Equal representation in parliament

Nick Clegg is currently on TV giving evidence to the Speaker’s conference, talking about the problems his party has in finding black/Asian candidates. Isn’t it most likely attributable to the fact that most Lib Dem seats are in places like Cornwall and Devon and other rural areas where there are, quite simply, not many black people? And also that the Lib Dems, of all parties, emphasise the ‘local’ nature of a candidate and promote the kind of pavement politics which usually requires a local candidate? I’m not saying this as a criticism, just as a fact.

As for why they don’t have more women MPs (and are likely to have even fewer after the next election, given the marginality of so many seats), it’s probably just because they haven’t adopted the affirmative measures that Labour has, or the wielding of central office muscle that the Tories have from time to time employed. Left to their own devices most parties will still go for the local man. Nick Clegg says the Lib Dems are trying to encourage local parties to choose a wider range of candidates, describing it as a ‘bottom up’ approach. I think history – for example, Labour’s dropping of all-women shortlists in 2001, which resulted in only four new women MPs – shows that this is at best a very slow and tortuous route towards achieving equal representation.

I’d be interested to know what people think about the idea of a ‘Dorothy’s List’ which has been set up within the Labour Party to promote LGBT representation. I can see the need for an organisation to support such candidates, and I know of one lesbian candidate who had a hard time in a recent selection, but not sure if the same approach should apply in this instance as for female and BME representation. Is a commitment to equality and tackling homophobia more important than the actual sexuality of an MP? Discuss!

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