Once again, the old chestnut of being ‘representative’ versus being ‘the best for the job’ is hauled out again.
Too many Lib Dems just don’t get why diversity is so important. Too many don’t see the benefits that diversity brings us. There is a lack of diversity at every level of the party and too often the only response is hand wringing.
Let’s be clear. Recognising diversity is not just about looking more representative of
Nor is it about making trying to make women and ethnic minorities (or anyone else) feel better.
Diversity is vital, because to have a different sex, colour or ethnicity to the majority of the establishment is to have a different experience of life than those who are from, or look like, the rest of the establishment.
That is especially relevant in the interpretation of the law and here I think Martin Gill is oversimplifying things when he talks of High court Judges merely applying the law.
Yes, I know the way you look shouldn’t matter. Like Martin Luther King, I’m looking forward to a time when it doesn’t matter what colour we are but we are very, very far from there now.
So, let’s be honest. Right now, society treats people differently depending on the way that they look, their sex, the colour of their skin, hair, eyes, bust, whether they are tall or short, overweight or slim. I can do something about most of those things, I can change my hair colour, even wear high heels to look taller but I don’t want to change my sex and I can’t change the colour of my skin.
It is that understanding that is missing from our elected representatives, the judiciary and, indeed, the Liberal Democrats.
However much a person tries to understand and empathise, there will be some areas where they are not even conscious of difference; they are not conscious that other people may have completely different perceptions or understandings of how the world works.
It works all ways; I am constantly amazed, surprised and brought up short at the assumptions and approach to life of the average man, let along the average white, upper class, privately educated man. I can’t believe, given that the dominant mores in society are those of that upper class, male establishment that they would find it any easier to put themselves in my boots than I do to put myself in theirs.
We need diversity in our public life because we are currently having our laws created, interpreted and applied by a very narrow band of society who have a very narrow, privileged experience of the world.
As long as we let it go on we are shutting out women and ethnic minorities and ignoring their legitimate needs as members of our polity and our society. To put it plainly, if we don’t have diversity then ours laws and their implementation will not be as good as they could be; they will not be the best laws for the job.
So, tell me: what is “liberal” about that?
We attempt to be blind to a person’s diversity, either because we are worried that unconscious prejudices will lead to it being ‘held against them’ or because we are trying to get the ‘best person’ for the job. If everyone that does the job is the same, if they are only from one part of society, then the last few to be recruited are not adding anything to that group’s understanding of the world: how can they be the best person for the job?
We should be celebrating and searching out candidates who add to the diversity of the group into which they are being recruited not because of the colour of their skin or their sex but because of their diverse experience of life!
That richer, more diverse experience will lead to legislation and judgements that take account of the myriad of different experiences of what it is to be a human being. All of us, whether we are part of the establishment or not will benefit from this in ways that we cannot yet imagine.
Perhaps one day, how we look will make no difference to the way society treats us; perhaps all that will matter is the content of our character. In order for us to get closer to that dream we will need to make changes at the top. We will need to ensure that our leaders are diverse because without that the change so desperately need will barely progress as long as those with the power to create, interpret and apply our laws come from just that one group.