Our Lib Dem Democratic Deficit

I am on the whole delighted today; amazed that a man, whom I knew had something good going for him from the moment I met him, that I drove about for a day in the back of my car during his party leadership campaign, is now Deputy Prime Minster. I suspect both car and driver have improved in quality somewhat! Well done, Nick! Hooray!

However, there is one big fly in the ointment for me and that is what looks to be like the lack of women in this new coalition government. An historic, new type of government and it’s still white, middle class men taking almost every plum job. The exception, as just announced is Theresa May, who seems to have two jobs Home Secretary and Women and Equalities. That to me, suggests that she’s the going to be the only female cabinet minster; let’s hope I’m wrong.

Oh dear!

Of course, you can’t put many more women into the Cabinet if you don’t have enough female MPs in the first place.

The number of Conservative female MPs has gone up but the number of Labour and Lib Dem female MPs has gone down. The only new female Liberal Democrat MP that we have is the wonderful Tessa Munt. However, Tessa has been standing for election for many, many years, starting off in the Ipswich by-election in 2001. So, it has to be said that despite the very best efforts of the Campaign for Gender Balance and Women Liberal Democrats that we have made no progress, in terms of outcomes in getting new women into parliament.

And you can’t get more women into parliament if you don’t have enough female PPCs in the first place. We didn’t even manage to get more women standing as PPCs: only 22% in 2010, compared to 23% in 2005.

Of course, the issues in why we don’t have more women as PPCs are structural – politics does not fit with the reality of many women’s lives, let alone that the whole thing seems to be a testosterone fuelled slanging match. Plus, the way to progress through the Liberal Democrats and get to the point that you can stand in a serious seat, also discourages many other potential female PPCs. We make a difficult journey, even more difficult!

I know that all PPCs make sacrifices and compromises; but I rather suspect that there are more compromises to be made by women, especially those with young families. Their male counterparts don’t have it easy, just easier.

This is a real shame as our policies that impact women are really good and we have made definite progress there.

As Ceri Goddard from the Fawcett Society said in the Guardian at the end of April:

"They have the most radical proposals of all the parties on issues such as equal pay audits and parental leave, but they haven't acknowledged the huge democratic deficit – their radicalism doesn't extend to challenging the status quo."

Nick Clegg has given us another election to sort it out; I hope that we don’t need another election I hope we get to grips with the fact that ‘encouragement’ and ‘training’ is not going to change the game and am sure that we will need to be far more radical in addressing this problem than we have ever been so far!

Posted via web from jochristiesmith's posterous


Niles said...
12 May 2010, 18:42:00

Hmmm. The difference between 22% and 23% is about 6 individual women. That's not hugely significant.

And what we did manage this time was getting a lot of women into winnable seats, and in the shoes of retiring men. Which is significant, and is an achievement.

It's just a shame that we weren't quite on the mark with our definition of "winnable" :(

The Virtual Victorian said...
12 May 2010, 19:16:00

Jo - love the blog,and well done on Sky News tonight.

Sarah Fox

Jo Christie-Smith said...
13 May 2010, 11:29:00

Come ON, Niles! Stop kidding yourself. At some point you have to stop measuring activity and start measuring results!

Candidates have no power, MPs do and that is the fact of it.

The big thing about our approach to date is that we don't have enough women coming through; we still don't have enough women come through and 6 fewer female candidates is six FEWER - it's going in the wrong direction.

This is a massive issue for us and trying to depend we did OK really but were just unlucky is going to change nothing about our democratic deficit.

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