The Rambles of Neil Monnery

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Equality in politics – why are women in politics seen as the end game?

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I have an opinion that more women should be involved and fully engaged in the world of politics. I am also of the opinion that more men should be involved and fully engaged with the world of politics. I think more gay people should be. I think more straight people should be. I think more working class people should be. I think more middle class people should be. I think more people who love Marmite should be. I think more people who loathe Marmite should be. I think you get my point. I want a world where people from all walks or life who have an interest in politics are fully able to get involved and feel as though they fulfill their ambitions and if not, that they at least have the opportunity to do so.

Because you see my view of liberalism is all about equal opportunities for everyone. No matter a persons gender, sexual orientation, ethnic background, financial situation, views on whether exercising is better in the morning or in the evening, all these people should have the chance to do what they want, whether they succeed or not isn’t the end game, the fact they had the chance is. We can’t all be Prime Minister. We can’t all go into space. We can’t all put on the #9 shirt of Portsmouth FC and score a winning goal against the Scummers in an FA Cup Final at Wembley. Life doesn’t work that way but when I came out into this world all of those possibilities were feasible, if maybe a touch unrealistic, but the opportunities were there.

When it comes to politics, the world might not exactly be my oyster but opportunities lay ahead of me. If my reproductive organs were on the inside of my body and not dangling between my legs then those same opportunities would lay ahead of me. Now there is a question, a legitimate question, about whether it is harder for women than men and that is a question that needs to be fully explored but the fact is I don’t think anyone would say that being a woman, in this country, automatically takes away some of those same opportunities.

I saw a petition today that wanted a 50/50 makeup of parliament in terms of gender balance by 2025. I think that is a good target to aspire to but there is only one way to ever get that parity, make 50% of seats solely for women candidates of all parties and the other 50% for men. That is the only way that could ever actually be achieved. I’m not exactly sure this is realistic and nor do I think the public as a whole would support this idea.

I would love to see the House of Commons be more representative of the country as a whole but it doesn’t stop at gender. I think having MPs from all forms of backgrounds is actually a far bigger issue but it is less ‘sexy’ – pardon the pun. I look at the vast majority of MPs and I wonder whether they understand the struggles that effect every day people. The problem is many MPs say one thing but actually do another. It is very much a ‘do as I say and not as I do’ approach to life. TIn fact if I’m being totally honest I think the idea of a career politician is one that rankles.

It is just human nature that the more you are removed from a problem then the less effective you’ll be at recognising such a problem. MPs who have only ever known politics in their adult life will not be as rounded as individuals. For example how can you be the leader of what is traditionally seen as the party of the working classes when you are a multi millionaire and apart from one year as a researcher for a political TV programme and a sabbatical that included lecturing in the States, has only made a living from politics? Not knocking Ed (well I suppose I kinda am) but his knowledge of the real world is vastly limited. I’d expect the leader of the Labour Party to be one who had more of a solid grounding in what the problems were.

Sitting alongside him is a man who went to Harvard in Ed Balls and even Harriet Harman, who has an excellent grounding and has spent significant time in the ‘real world’ before becoming an MP in her early 30s went to a fee paying school. Now I’m not saying that the big three of Labour aren’t the best people for the job (they aren’t but this is not the reason) but for the party of the working man or woman, it could be argued that they don’t fully understand the struggles that people face day in and day out. If Labour are having these problems then you know the other major political parties are having the same.

The problem is how to get these people from different backgrounds who show the spark and enthusiasm to get involved to stick. Making politics more accessible is one of the biggest problems facing the political system in this country. To get elected requires an enormous amount of hard work, money and dedication. Points one and three are probably par for the course and we need to find ways to make the workload more workable for those who have to work regular jobs but money is a big issue.

Everyone moans about the amount that MPs get paid but how are you ever going to attract people to work as an MP for a small salary? I saw a radical left winger say that she thinks all MPs should live off a minimum wage to see what it is really like, she then in turn said that she had many offers to be a PPC. However she has turned of these down because she is making a significant wage elsewhere and doesn’t feel as though being an MP would be financially prudent for her at this juncture considering she has a child. So she wants MPs to take a what, 85% odd pay-cut but she herself doesn’t want to be an MP because she earns more money elsewhere. Sounds like another ‘do as I say and not as I do’ person. Does seem to be a lot of them around doesn’t there?

The answers are not clear but it is clear that the majority of people think as much as politicians as they do bankers or journalists. Lucky I never got into banking really or I really could have gone for the most hated trifecta.

The House of Commons should indeed be a good representation of the country as a whole, how to get there though is far bigger a challenge than just getting more women into politics. That is just one aspect and how that happens is something we all have differing viewpoints on. I have never subscribed to the all women shortlists idea as to me the idea of getting equality via inequality just doesn’t compute. I have been told repeatedly by women (and men) that they want to be treated as equals (rightly) but then some of them think they should get preferential treatment in certain situations. Equality is equality, it isn’t equality for 95% of the time and then inequality for 5%.

So we need to find a way to get more women into politics but we also need to find a way to get the House of Commons look and sound like more of a cross-section of society. This is a big job and one and I see no cohesive plan for reform of how we as a party deal with things, let alone how parliament deals with the stark problem. I would be happy if political parties were funded by the state and prospective MPs had a small budget that they could use – and not just in an election period. Now prospective MPs with money or from a rich local party can spend for years with no limitation apart from in that election period. This doesn’t encourage a level playing field. Would people from less well off backgrounds be more inclined to get engaged and involved if they knew the playing field was level financially? It is a question that I think merits some thought.

Politics at every level is less about ideas and more about money and manpower and that is where politics has gone wrong. The best and the brightest don’t always get in because they are straitjacketed by other reasons. I want the best and the brightest to be in the House of Commons. I want the best and the brightest to be in council chambers up and down the land. People shouldn’t get elected solely because of the logo next to their name on the ballot box. People shouldn’t get elected because they can outspend their opponents. People shouldn’t get elected because they have more manpower.

People should get elected because they are the person the majority of the voters feel will do the best job regardless of anything else. This may seem like pie in the sky stuff but that has to be the end game and until we know exactly what the end game is then how can we plan and prepare to reach it?

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Written by neilmonnery

July 15th, 2014 at 2:40 pm

Posted in Politics

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