Diane Abbott, Diversity and the Labour leadership...

Well, as Evan Davies said on his twitter feed just before she came into the studio, Diane Abbott is always good value!

And the race for the Labour leadership will definitely look more diverse now that t she has entered it. And she will indeed have an impact on the discussion and issues raised. And she has 'earned' her place on the short-list, as Simon Wooley says in the Guardian this morning. But even he's not suggesting she's actually going to become the Labour leader.

She's not going to win, everyone knows that and there's the rub.  What will happen is that Labour will be able to claim that their leadership contest was diverse and so feel no need to actually deal with the real issues that underpin why there are not more women at the most senior level in politics.

Blimey, I'm a party pooper, aren't I?

I don't blame Diane Abbott, as a woman, prominent in a political party she is, like Harriet Harman and Yvette Cooper, one of the few that everybody looks to when searching for more diversity.  'Why aren't there more women standing?', goes up the call and the weight of being a representative woman falls on their shoulders yet again.  The issue is always with women and ethnic minorities not coming through and putting themselves forward, isn't it?

Except that those of us who have put any thought into this know there's loads of reasons, perfectly valid and perfectly changeable, if only there was establishment will, underpinning why more of us do not come forward.

In the end, it's easier to blame the group who are under represented and no doubt fed up with this, Diane Abbott has thrown her hat in the ring.  She probably hopes, no doubt amongst other things, to give lie to the line: women don't have power because they don't come forward.

I say, we're doomed if we do, and doomed if we don't.  As a woman, and I am one, I have absolute confidence of my ability to be short-listed as a candidate - in fact I have, loads of times, including making it through Liberal Democrat star chamber to make it onto the Bromley & Chislehurst by-election short-list.  But getting onto the short-list means nothing; it only counts if you can and do win. My confidence in my ability to actually win is no longer as all conquering as it once was!

In the Lib Dems we have rules about gender equality on short-lists, meaning selection committees scour the country looking for women to shortlist; and I have been asked numerous time to stand, to provide the gender balance required, so that the process to select the favoured candidate can go ahead. As the difficulty is with so many 'secondary' targets, people work to achieving them, not the actual desired outcome that the target has been put there to facilitate.

So, having women and ethnic minorities make it to the short-list, whether they can win or not, only disguises the fact the only serious contenders for the Labour leadership are male and pale. 

And so, leads us to a situation where less is likely to be done about it than if there were none.  There is no longer an outcry because there are no women in the Labour leadership contest. Job done.

I wish Diane Abbott well in her campaign and feel sure that she will raise issues that might not have been raised if left to the men.

And there is of course the role model function.  DIane Abbott standing may well help with that;  I posed a question on whether Sarah Palin's vice presidency was net good or bad for women a couple of years ago.  And I'm still not sure; Dianne Abbott is not going to be as polarising as Sarah Palin (hopefully/obviously) but I can't help feeling that Obama's real strength as a role model is because he won the competition, not because he was a candidate on a short-list.

Posted via web from jochristiesmith's posterous

4 comments:

The Druid said...
20 May 2010, 10:21:00

So unless a woman or an ethnic minority candidate can run as one of the front runners, they are actually doing the cause of diversity harm?

I find that point of view difficult to understand, I have to confess.

I am delighted to hear she is running. Labour wont just be able to say the race was more diverse: it will actually be more diverse. And she might do better than you think.

If she doesnt get in I dont think it will have done the cause any harm. If, well into the next parliament, the front benches are dominated by "male and pale" faces, it will be just as noticeable, regardless of whether Diane ran.

Jo Christie-Smith said...
20 May 2010, 10:55:00

No, that's not what I'm really saying.

Look, Diane Abbot has absolutely earnt her right to be in the leadership campaign, she is more than a black female MP.

However, I don't think it is the great win for those actually wanting more women and ethnic minority people in the very highest ranks of political parties. I worry that it will allow people to fall back into complacency.

She will make it look more diverse but the race between the front runners will still be as pale and male as it ever was.

The Druid said...
20 May 2010, 11:14:00

Fair enough.

I hope you are underestimating her. I hope she gives the others a run for their money.

Race Equality Secret Service said...
22 May 2010, 13:37:00
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