians, but not the brass neck to get them there. And having thought through all that, it worries me. While we have so many white, middle class, men representing us in parliament who got there through their own ambition and bloodymindedness, do we have the right men representing us? OK that one is perhaps for another day.

Anyway, the Reflecting Britain solution was yet another that was so simple it was brilliant.
Actively encourage people from underrepresented sectors to put themselves forward. Seek out potential candidates and tell them they can succeed. Then give them training to give them the confidence and skills to get through selection. They proposed proper funding of the existing party organizations focussed on these areas. (I know of three women who would make great diamonds, but none of them are party political, unfortunately). I remember reading a letter from a Mr Hale of St Albans (no relation I presume) pointing out the biggest problem in appointing more female candidates is getting potential female candidates to chose, and these observations resonate with me.

So what happened? There appears to have been some success, with many women selected in winnable seats, but it also seems there is a bit of putting the cart before the horse. My understanding is that there are resources for constituencies that select candidates from underrepresented groups to fight the subsequent elections, but little help in getting the candidates to come forward in the first place. This seems to me to be putting the cart above the horse.

I’m also concerned that with the mixture of ambition, drive, slickness, and thickness of skin needed to get on in politics, that the white middle-class males we get in parliament may not necessarily be the best white middle-class males for the job. But we have more important things to worry about before we tackle that proble,


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