Monday, January 11, 2010

Missed opportunity of Speaker's Conference on Parliamentary Representation

I was a bit dismayed by the outcome of the Speaker's Conference on Parliamentary Representation which really doesn't seem to have got the point on increasing the number of women in Parliament.

Apparently if there is no improvement in the representation of women from the current rather pathetic 20% of the House of Commons, then it wants parties to face mandatory quotas.

I expect even the Tories would go for that, you know. Sure, they might well be happy to put up loads of women. In fact, they could put up female candidates in every Scottish seat. Wonderful! Yes, but most of them wouldn't have a cat in hell's chance of getting elected. Quotas and first past the post really make no practical sense.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but European countries where they have quotas also seem to have party list type electoral systems. I don't like them because they give too much power to the party and not enough to the voter to choose who they want to represent them.

I reckon the introduction of the Single Transferable vote, the same system used in Scotand for local council elections would see a much more diverse parliament and give maximum voter choice.

I'd much rather see a people focused approach like that than a diktat from on high about numbers of candidates.

Within the Lib Dems I think there are things we need to do to promote better gender balance. A lot of things. Please don't think for one second I'm going to defend our record on the number of female MPs and MSPs in particular, and these things should continue, regardless, However, I think the Speaker's Conference has missed an opportunity to make a real difference.

I really don't want Anna to be scratching her head wondering when things are going to change when she's my age. I hope by then that our Parliament looks a little less like a convention of middle aged white men in suits. Unless those with the power to change look beyond things like quotas and look at the wider question of empowering people, I'm not that hopeful.

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