Me, the ‘Minority’ 

So I hear again today that one of the top concerns of the Green Party is to champion a more ‘representative’ parliament, and is going as far as campaigning for ‘joint tickets’, where a male and female candidate would ‘job share’ the role of MP, in the hope that this would increase female participation.

Now I could easily go into a diatribe and a rant about the absurdity of this notion alone; if nothing else the constitutional nightmare and the lack of accountability it would breed, is unsustainable. What is my real concern however, is the oddly ‘Liberal’ assumption that nobody is capable of understanding the concerns of a particular minority, unless they themselves come from that minority.

I’ll start by admitting that in some circumstances there is a degree of mileage in doing something to encourage a more diverse public sector; particularly in fields where historically minorities have had to fight through a handicap, simply to be considered because of their minority status alone. 

However, we should be very specific about limiting that to ‘encouragement’ and not ‘Affirmative Action’, where merit and best-fit to the job comes second to fulfilling an equality quota. If nothing else it is incredibly insulting and patronising to the minorities you are trying to empower, if you are employing or even considering employing them based simply on the merit of their minority status.

Indeed, it’s mostly true that ‘women and politics’ has historically been an ‘oil and water’ story in this country, and more should be done to encourage women of merit to consider a career in politics. However, one thing I totally reject is the implication that the millions of female constituents are somehow less effectively represented by a man, than a female alternative based on the criteria of their alone.

The logic of the arguments here I cannot help but find circular, self-contradictory and lacking. While the Liberal left expend a lot of energy telling us that women are the same as men, or at least should be considered as such, at the same time they are telling us the same women are different enough that male MPs couldn’t possibly understand them or represent them adequately. Replicate the argument for sexual, racial and religious minorities if you wish.

Indeed, in the same breath, Liberal minded folk are simultaneously arguing that gender based identify politics is significant, in that sense that more women should be involved, while systematically undermining the very notion of gender in their support of ‘gender fluidity’ against the ‘white male cis-hetero patriarchy’. 

The political capital that is spent in the outrage at an ‘unrepresentative parliament’ can only stem from their evident belief that representation of a particular minority is illegitimate or ineffective unless you have first hand ‘lived experience’ of  it. We hear this all the time, ‘the rich can’t understand what its like to be poor’, ‘White Britons will never understand the Black community’, ‘It’s unhelpful for Christians to wade in on Islamic issues’. This is well and truly part of our discourse in this country.

Natalie Bennett today said:

“A century after women got the vote, we are seeing that more that 2 in 3 MPs are still male. Around the country 1 in 10 people have a disability, and yet only a handful of MPS do…”

The overtone here is clearly that those who are not disabled are inadequate representatives of disabled people, men are poor representatives for women, straight people could never understand the concerns of homosexuals and with little doubt, whites could never understand the concerns of racial minorities. 

I reject this notion fundamentally. After all one of the richest men of the 19th century in the country Seebohm Rowntree, was more than capable of understanding and campaigning for the plight of the industrial poor at the turn of the last century. Yet additionally to that, it is frankly setting up an impossible criteria for a political representative to attain to.

In a parliament opperating under this criteria, it is manifestly impossible for any one MP to represent the entire range of people he or she might find in their constituency; whatever their personal background, or orientations. Sure, the ‘male, pale and stale’ of traditional UK politics isn’t the best window into 21st century Britain. However the salient point is surely this, we have a constituency model in this country, if we replace the metaphorical Eric Pickles with the nearest ‘crippled black lesbian’ we can find, perhaps those minorities will feel better represented, but using the same logic, only at the expense of white middle age men…

…and perhaps that’s the point. It easy for Liberals to attack that particular minority. Here’s some tips on how to not get in trouble!:

  1. I mean come on gents, we had our fun, maybe we should forgo our right to be represented a little. I mean look at it this way, of course men can’t represent women properly. How could we! Although best not say that women couldn’t represent men well. I’m sure that wouldn’t go down well!
  2. Oh and by the way, if you’re rich I wouldn’t bother talking about the affairs of the poor; they don’t take kindly to that really, they’ll probably say you are hopelessly out of touch. Just sit by and listen while they talk about the exploitative nature of the bourgeois classes as if they are an authority; it’s only fair. After all the top 1% of earners do ONLY pay 28% of the income tax. I’m sure most of them have run Fortune 500 companies at some point and gave it all up to be penniless guitar players.
  3. Finally, if you have a few physically disabled constituents, you might wish consider it a solid career move to hurl yourself down a flight of stairs. I mean it should be OK, you’ll still ‘sort of’ remember what it was like to be able bodied, so those guys might still vote for you next time…

Ridiculous when explained like this no? However absurd it sounds, it is the logical extension of what the Greens are saying here. Yet, surely the truly ‘progressive’ stance on this is – “I couldn’t care less ‘who’ my representative is, I care about ‘what’ they believe, ‘why’ they believe it and whether they have the merit and intellectual capacity to argue for it effectively in Parliament”.

It’s another of the ultimate ironies of modern Liberals. They shout the loudest about how the aforementioned boundaries should not stand in the way of a pluralist society and should ultimately disappear, yet in doing so they are the ones who reinforce the existence of those boundaries in modern discourse the most. Gay Pride, Women’s Lib, UNITE; if they didn’t spend so much time boxing themselves into their own stereotypes, took the Libertarian position, and spent their time succeeding on merit, they might actually get what they want, a more equal society where these labels no longer matter or stand in anybody’s way.