Thursday, 20 August 2015

Perception of women in politics

People north of the border flew into a great tizzy when it was found that only 1 in 8 of the Liberal Democrat regional lists for the election next year was topped by a woman. There were cries of "institutional sexism". When the smoke had cleared, it became clear that the situation was more patchy than that.

Action is being taken by the party in Scotland. I am sure they are right to debate what is going wrong there, but I believe they should also examine where things are going right. There is rather better balance of the sexes in local government. In Wales, the party has achieved gender balance in parliament from the start with the same electoral system as in Scotland. Not only that, but we have a woman leader, woman party president and until recently a woman chief executive. One reason may be nothing to do with the party at all, but with the tone in which proceedings are conducted in the two parliaments. It is noticeable how much more intemperate is the language in Edinburgh as opposed to Cardiff. (Yes, I admit to watching the BBC Parliament coverage of the devolved parliaments when they are in session. Sad, isn't it?) So the Senedd is probably not so off-putting. Beyond that, I don't pretend to know the answer but the situation should repay research.

Research is certainly needed into the situation in the last Westminster election, where the first-past-the-post system militates against women and against minorities. Liberal Democrats must have had the largest proportion of women candidates in the party's history in 2015, yet not one was returned. In 2010, our female candidates suffered disproportionately. It may be that, other things being equal, other parties' women did less well than the men, but it was certainly noticeable in the case of LibDems. Preferential voting in multi-member constituencies would help, but there is no chance of that coming about with a conservative majority in the Commons likely for the foreseeable future.

Gender prejudice on the part of voters may be as sensitive an issue as colour prejudice. For that reason, the many sociology departments of our universities have not tackled it, as far as I can see. It may also be difficult to pin down, but research is surely needed and answers found or politics will continue to be unrepresentative not just as regards gender but in gender across political philosophies.


Anonymous said...

This is a serious point.
How can you possibly trust to legislate a group of the population who from the age of 15 to 50 are totally irrational for 25% of the time? Would you trust a premenstrual woman during something like the Cuban missile crisis? Women are chained to their hormones. So are men, but the constant pursuit of sex does not impair the thought process to the same extent as the completely irrationality displayed by women on a regular basis.

Frank H Little said...

I trust the comment was ironic.

Actually, I have thought for a long time that the burden of bearing children and largely, even in this day and age, being responsible for coping with their troubles and tantrums, ideally equips mature women for government. And that was only a little bit ironic.

Anonymous said...

When you are talking about such small numbers I'm not sure you can read too much into the figures.

Frank H Little said...

People are quick to read a lot into the figures for the House of Commons.