Nothing is off limits

MPs today have a free on whether to hold a Speakers Conference into whether MPs are a 'narrow, self serving elite'. A whole year to work that out! Surely not? Blimey I could give them something pretty substantial in just 24 hours and my daily fee is far less than a bunch of MPs!! Only just though ;-)

Seriously thought it is good to see that the Speakers Conference I first got wind of in July looks to be coming to something. So much talk on diversity and equalities in parliament (you know that bit with the power) is just hot air.

Of course Harriet Harman is thinking of gender, race, sexuality and disability imbalances but Michael White makes a very interesting comment about the white working class in his article on CiF. But I guess you have to prioritise and my guess is that there are more white working class men in parliament than say, ethnic minorities in total whether from the working or middle or elite and there are definitely more than ethnic minority women - of whom we have to our shame as a democracy only two (Dawn Butler and Diane Abbots) and they sit on the Labour benches. (there's also the thorny issue of whether you class is something branded on you by birth and something you can't change - which I don't agree with).

I do hope that MPs do the right thing today...there are still an awful lot of Tories who think that Parliament being male and white is nothing more than a coincidence (or perahps, just the way it should be).

My eyebrows were raised, however, by the idea that Patrick Wintour suggests that

"The conference could prompt legislation including a requirement for political parties to maintain all-women and all-black shortlists for parliamentary candidates".

I can't see MPs going for that en masse; but remember, our MPs voted for the legislation to allow all women or all ethnic minority shortlists to exist within the context of equal opportunities legislation, to be extended. The average Lib Dem activist may be outraged by them but not all of the parliamentary party is.

But I do thing that Harriet Harman is right when she says:

"It is not just about how can people think we are a fair, open and representative democracy if we just do not look like that, but also the fact that we cannot have sensible debates on policy. We cannot sensibly discuss the veil (in the Commons) when there is no Muslim woman MP; it was impossible to discuss domestic violence when there was 97% men in the Commons.

"So this is about changing the agenda for debate, as well as changing public perception of the Commons."

Certainly this is why I think that diversity is so important - it is not because of the way people look but for the different understanding and priorities that they place on things. It's not just about getting more women in but making sure that those women have between them a broad experience of life in the UK today.

She goes on to say:

"Nothing is off-limits. It is potentially a very radical, historic decision - it moves the issue right up the agenda, and puts something that used to be dismissed as political correctness right to the centre of the political agenda. If the Commons is not representative, it is nothing. This is about parliament saying 'we are not OK to go on as we are'."
Well, I'm not going to disagree with that..I just hope that MPs with their free vote don't disagree with her either and vote for the Speakers Conference. Fingers crossed, eh?


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