Brian Edwards Media

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.   

Alas Straight and Narrow

I see, Straight, that the National Lesbian Consultative Committee has told the Royal Commission on Social Policy that there should be a 10 percent quota of lesbian employees for all government departments and state-funded agencies. Pretty silly, don’t you think?

No, I don’t think, Narrow, and neither apparently do you. Lesbians are a statistically significant socio-sexual group in New Zealand society – about five percent of the population, I believe – and as such are entitled to proportionate representation in the State’s workforce. To deprive them of such representation would be to deprive them of economic and political power. It would, in a word, be discriminatory and sexist.

That’s two words, Straight, but I do see your point. You are saying that the Public Service should contain a precisely representative cross-section of the population at large.

That is exactly what I am saying, Narrow, and I conclude that there should be a five percent quota of lesbians and a further five percent quota of male homosexuals, making 10 percent in all.

Can I conclude then, Straight, that there should also be a 10 percent quota of Maori, another statistically significant but nonetheless minority group?

Indeed you can, Narrow.

And no doubt there should be a further 10 percent quota of disabled  persons for the same reasons?

There is no doubt about it, Narrow, and, as you say, for the same reasons.

And 17 percent Presbyterians?


And 19 percent atheists and agnostics?


And 25 percent cigarette smokers?

Yes. Even though cigarette smokers are disgusting and filthy creatures of limited intelligence, and even though the act of smoking is soon to be banned in all government departments, smokers do exist and they are statistically significant and what they do is not illegal and they have got rights. Yes, Straight, the cigarette smoking lobby is clearly entitled to proportionate representation in the Public Service. Anything less would be discrimination of the worst kind.

And no doubt the same could be said of pipe-smokers?

To be strictly correct, Narrow, yes. A further 0.25 percent.

I myself, Straight, am a member of a small but nonetheless statistically significant minority group. I am particularly fond of indigenous rock music. I was somewhat concerned that, if I ever were to join a government department, I might be forced at morning and afternoon tea times to listen to unrelieved Beethoven and Barry Manilow rather than the Kilbirnie Kneecappers. However, I assume from what you now tell me that fans of locally recorded rock music could expect a public service employment quota just like all these other groups?

That might depend, Narrow, on how many of you there are.

Well, there’s me and Karen Hay. And she has already started the ball rolling by demanding a 10 percent quota of local rock music on the radio.

Shall we say 11 percent indigenous rock music lovers then, Narrow?

We can’t, Straight. You see, with the lesbians, male homosexuals, Maori, disabled persons, Presbyterians, atheists, agnostics, cigarette smokers, pipe smokers and indigenous rock music lovers, we are already up to 102.25 percent. The Public Service is full!

The Public Service is not full, Narrow. What you are overlooking is the fact that many people belong to more than one of these statistically significant minority groups. Let me explain. If we have a 10 percent quota of homosexuals in the Public Service, we must, to be fair, also have a 90 percent quota of heterosexuals, since 90 percent of the population is heterosexual.

What about the bisexuals, Straight?

They, Narrow, are the least problematical group of all, since they can be included in either quota. Similarly, if we have a 25 percent quota of cigarette smokers, we must, to be fair, have a 75 percent quota of non-smokers. Now these smokers and non-smokers are not added to the homosexuals and heterosexuals. They are the same people.

I understand, Straight. So once a month the person who runs the Public Service will look at his staff  complement to see if he…

Or ‘she’, Narrow, or ‘she’ .

. . . or she has filled his or her quota of each of these statistically significant minority groups.

Exactly. And when a position falls vacant, Narrow, he or she will have to find exactly the right candidate to fill that position.

How do you mean?

Well, if the heterosexual, the Maori, the disabled, the Presbyterian, the atheist, the non-smoking and the Beethoven and Barry Manilow quotas are all full, the successful applicant will have to be a homosexual, European, able-bodied, any religion other than Presbyterian, cigarette-smoking fan of indigenous rock music.

And presumably the best person for the job, Straight?

I don’t believe there’s a quota for that, Narrow.


  1. That’s a fair extrapolation in my view, though I didn’t notice an allowance for vegetarians, and bi-polar sufferers. Lefthanders will no doubt be part of the random overlap.

    Have they ever thought of employing the best person for the job? Radical I know – but it MIGHT (italics) just work.

    As a side issue, I have a friend who freely admits to liking MMP – he somehow thinks having Winston Peters choosing every dictatorship is more democratic.

  2. Septuagenarians, octagenarians and nonagenarians are all significant groups rapidly growing in proportion to the population as a whole and therefore deserving of representation. Centenarians even.

    • A point which Judy made to me this morning and I agree. As the population ages, the interests of the elderly may well be significantly under-represented in parliament. But a quota of wrinklies like myself – no thanks.

  3. I agree in principal that the best person for the job should get the job but…

    …males are still the dominant sex in politics and males have, pretty much, all of the power in choosing, so for **subjective** decisions about “who is best” there is going to be a strong bias to over-valuing the qualities of males.

    • Hit the nail on the head there. I personally believe that there should be a general AIM to have a 50/50 split of gender in Parliament not just the Parties (imagine how hard that would be to get agreement on) but never at the expense of quality. When candidates are put forward part of the decision making process needs to be a look at the current mix. It should be one factor in the process not a hard rule. Get real people.

  4. The National party is opposed to gender based quotas and believe it should be about ‘merit’ as well, so they are sticking with their current 50-50 ‘equally good and bad’ criteria MP selection process.

  5. While I don’t entirely disagree with you on point…conflating sexual orientation with behavioural attributes is tacky. No one hunts smokers down on Friday and Saturday nights on K Rd: queers are hunted every weekend. Ask any of the bar managers there: it’s a veritable gauntlet to be run if you want to meet your mates for a few and stay out past 11pm. Your attempt for snappy and clever prose is to some of us taking the cheap and easy shots.

    Way to represent those “Labour values” Brian. Go raibh maith agat.

    More to your original point: there’s a range of complex and somewhat competing interests here: getting a highly qualified candidate, having a caucus that is diverse in life experience, empowering local constituency associations to have a meaningful voice in their candidate selection, among others.

    So instead of a facile quota/no quota, merit/not merit dichotomy, why not instead decide what are the core qualities of a “strong” candidate. Then look at candidates and do a cut above and below the bar. Amongst those above the bar, look at putting together a diverse team. “All things being equal”.

    There’s zero evidence the most qualified person does a better job than an entirely qualified person.

    • John that just reads like a gay whinge. Your last statement is suggesting we should be prepared to accept second best in determining who runs our country. I don’t run my business that way, and I’m darned if I want the country run that way. Male or female, gay or straight, black, brown or brindle. The best person for the job should get the job, and that’s that.

    • John, exactly what ‘cheap and easy’ shots are you referring to?

  6. Surely women should be given the same opportunities as men to become MPs. Not easy, I know, but hardly anything worthwhile is easy.
    A quota system is Procrustean which is never a good thing.

    • Apart from thinking that women should TAKE the opportunity (rather than wait to be given it) to become MPs, I thought they DID have the same opportunities as men – don’t they? Seems a pretty level playing field to me.

      • 6.1.1

        Surely incomes suggest that women do not have the same opportunities as men. The law might say otherwise but the facts don’t.
        The differences in opportunity are nebulous but they must be there.


          Actually it probably shows they have more opportunities than men – namely the opportunity to take time off to raise a family via the support of partner and/or long suffering taxpayer.

        • I’m not sure income’s got anything to do with electoral opportunity, John.

          If it had we might end up with Eric Watson and Kim Dotcom in Parliament. And Aussie would be under the control of that gauche Gina Rinehart creature. UK would be run by Paul McCartney, Richard Branson and JK Rowling….but I guess things COULD be worse…


            Income is an illustration of the difference in opportunity between men and women.
            Heaven help us if we had a plutocracy.

    • Procrustean – you’ve just extended my vocabulary by one, John.

  7. Am I right in,thinking that the Labour party policy now mandates a minimum female proportion, but not a maximum?

    In which case they will presumably have no difficulty in replacing retiring male politicians with females and no requirement to stop at 50:50.

    Of course this is madness. Ironically I suspect it may cost them female votes rather than win them.

    • Hmmm. I considered that. I noticed that Cunliffe made a comment to the effect that men would have to work a lot harder now if they wanted to get selected. If you’re right and the final position is that from 2017 men may not outnumber women in the Labour Party Caucus, but women may outnumber men, then the Party will almost certainly kiss goodbye to re-election.

      • Cunliffe also said, “Women have at least half the talent. They are going to have at least half the places on the list and we’re going to have a stronger, better caucus for it.”

        If women ever do outnumber men in the Labour Party Caucus then men certainly will have to work a lot harder.

        • Nice juggling of words by your smooth new leader. Are you his new press officer?

          So does that mean that men have less than half the talent?

          But if they do have half the talent, they are still not guaranteed half the positions?

          Or is expecting straight answers from you as likely as it would be from Mr Cunliffe?

          Joking aside, your guy has started well, and he certainly isn’t tongue-tied like his predecessor. He undoubtedly has ‘presence’.

          I just wonder how long he can continue speaking to competing groups promising each that their concern are acknowledged and will be implemented. And does he have the convictions and courage to see though a policy of personal conviction despite its unpopularity, such as Key with partial state asset sales? On that note, does he have any personal convictions?

          Maybe his caucus colleagues who know and experience him best knew something…

    • 7.2

      Females have the vote?! Since when?! This would be a world first, wouldn’t it?

      But that would explain those most extreme of traffic hazards – SUV “mom”s which make my blood freeze – especially illegally dropping off their 1.2 “kid”s at school – and sprog-dump pre-schools.

      PS: Whatever happened to good ol’ kindergartens where we used to grow our children to blossom later in life?

  8. But men have always used a gender quota system – to ensure that only men were chosen.

    Bloody hell, such are selection committees’ inherent biases that it’s taken the system over 100 years to have achieved even today’s pitiful number of women in Parliament, and only mpledger (above) seems to have grasped why.

    Brian, your piece was silly in 1987 and hasn’t improved with age.

    • If I understand your argument correctly: a gender quota system favouring men was wrong, but a gender quota system favouring women isn’t. My view is that both are inferior to any candidate selection system based on merit. And calling people ‘silly’ isn’t terribly helpful.

    • 8.2

      Somewhat unnervingly, I actually AGREE with Brian – or rather his message – as don’t shoot the messenger – or argue ad hominem (literally) which is what femino-sexists like this do.

      Call me old-fashioned / old skool, but I still think merit is the best basis for selection, recruitment, promotion, election , etc.

      All the above are best, most rationally, and most fairly carried out on the basis of what is or isn’t between one’s ears, not legs.

      Affirmative action or positive discrimination (which is conversely negative discrimination) excludes not only, for example men, but also the women who equally deserve selection etc., but refuse to play the affirmative action special pleading game, which is auto-MATRONising.

      The hoary old poster of two toddlers of hard-to-discern which is boy or girl peering down their (own) nappies with the ahem clever heading “So that’s why we are – paid unequally” etc could now (well, for the last 40 years) be EQUALLY affixed to the walls of the male equivalent of Women’s Refuges, Men’s Sanctuaries.

      “We”, as in the royal or papal plural first person pronoun, hold these truths to be self-evident – to those of us in the diminishing rearguard of the European Enlightenment’s Age of Reason.

      • 8.2.1

        Even though it’s 3 a.m., and I have consulted Her(exalted)self, i.e., my feminine side / anima,* I still am in “agreeance” (sic – a pernicious The Panel experts’ malapropism which Jim Mora never had the balls to correct on-air) with me, myself and I (after the peerless Joan Armatrading – Spotify her amazing Blues album) and with Brian(‘s opinion).

        * I had anticipated (sic – common sense 1 and 2 OED & “political-media complex” parlance) a blazing row where she (the female “victim”, therefore a superfluously redundant tautology) threw broken plates (improvised edged weapons) at me, and I (the male “perpetrator” therefore etc.,) got automatically arrested by a mixed “gender” (sic) brace of PC PCs according to current police best(?) practice.

        Brian, could my avatar please be in green, white and orange with a tino rangatiratanga red, white and black border please? Or in heavenly Vatican livery yellow and white?

        Finally, my agreeance with you must, surely to God (who I know you don’t believe in, but Who obviously believes in you or evolutionary intelligent design (actually the long-debated teleological argument in Philosophy) would have “spawned” you from the primordial void, be worth a pair of your media consultancy’s complimentary rosary beads?

        Well OK, not completely finally. Brian, when are you going to do a “thinkpiece” on the verbal inarticulation of tongue-tied Irishmen? Or am I just craic-ing up?

  9. The argument against a quota system generally revolves around the idea that somehow candidates will not be selected on merit any more, but do MPs get selected merely on merit at present? My experience of life has been that very often the best person for a role is bypassed for reason’s of personal preference on the part of the selectors, of which merit is only one criteria. This applies to both men and women. Quite often it is only a quirk of fate, or desperate situation that finally sees the best person in a role. A famous example is Winston Churchill in World War II. An anonymous example would be an older woman I once met who singlehandedly got a tourism office established on a volunteer basis in a region at the top of the South Island. When the local council decided to fund the position, they gave the role to an attractive young woman with very little background for the job. So maybe the most suitable candidates for MPs actually need a bit of a helping hand against unfair odds.

  10. I thought a more unofficial way of encouraging women MPs would would best but apparently the quota system is based on what works vs what doesn’t. Actually though, frankly there’s more pressing economical issues that should take priority over this. I don’t care if this makes me unpopular.

  11. I agree completely Brian. There can only be the one criteria for election to Government, and it has to be merit. This policy simply replaces one sexist basis of representation, paternalistic cronyism, with another, feminist sexism! Both these things are extremes (gender defined gangs?) and they need to have a very good look at themselves and the New Zealand that they now see around them.
    If Labour thinks that this Gender equality policy is more important and meaningful to the electorate than real job policy, the poor on the streets, the economy, child poverty, the ChCh rebuild, the insurance crisis or the price of housing in Auckland (to name just a few of NZ’s 20+ ‘now and big’ problems), then I think they are being beyond amazingly blind. They are being plain DOH minded!
    I thought we were all well past this kind of gender exclusive rhetoric. Feminism has been around for forty + years now and at the moment there are just so many more important problems for our politicians to try and deal with that this.
    So, I think that the Labout Party should worry about the electorates problems and forget about their own for the time being. Show us the game changing vote winning policies Labour, not this side-show.

  12. women – pronounced wimmin – should stay at home, have babies,do the ironing, cooking, washing and gardening and agree with everything hubby says. That’s the natural order of things.

    • 12.1

      Finally Don, a man (pronounced man) after my own heart (yes, we do have them TOO).

      However, YOUR irony is not quite (politically) correct.

      “Womyn” (sic) should only do the FLOWER gardening.

      And not only do what their hen-pecked ear-BASHING-assaulted (verbal,and emotional / psychological domestic violence?)hubbies say, but laugh at their jokes too.

      Especially, as a toddler son of a female feminist (she became one after I left the movement) friend of mine told me “All men are bastards!”

      She was a pretty crap female-parenting-unit because he left out of “All men are bastards” … rapists, wife-bashers, child abusers, etc.

  13. It is not THE only policy, it is ONE of many policies. And who decides who has merit. Is merit someone who has been a money dealer or a dairy farmer or a trade union offical or teacher, lawyer etc, or just someone who has the catchiest billboard?

  14. 14

    More harebrained ideology from a party of no-hopers.

  15. BE, I agree with your points.

    The Labour party should concentrate on winning the election by attracting voters and focusing on the more issues that matter and that affect most people. Issues such as : the housing crises, Kiwi Build, Kiwi Assure, the Development of the regions, Jobs, Industries, True competition in the market, Control of monopolies and Big business, Exports, Manufacture etc and not rush into social engineering stuff until there is a strong support for such social engineering causes from the public and the party has better support. There isn’t yet now.

    Initiating distracting controversial social engineering stuff such as the revisited man ban quota system for party MP selection at this stage is plain dumb.

    This gender quota policy is not only very stupid, discriminatory but ill thought out. The candidates should be chosen purely on MERIT and selected not based on gender, race, colour, creed, sex orientation, disability etc. It should not matter if 100% of the elected candidates are male or 100% are indeed female or gay (or Maori or Pakeha), as long as they are voted in based on merit. This sort of gender quota proposed is a downward unfair slippery stupid slope. I would have thought that the majority of party members would have taken a saner decision and drop this crap PC system. What will happen if in the future the nations population ratio of men to women happens to be 40% to 60%? or, what will they do if they find themselves with 75% female MPs and 25% others? Change the rules again to bring the so called ‘balance’?

    By the way, the teaching and nursing government jobs are overwhelmingly held by women now. Based on this Labour party philosophy, when is the QUOTA system coming to those professions?

    Revolutionary social changes should be primarily a reflection of the nation’s voice, not just those of the party activists.

    Why is it a big problem if the % of female MPS in one election is 39% and 66% in some other election when selection is based primarily on merit? What happens if the demographics of Men:Women in population changes to 35: 65? What then? And how about QUOTA for the disabled, gays, youth, lesbians, refugees, obese, pensioners, whites, blacks, rich, the poor, beneficiaries, ex crims etc? Why not? Fair isn’t it? Why not QUOTA representation here? Why only for male and female?

    Why don’t the activists ask for such representation in ALL jobs and professions?

    Selection should be entirely due to their MERIT such as their intelligence, principles, ability, integrity, leadership qualities, electability etc and never based on one of their body parts.

    If they are good, inspiring and work well in their community, electorate and with party members, they WILL get chosen anyway. They don’t need an extra crutch and unfair special provision based on their gender. I put it to you that some, if not many, of the women selected will be unelectable without this crutch, not because they are female but because they lack real quality or support.

    I think this gender based nanny state selection process is a backward, unenlightened step and will make Labour a laughing stock, scaring many voters off. Not me. I will still vote Labour based on their other socio-economic policies. But I stand by my view re this gender based selection crap.

    Labour should show better sense than bringing in such silly crap issues to the fore and thus take away the spotlight from the MAIN and IMPORTANT policies. Idiots!

    And, why not advocate that the president of the Labour party should alternate between a man and a woman each term?

    And why not for the leader of the Labour party or Prime Minister?

  16. This is a list mp which the party decides on, not specifically the voters.Cronyism ,nepotism ,etc all come to mind. Because this is publically noted does it make it any worse?

  17. All this talk of selection by merit reminds me of Tom Lehrer’s observation about the US army which he claimed had outlawed discrimination not only on the grounds of race, gender and creed but also on the grounds of ability. Isn’t selection by merit grossly unfair to the incompetent?

  18. I would prefer a selection system in which anyone who uses the word ‘criteria’ as if it is a singular is automatically excluded. Along with anyone who uses stand alone adverbs and hanging participles. That would leave a small pool of possible candidates from whom we could then select a parliament on merit (whatever that is in practical terms)

    • Your argument has merit. Ditto ‘phenomena’.

    • Not sure if you were referring to my post. If you were, please
      point out the relevant sentences so that I can improve my English which is not my first language, just one of the six languages I know. I can also read and write languages in three different scripts. However, English is not my strong point…yet! Cheers!

      • A number of people used ‘criteria’ as if it was a singular noun in their responses to Brian’s comments. It’s also more widely common in cluding on National Radio (where all sorts of solecisms are perpetrated when they should be setting the standard). It is, of course, a plural noun. The singular is ‘criterion’. A much more heinous crime in my book is the New Zealand habit of using ‘hopefully’ instead of ‘I/we hope’- indicative of the Kiwi horror of holding a definite opinion in case in conflicts with received wisdom as expressed by the family, the neighbours, the sports team, the people at work etc


          Thanks for responding. Much appreciated. While it is worthwhile fighting valiantly to preserve good usage of the language, I think it is going to be an uphill task in the modern world which places more value on just being ‘understood’ rather than in the grammar and the niceties of the language.
          Related case in point : the txt lng savng tme & byts. cu,xxx.

          • I’m a writer so I have a professional interest in clear succinct prose. George Orwell is my touchstone. But beyond that the dichotomy correct/understood language is a false one. Grammar, standard spelling and other rules and devices are an aid to understanding and if used properly can convey nuances and shades of meaning, particularly in matters of wit and humour that rough approximations of correct use can’t convey. If I had the space I would retail you a joke about the use of the word ‘schrod’ (yes – it’s a real word) which turns on the fact that it could be, but isn’t a verb in the past pluperfect tense (the infinitive being, of course, ‘to screw’)


              I am so ignorant that I did not understand much of what you wrote in your last four sentences, except the word, ‘screw’!

              Nevertheless, I am interested in reading the joke you mentioned. Do post. Cheers!


              I googled ‘shrod joke’ and got this. Was this the joke you were referring to?
              I spotted this item on the internet and thought that this group may enjoy it: When I was a kid I went to college in Boston (where there are over a hundred 4-year degree-granting institutions by the way). I majored in English, and to make ends meet I drove a cab at night.
              This guy gets into my cab and asks to be taken to the airport. He was in town for business and he’s leaving. Then he says to me, “I was kinda busy this trip, and there are some things I didn’t get to try. Where do you suppose I could have got scrod around here?” I thought for a second, then I said,
              “You know, I’ve been driving this cab for three years now and I must have heard that question a thousand times, but that’s the first time anyone’s asked it in the pluperfect subjunctive.”

              • Yes – that’s the one. Usually it has to be preceded by an explanation of the meaning of schrod which you are obviously aware is a fish soup/stew in which the main ingredients are young codfish and onions

    • BE: “So once a month the person who runs the Public Service will look at his staff compliment and see if he …”

      ‘complement’ is the correct word in the above sentence.

  19. Fifty percent women candidates by the election after next but ‘wait and see’ about the Trans Pacific Partnership – are Labour party activists as really as shallow as they seem ? We can’t know what went on because they excluded media from the more interesting sessions of conference .
    Labour,like National, is a marketplace of power and influence – those running the market will try to minimise concessions to hoi poloi while maximising their own control over policy . Identity politics is useful to divert and disrupt arguments – though for how long would remain to be seen .
    How would the party react should a Cunliffe government continue to sell the country out – and how would Labour’s relation to its voters fare if , once more , people were expected to put up with Labour neoliberalism as an evil less than whatever National would threaten ?
    The Green party got the gender thing from its inception , disadvantaging talented women at the time , I’ve heard . Their declared policies , though , are at least arguably comparatively leftish .

    • 19.1

      On the subject of correct language: congratulations on not putting “the” in front of “hoi poloi”.

      • Greek: Definite Article, Masculine, Plural, Nominative, “hoi”.

        Good knowledge of your declensions John Northcott and anticrustes.

        Now memorise the feminine and neuter, in time for the test on Monday.


          I am not a Greek scholar, that was just one of the many useless? facts with which my head has been crammed beginning more than half a century ago at an English grammar school. (I deliberately failed Latin so I could take Engineering Drawing reasoning that, in the unlikely event I should meet an ancient Roman, I could always draw him a picture.)

      • There’s a splendid example of an expression regularly used incorrectly. “hoi polloi” is used by most people to mean ‘the ruling class’ when it means the precise opposite. And please don’t start me on the misuse of ‘virtually’

  20. I think the idea of selection by merit is way more complex than by gender quotas.

    As James remarked what will become of the incompetent, they may end up getting jobs running large companies or worst govt departments.

    How can merit be determined and by whom? It assumes some quality of merit is present in the electoral committees or the party list committees.

    How about sortition – another new word for you Brian – the selection of politicians by random methods.
    See this article, the research indicates its more effective,

    Yes maybe we should ditching the voting side but at least the selection of candidates at random.

    Or perhaps that is already happening.

    • 20.1

      I suspect by far the best criteria would be to bar from election anyone who wants to be an MP or Councillor. Unfortunately difficult to implement.

      • There you are Alan. Now you’re doing it – using criteria as if it is a singular. And you stole that line from Billy Connelly


          I think you have a lost cause, Tony. It’s gone the way of decimate and the rest of classical knowledge and declensions.

          I’m not conscious of plagiarising it as it has been an opinion of mine for a long time. When did Connelly use it? I suspect it may predate him.

          • I first heard him use it about thirty years ago. Like most good comedians he almost certainly stole it from someone else


            Along with the already detailed crimes, you are complicit in another: it is Billy Connolly to whom you refer.

            Did I get through that sentence without technical error?

        • Umm, I’m the last one with any reason to hold another’s grammar to account, but

          …isn’t it “There you are, Alan” (comma before the vocative proper noun).

          Also, are you allowed to start a sentence with, “And you stole that…”?

          Which is why, unless the mistake is especially egregious, it is best not to mention it.

          But I am grateful for you correcting my grammar Tony, including if I have the above incorrect. :)


            @Kimbo, starting a sentence with “But”! Tsk, tsk. And a missing comma before “Tony”.

          • The comma in that case is optional according to Fowler. And I’ve been arguing the toss about whether or not you are allowed to begin a sentence with a conjunction since I was punished by a primary school teacher for doing so when I was six years old. That probably explains my determination to do so as often as possible since, and my lifelong contempt for and hatred of anyone purporting to hold authority over me


              I share both those hang-ups, Tony. But how come you are a socialist rather than a liberal then? Socialists love to have the State control everyone.

              And starting a sentence with a conjunction is a prohibition I have come to enjoy violating as it transfers emphasis into the written comment that when spoken is provided by a pause.

              Cheers, Alan

              • “Socialists love to have the State control everyone.”

                And Mr Key is keen to add a ‘Chorus’ to that line.


                  You won’t find me defending the idiotic and indefensibly stupid State UFB project.

              • Perhaps you should look again at your definition of socialism, Alan. While it’s certainly true that some attempts to create what are supposed to be more equitable societies have gone down an authoritarian track, others have taken a much more democratic, free and open path. New Zealand is an excellent case in point. What most people would regard as a social democracy here has never taken a doctrinaire form and has its roots in English Liberalism, which in its turn derives from the egalitarian radicalism of the seventeenth century rather than the ideological Marxism which has impelled most European movements of the left outside Scandinavia. I don’t know if you have read Edmund Wilson’s ‘To The Finland Station’ but if you have then you will know that socialism is a much broader church than most of its opponents imagine, including such phenomena as Canadian and United States agrarian radicalism (very similar in many ways to the Liberalism of Ballance and Seddon here between 1890 and 1906) and sharing a prophet in Henry George. Or the distinct anarchist cum syndicalist thread in Swedish or Spanish left radicalism. Socialism has always been an expression more bandied about by the political Right (as a perjorative term) in New Zealand than the Left. A bit like the expressions ‘politically correct’ or ‘nanny state’. Even under the Savage/ Fraser government in the thirties and forties there were more Labour MPs describing themselves as money reformers than there were those saying they were socialists.


                  During my lifetime in this country economic and social freedom has greatly increased, but property and operational freedoms have been drastically curtailed.

                  This results from twin attacks by
                  a) environmental and planning lobbyists, and
                  b) health, safety and regulatory bureaucracies.

                  The media and politicians forever pursue Mencken’s strategy of scaring the population into demand ever more legal and Government interventions.

          • However, I am grateful for YOUR correcting my grammar, Tony, including if I have the above, incorrect.

  21. Dr Edwards, your post is a reductio ad ab+surdum. I’m astonished that you would consider it to be worth reprinting. If there is demeaning and paternalism going on in this debate, it is coming from you, and from all those men who’ve agreed with you on this comment thread. What on earth is the matter with you all? Selection on merit? What the hell do you think has been happening for the last god-knows-how-many years? And STILL women are underrepresented. If you men are so bloody smart, surely you’d have worked out by now what’s going on. And don’t hand me that crap about women not wanting to enter politics: that’s patronising and self-serving, and not worthy of any of you.

    It’s indisputable that there’s bias in the candidate selection process.

    Given that the range of ability and competence will be broadly similar between males and females, any selection process with a big enough pool of candidates ought to throw up roughly equal numbers. We have only to look at the gender split in the current Parliament to see that that’s not happening.

    All political parties need to pay attention to this, but especially the two largest. There is a problem; Labour is doing the right thing. The need is even greater in the National party.

    Basta! I used to enjoy visiting your blogsite; this post has changed my view. I doubt that I’ll be back. Have a happy time with your comfy little group think, guys.

    I recommend Andrew Geddis on Pundit – and his comments on various other blogs – if you want to read an articulate and intelligent analysis of the issue.

    • I don’t object to your intemperate disagreement but deciding never again to read what I write on the basis of a single difference of opinion strikes me as evidence of a closed mind.

    • In politics, ‘Merit’ includes among other criteria, being popular and electable.
      If the women do take an active interest in their local politics and win over the people in the electorate and community through their wit and wisdom, they WILL stand a good chance of being selected based purely on merit. That is what the party should be encouraging rather than giving women an easy push in through the ‘quota’ system.

    • Your raving, is precisely the reason why the Labour Party should jettison its quota-based candidate selection platform: Hysterical, irrational, self-centred, self-righteous, and wrought; all the usual traits that typically go with your gender.

  22. DesiBoyz: raving, huh? It obviously takes one to know one.

    • 22.1

      On the serious question of equality between the sexes, Merrial, have you beaten Bob Jones’ suggested women’s Olympic record for the time to get out of a car: 3 minutes?

      Can you get ready to leave the house in less than 20 minutes? Or shower in less than that? Read a map without looking as though it is written in Sanskrit?

      No doubt there is hideous sexual discrimination in the preponderance of women primary teachers, nurses, land agents, human resource and social welfare staff. And why in a decade of teaching honours level computer science I had exactly one female student reach that level.

      Of course you are right that there are no significant differences between the sexes and no freely made differing preferences and interests. It must be true because you said so.

      • “And why in a decade of teaching honours level computer science I had exactly one female student reach that level”.
        Alan, you must have inspired your female students to obtain Achieved not Excellence!


          Alas, johan, you cannot hold me responsible since I taught only the final honours year class, not the earlier years.

          I might add, unsurprisingly, that sole female student was Asian, not a Kiwi.

      • Computer Science (back when I was doing it) was going to be this wonderful break-through science where men and women could participate in equal numbers because it didn’t have all this history of male domination – men and women were coming to it fresh. And when I was doing it at undergrad level it was about 50-50 male-female at first year.

        But then, at second year, it became “spend your life in the computer lab” which was fine for the male students who could take the train home at 10pm at night – whereas I was hassled by drunks if I delayed going home till after dark. Subtle obstacles like this exclude women from doing well and when you don’t do well you (mostly) don’t continue. (I did do a couple of comp sci papers in my honour degree in statistics. From memory about 1/5 of the class were female.)

  23. 23

    The only way to ensure absolutely 100% representative representation is to make everybody in the country an MP. We’ll need a bigger Chamber, of course, but I’m all for it: I look forward to making use of the free domestic air travel perk, and an office and apartment in Wellington could be very useful. The money is usefully more than what I’m on at the moment, too.

    • Unfortunately Warren you only get an apartment in Wellington if you are a Minister and don’t live there e.g. Bill English (who as everyone knows spends all his non parliamentary time in Southland)

      • 23.1.1

        You’re right, my mistake. But with the free air travel I won’t need the apartment: I can fly home every night.

        • I know that you are being ironic Warren, but you wouldn’t be able to do that without having a complete physical and mental breakdown. Although most people think that M Ps are just a bunch of work shy layabouts and no-hopers in fact they work incredibly hard and to do their job must be in Wellington most weeks from Monday to Thursday. Most have a caucus on Mondays. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday there are Select or Cabinet Committees to attend, and three afternoons a week Parliament sits (often until late into the night). They also have masses of other meetings and correspondence to deal with. If they aren’t a Minister or a party Leader they have one office asistant to help them. For doing all of this they are, in my estimation, miserably paid. If they are a constituency M P they have even more to do when they are back on home ground. Most are lucky to get one day a week off for their families and for rest and recreation. I wouldn’t do it for all the tea in China.


            Well said, Tony. We may not like what they do, but it is wrong to think it is even a tolerable let alone easy life.

    • You could always ring His Whoreship, Len Brown, for tips on how to get some on the side.

  24. 24

    Oh, do you mean how to maintain a mistress on the dirt cheap in Wellington so I’ve got somewhere to stay? He’d also have the low down Brown on how to score cheap/free hotels.

  25. While not at all wishing to discourage such quality debate, it did occur to me that you should all get a room.

    • Yes – whatever did happen to that nice Mr Brown and his political menagerie who were all over the sleaze media as a highly important event a few weeks ago? They seem to have vanished completely. Can anybody tell us where they and their terribly significant moral issue have gone? Or was it all a storm in a teacup cranked up all out of proportion as some of us suggested at the time


      Labour has lost support in the latest opinion poll and the slide is being attributed to its move to set a quota for women MPs.

      The Roy Morgan poll shows Labour down 3.5 points to 32 percent compared with a month ago, while National has gained 3.5 points to 45.5 percent.

      The pollsters believe Labour’s target of women making up 50 per cent of its caucus by 2017 is driving men to support National.

      Read more:

  26. The Luigi and Len sex show has been taken off air and replaced by the Roast Busters crime show. Audience figures are excellent. Leave your brain at the door, please.

    • Nothing rates like a moral panic

    • And now superseded by by the Billy and Johnny Crony Show.

      • He he

        Off topic but on message as always!

        • You people need a hobby. Did you ever think of taking up bowls?

          • What an odd suggestion. Why bowls? My father played bowls as he got older and took me with him to the bowling club sometimes when I was a child but I could never see the point. But then, I could never, and still can’t, see the point of any organised or team based recreational activity. Rugby football in particular, which seems mainly to entail large men running at one another and pushing one another over, has always seemed the archetypal fatuous activity to me. It might be a suitable thing to do for adolescent males to let off steam and get rid of their testoterone. But why, I have often wondered, do apparently grown men get so engrossed in it? Perhaps because many New Zealand men never get beyond adolescence – which is what much of the recent uproar about the recent ‘Roastbusters’ seems to me to have been about. There is a widespread atttitude in our culture which encourages oafishness and rugby football seems to me to encourage it. While that does not in any way excuse the behaviour involved in the Roastbusters affair it goes some way to explaining it. These boys are simply following the example of their elders and of the culture in which they were raised. But bowls? I don’t think so

            • I see we are fated not to see eye to eye on our great national game, tony simpson!

              No admiration from a literary point of view for T P McLean, A P Gaskell, and Greg McGee’s ‘Foreskins Lament’ – the latter admittedly an affirmation of some of the aspects of unreformed rugby culture as it existed over a generation ago?

              Still, it seems that every crack-pot has pinned the causes for the Roastbusters on a plethora of factors, so why not chuck rugby on the bonfire? However, IMHO, backed up by experience, I’ve found organised sport, including rugby when administered well is a good antitdote to misapplied youth.

              I’m unaware of any rugby team causing the same damage wrought by that famed bowls addict, Sir Francis Drake.

              • Actually I have seen and enjoyed Foreskin’s Lament in a number of performances and I have considerable respect both for Magee and the other writers you instance. I will nevertheless stand by my view about the connection between the culture of rugby football and an element of loutishness in our broader culture. Not that I expect people to share my views. I am sure that your experience of rugby, as with many others, has been different from mine and I’m happy for you to have had it that way. BTW that story about Francis Drake is, as you may be aware, without evidence and is probably apocryphal. As it happens I hold no brief for him either. He was a most unpleasant pirate by all accounts.


                  My God! After Brian Edwards you are undoubtedly the most contrary man in the country. No brief for Sir Francis Drake! :)

                  Have a good weekend, tony. Even if it won’t be out in the sun at the local bowling green.

            • It’s not just New Zealand – EVERY culture in the world enthusiastically follows some team sport. You should travel more: try wandering around Amsterdam or Brussels when the EUFA Cup parade comes to town, or to get some sleep in Miami when the Superbowl is on.

              Your most offensive comment that a healthy, adult interest in team sports can somehow relate to handful of thugs whose only obvious hobby is to stupify our 13 year old daughters, then film them in gang-rape and group sex situations for the internet pleasure of the offenders, and to the infinite embarrassment of the victims and their families, defies any credibility and firmly places you on the wrong side of the line. You, Sir, are an obnoxious fool.

  27. Rugby is not the only sport which encourages loutish behaviour. Its popularity may increase the instances witnessed publically. Any group of young or old men brought together by a common interest can exhibit loutish behaviour.

    • 27.1

      Oh really? I don’t recall any loutish behavior in the chess, soccer or cricket clubs of my youth. You must move in unpleasant circles.

    • Your second statement does not logically follow from the first. It is undoubtedly true that any group of men might exhibit loutish behaviour. Mostly they don’t. The point I was making was that rugby football seems to actively encourage such behaviour

      • 27.2.1

        No, it is not true that any group of men might exhibit loutish behavior. Some groups might. Most wouldn’t. Anyone who believes this is characteristic if all groups of men certainly moves in unpleasant groups or else is just irrational.

        • You have misunderstood me Alan. The point I was making was that any group might exhibit loutish behaviour – men, women, orangatangs, giraffes, whatever you like. If giraffes played rugby, those that did would be more inclined to loutishness than those that did not, was my point

          • Umm, what about co-relation is not proof of causation?

            Just saying…

            • Oh come on Kimbo. Laugh why don’t you. Especially at the thought of giraffes playing rugby


                Hmmm. The supply of lineout ball would be good, but I fear, because of their long backs and legs, and relatively light frames, their scrumming would not be up to it.

                Take note, tony: Rugby is New Zealand is a serious business, and NOT something we laugh about!


            I suspect you could cut the cake equally logically in a different direction and prove that given a socio-economic group inclined to behave loutishly those members who play organized sport including rugby are actually less likely than their peers to behave loutishly.


    Labour has lost support in the latest opinion poll and the slide is being attributed to its move to set a quota for women MPs.

    The Roy Morgan poll shows Labour down 3.5 points to 32 percent compared with a month ago, while National has gained 3.5 points to 45.5 percent.

    The pollsters believe Labour’s target of women making up 50 per cent of its caucus by 2017 is driving men to support National.

    Read more:

    • 28.1

      The Morgan poll is notoriously variable so I would want to see a much longer trend before jumping to any conclusions. However the policy is seriously stupid so it is likely to harm Labour with voters of both sexes in my opinion.

      • “Seriously stupid” ok Alan, please explain your interpretation of the ‘policy’…..careful, make sure that lovely wife of yours is not peeking while your typing.


          Kat, sadly my lovely wife of 45 years is so tragically and horrifically ill that for only the second time in my life I woke up on my birthday yesterday crying. And the first time was my original birth day.

          However, even were she well she would share my perspective. The first two major misconceptions are that the voters elect the caucus, not the party, and that most women marry men, not women. The notion that women will prefer to vote for women is mere self delusion and wishful thinking as is the belief that the party can second guess the electorate sufficiently to achieve a 50:50 split.

          On top of all that the policy cannot help but cause bitter ill-feeling, injustice and the selection of inferior candidates. It is simply a gift to ones political opponents and a burden for those women selected by it.

          Seriously stupid is an accurate assessment.


            So well put! I agree entirely. It is not a thoughtful ‘equity’ policy. No matter how they spin it, it is a QUOTA policy! 47% women MPs by 2014 and 50% by 2017 is not an euity policy, it is a managed quota policy. They WILL try for those numbers by hook or by crook or by spin or by BS. This was/is an unnecessary distraction going into the next election and win. Idiots! I personally don’t care a damn if all the Labour MPs are women or men or gay or whatever….as long as they are selected on basis of merit, leadership, intelligence, policies, popularity, party work and electability. Quota system is a very stupid backward policy. I am surprised that sensible, intelligent Labour leaders were not able to put some sense into the majority of the members at the conference.
            They may yet come to regret their decision.

  29. “The notion that women will prefer to vote for women is mere self delusion”
    Are you able to back this statement up?
    Surely woman would be in a better position to represent the needs of their sex.

  30. “Asked if they would prefer a male boss or a female boss or have no preference, 41% said no preference, 35% said a male boss and 23% a female boss. back in 1963 66% said they would prefer a male boss and just 5% a female boss”
    An 18% gain to having female bosses since 1963 .Not sure this really relates accurately to your reasoning.

    • When women are given top opportunities and become successful, they will gain that good leadership reputation.
      The most interesting part of the USA survey is the difference when political party vote was taken into account.
      Compared to many other countries, the USA is very conservative in many aspects.
      The interesting part in the next USA election will be, if Clinton gets the Democratic nomination and the number of women, especially the swing voters, will vote for her. During the Obama elections, more woman and fewer men tended to vote for the democrates who present more nurturing policies.

  31. Brian, your site sits on the front page of my Safari favourites and, accepting that you have advised us that you are taking a holiday from blogging, I still await in anticipation of reading another missive from you. It is sad, therefore, to see a discussion largely critical of the Labour Party (and I understand no longer policy) at the top for all to see. Is there a possibility that you will be posting something more positive in the near future?

  32. 32

    Brian, have you died again? Can the Ghost of BE manage a new post?