Brian Edwards Media

Archive for November, 2013

Reflections on a 50:50 male:female quota for Labour Members of Parliament

 male and female

This post originally appeared on 13 December 1987 in the Dominion Sunday Times where I had a weekly column. For no good reason I can think of today the two people in the dialogue were named ‘Straight’ and ‘Narrow’ and the piece itself titled ‘Alas Straight and Narrow’.

The column was a spoof on the concept of quota-based, as distinct from merit-based candidate selection in the Public Service. It has relevance today to the Labour  Party’s policy of an eventual 50:50 gender-based quota for its MPs by 2017. Such a policy is in my view undemocratic and unworkable other than in a party like the Greens which has no electorate MPs and can manipulate its party lists to ensure gender equality.

When Labour reaches its 50:50 gender split, every retiring or defeated MP will, in principle,  have to be replaced by a member of the same sex. This will be highly problematic in electorates where the local party organisation strongly favours a candidate of ‘the wrong gender’. The retirement of a male list MP will also be problematic if the next person on the list is a woman who will have to be passed over to retain the strict 50:50 split.  The only way to resolve this problem would seem to be to have separate male and female lists.

My view on all this is quite simple: the sole criterion for selection as a Parliamentary candidate should be merit. To favour women over men in candidate selection  in order to ensure equality in numbers strikes me as paternalistic and demeaning to the sex.    Read the rest of this entry »