Tuesday, January 12, 2010

UK Parliament to set quotas for women and minority MPs

Political parties are to be forced to increase dramatically the number of women and ethnic minority MPs under controversial plans published today.

A cross-party review has concluded that mandatory legal quotas should be set for the number of female Parliamentary candidates.

At the same time, the proposals, commissioned by Gordon Brown and backed by Speaker John Bercow, could lead to the first 'all-black' shortlists being introduced.

The Speaker's Conference, the first for 30 years, said it believes that Parliament is too white, middle-class, heterosexual, male and able-bodied.

It wants at least half of the MPs leaving the Commons at this year's General Election - in what is set to be the biggest exodus since 1945 - to be replaced by women.

The conclusions will trigger a bitter row with critics who are opposed to so called 'positive discrimination'.

Some senior women MPs said they would not have wanted to have been elected to Parliament on such a 'patronising' basis, arguing that candidates should be elected on merit alone.
candidates
But a panel of MPs - including Labour's Anne Begg, who is confined to a wheelchair, David Blunkett, Diane Abbott and Fiona Mactaggart, the Tories' Julie Kirkbride, Angela Browning and Anne Main, and the Lib Dems' Jo Swinson and Andrew George - claims democracy is under threat unless Parliament becomes 'more representative'.

It points out that although half of the population is female, just 20 per cent of MPs are women, compared to 56 per cent in Rwanda, 47 per cent in Sweden and 38 per cent in Denmark.

The report proposes mandatory quotas on political parties for the number of women they put forward as parliamentary candidates if there is not a ' significant' increase in the number of female MPs in the forthcoming General Election.

Such a reform would be contentious since all-women shortlists have only ever been used by the Labour Party.

But Tory leader David Cameron has signalled a U-turn on the issue. In some constituencies, he has said, all the candidates will be women.

The report also calls for the introduction of candidate lists that exclude white people, although they would not be mandatory and it is unclear whether any parties would adopt them.

'If the political parties fail to make significant progress on women's representation at the 2010 General Election, Parliament should give serious consideration to the introduction of prescriptive quotas, ensuring all political parties adopt some form of equality guarantee in time for the following General Election,' it says.

'We recognise equality guarantees do not sit easily within some political party cultures. Yet, to date, the all-women shortlist has been the only mechanism to have produced a significant step-change in representation in the Commons in a short period of time.'
concept of merit

The report acknowledges the idea of 'all-BME' (black and minority ethnic) shortlists is 'controversial' and admits voters might think certain communities can only by represented effectively by one of own members.

And it also backs a proposal by the Prime Minister for Parliament to open its doors to gay weddings for peers and MPs.

Miss Begg, vice-chair of the Speaker's Conference, said: 'The case for equality of representation has not been won.

'The fact is that it remains more difficult for a candidate who does not fit the "white, male, middle class" norm to be selected, particularly if the seat is considered winnable.'

Harriet Harman, Labour's deputy leader and equality minister, said: 'Society has changed and the House needs to change too.

'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.'

But former Tory minister Ann Widdecombe said: 'The concept of merit is going out of the window. I don't care whether an MP is male or female, black or white, rich or poor, old or young.

'What matters is the merit they bring. We really cannot have targets for particular categories. It's frankly insulting because it suggests women and ethnic minorities cannot get there on their own merit.'

4 Opinion(s):

Exzanian said...

Do they want to reflect demographics? Then leave it Anglo-Saxon, male or female makes no difference, but other coloured minorities? Perhaps the influx of migrants is much worse than we thought...VOTE UKIP or BNP in JUNE!!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

Gordon Brown is doing what he can to destroy the UK before he's kicked out of office. He's a disgrace. As for the issue - AA in the UK!!

h said...

The UKIP is just a sidekick of the current lab/lib/con band of thieves. UKIP will not save the UK. Only the BNP will be able to do that, since they have the most non-PC policies to achieve this.

When PC-ness is still employed in policies, nothing will change.

Vote BNP if you live in the UK, that way you may be able to save Britain.

Anonymous said...

Circling the drain...

Anon.