What sort of crazy, ideologically blinkered party would require that a set proportion of its candidates be women? The UK Conservative Party, that's who.

According to the NZ Herald, which has sourced its story from goodness knows where, the Labour Party is to consider at its annual conference a rule change that will mandate an element of gender equality in its candidate selection processes.

Over on Kiwiblog, DPF is having a right old chortle about this proposed "man ban". (Get it? "Man" rhymes with "ban"! It's a (snortle, chuckle) "Man (giggle, shnuffle) ban"!!!).

Fair enough - he's no fan of Labour, and so why wouldn't he stick the boot in? But the bit that gets me in his post is this:

I fervently hope that the Labour Party conference adopts these new rules. It will help marginalise them and make them more unelectable. Imagine having to campaign for a party that bans men from seeking selection in some seats!

Yes! Imagine how harrowing that must be - and how it must almost automatically lead to electoral oblivion! In fact, we could find out just how terrible it is by looking across to the United Kingdom, where the Labour Party has had "all-women short lists" in place since 1997 ... the year Tony Blair led Labour to a record landslide victory. And they kept them in place (even legislating to allow for this, via the Sex Discrimination (Election Candidates) Act 2002) for each of the subsequent elections it won in 2001 and 2005.

But, of course, that's the UK Labour Party. Bunch of PC socialists, no doubt forced to placate the strident ideological feminists embedded in its ranks. A proper party, committed to allowing true competition on individual merit alone would never tolerate sentiments such as these:

We have to accept that our previous processes were consciously or unconsciously, directly or indirectly, discriminatory against women.  This also put women off from even trying to become ... MPs.  I am determined to correct this injustice, which was wrong in principle and bad for our party and for our country. This is about raising our game across the board.  It can't be done by excluding so many talented women or people from black and ethnic minorities.

Oh, you don't know who said that? Well, it was one David Cameron, back in 2006, defending his Conservative Party's decision to require constituencies to "pick [candidates] from a centrally agreed 'priority list' in safe and winnable seats.  At least half the names on the list would be women, with a 'significant proportion' from black and other ethnic minority groups." 

But don't worry. This wasn't adopting some sort of "fruit loop" postion (as DPF accuses New Zealand's Labour of). Cameron assured the public that these initiatives had "nothing to do with crude political calculation or crazed political correctness" but was all about "political effectiveness".  

Only if we engage the whole country in our party will our party develop ideas that benefit the whole country. The conversation we have in the Conservative party must reflect the conversation in the country, and the sound of modern Britain is a complex harmony, not a male voice choir.

But still, I hear you cry, this wasn't a "man ban", really ... was it? After all, Cameron's measures were just ensuring that there were some women available to be chosen - but the constituency still was free to pick a man (chosen purely on "merit" alone, of course) instead. So it is completely different.

Well, maybe. Except that, in 2010, Cameron strengthened his position even further, announcing that because not enough women candidates were being chosen, he would impose all-women shortlists for the 2015 election.

Asked why the system should not be left as a “meritocracy,” he said: “It doesn’t work.

“I have a lot of sympathy with that view but, and it’s a really big but, we tried that for years and rate of change was too slow.

“If you just open the door and say ‘you’re welcome, come in,’ and all they see is a wave of white [male] faces, it’s not very welcoming.

“Changing a political party and getting things done is never easy. I had had to change the way we select and promote women. I have given the party a big shock on this issue.

"We have to recognise that the rate of change wasn't fast enough. We weren't going to be representative enough as a party, so I took the view that we had to give things a big shift and a big shake-up.

“The end result at this coming election is a party that is much more balanced.”

So there you go. NZ Labour - shifting so far to the left and so blinded by ideological fervour that they are doing the same thing as the UK Conservative Party is doing!

Oh - as for why Labour might want to do this? Well, as of the end of 2012, there were 2,254,200 women in New Zealand, compared to 2,181,500 men. Yet only 13 of Labour's 33 MPs were women. See the difference there?

Mind you, it's still not as bad as some other parties. We might note, for instance, that only 15 of National's 59 MPs somehow managed to be born with a vagina instead of a penis. And given that it is a party which allegedly is so committed to selecting candidates on "merit" alone, we might then draw start to draw conclusions about what is considered important by that organisation's heirarchy and membership.

And perhaps, whisper it softly, that is why DPF has reacted so strongly to Labour's proposed rule change. After all, better to shriekingly decry your enemy than to look at your own side and ask "why?"

Comments (40)

by Graeme Edgeler on July 04, 2013
Graeme Edgeler

the United Kingdom, where the Labour Party has had "all-women short lists" in place since 1997 ... the year Tony Blair led Labour to a record landslide victory. And they kept them in place (even legislating to allow for this, via the Sex Discrimination (Election Candidates) Act 2002) for each of the subsequent elections it won in 2001 and 2005.

You could note that the reason the UK passed the Sex Discrimination (Election Candidates) Act was that the practice of all-women short lists was found to be illegal.

by BeShakey on July 04, 2013
BeShakey

If the National Party operates a meritocratic list, wouldn't that mean Claudette Hauiti, Nikki Kaye, Cam Calder, and Jonathan Young are all worse MPs than Aaron Gilmore since they were all ranked lower than him at some stage?

by Tim Watkin on July 04, 2013
Tim Watkin

Which is all very well, Andrew, but it's still a daft political move. Cameron has good reason to worry - only 16 percent of his MPs are women and he has a perception problem. And that's up from nine percent in 2005.

Labour has the opposite perception problem; it's seen as too politically correct by half. This just reinforces that. You know what the vast majority of voters will say? People should get their by merit, not quota. Or that this may have been worthwhile 20 years ago, but after two women PMs, and so many other women in high office you're fighting a battle mostly won.

By your own count Labour has 39% already (and the 2014 requirement is only to reach 45% anyway), National 25%.

I'm not against affirmative action in principle and maybe this is worthwhile and just. But there are ways and times to do things. A party-wide rule is just awful politics. National have been out-playing them for months, Labour has been muddling around in non-vital issues... and what's their next step? Some internal rule that raises the 'sisterhood' spectre again? It's as if they don't want to win. 

DPF has reacted like that because it's a gift.

by Andrew Geddis on July 04, 2013
Andrew Geddis

@Graham,

Quite. But the fact that Labour was so wedded to the concept that it amended the sex discrimination laws to permit it hardly suggests it was the electoral albatross that DPF suggests.

@Tim,

So your message is that a "man ban" is OK where it wins you votes, but not OK if it doesn't? That's a coherent position, I guess, just not a very principled one ... but I do hope you'll be good enough to let the women members of the Labour Party know when you think the "optics" are right for them to have an equal chance of being elected to Parliament as their male counterparts.

Snarkiness aside, my point was simply that it seems somewhat odd that DPF denounces the very idea of women-only candidate lists as a beyond "fruit loop" position that is inconsistent with meritocratic promotion practices when it is championed by the leader of the party he'd vote for (and quite possibly work for) if he happened to live in the UK.

by Nick Gibbs on July 04, 2013
Nick Gibbs

Tim's right this is a gift. Will it bring swing voters back to Labour or simply reinforce perceptions of Labour as too politically correct? Will this bring the working class males back to the party? Is it a policy of a party of the center? Does it simply appeal th those who are already in the Labour camp?

National will campaign hard on the image of "out of touch" Labour. And do well out of it.

 

by Matthew Percival on July 04, 2013
Matthew Percival

If the U.K Conservative Party is doing it it's a fair sign you probably shouldn't be doing it!

One thing that will count against Labour here is that they are implemnting a minimum quota for females but not a minimum quota for males. It makes it look like the feminist wing of the Labour party is wielding more than their fair share of power.

I find the whole thing rather insulting to women. It's as if to say women aren't good enough so we have to make a quota to get a few more of you in.

I couldn't care less if our MP's are male, female, somewhere in between, brown, black, white, yellow, green. Heck I don't care if they come from Mars. I want the best people in there doing the best job. Anything less doesn't provide the best outcomes for the people of New Zealand.

by Tim Watkin on July 04, 2013
Tim Watkin

Andrew, fair point re DPF's position - if it's loopy here it's loopy for Key's best mate in the UK.

But who says Labour's women don't have equal chance of being elected? Surely in the Labour Party of all places they have equal opportunity. How's the Labour system stacked against them? Just because the numbers are lower doesn't mean Labour's electing system is sexist. Assuming there's a problem at all, I'd assume it's a deeper social issue, not one inside Labour. So they're fighting on the wrong battleground and trying to fix a problem that doesn't exist in that place.

So my position is more that a 'man ban' may be useful where there's an obvious problem, but where there's not it's just bad politics.

And, that sometimes it's dumb to do a small right thing if it ends up causing a much bigger wrong thing. This isn't a small right thing that starts a revolution - eg Rosa Parks refusing to move - cos the revolution is well underway. Rather, it's the sort of thing that could be a signifcant factor in losing an election -- which means none of these elected women get to run the country anyway. So is it worth it? Is it good strategy? Nope.

by Phil Lyth on July 04, 2013
Phil Lyth

I wish that I knew enough about this to comment sensibly.

 

Instead I have to limit myself to saying that BESharkey's snark was a good'un.

 

by Andrew Geddis on July 04, 2013
Andrew Geddis

@Nick,

Will it bring swing voters back to Labour or simply reinforce perceptions of Labour as too politically correct? Will this bring the working class males back to the party?

I don't know. Except that the UK Labour Party managed to win three elections in a row with a similar version of this rule in place, so I hardly think it is the electoral poison you make out.

@Matthew,

I couldn't care less if our MP's are male, female, somewhere in between, brown, black, white, yellow, green. Heck I don't care if they come from Mars. I want the best people in there doing the best job.

So most everyone says. And yet, remarkably, the "best people" chosen to represent the people as a whole still disproportionately happen to be males. Seriously - take a look at the composition of every Parliament. How can you pretend that it is a function simply of the cream naturally rising to the top, irrespective of whether the individuals concerned are male or female? Which then invites three responses:

(1) Outright say that something about parliamentary politics makes men better at it than anyone else. Which, of course, raises a chicken and egg argument ... because who has created the process of parliamentary politics that we presently have? And what would it look like with different sorts of people involved in it; i.e. if women were 50% of parliamentarians, would "parliamentary politics" remain the same, or would different sorts of skills/attributes come to mark people out as being "the best" at it?

(2) Accept that it's "not right" that men somehow get chosen to be representatives (both because parties select them as candidates more often, and because voters then elect them) far more often than women do, but point out that things are "getting better" and that "with time" this imbalance will correct itself. Except that here's the number of female and male MPs elected under MMP:

  • 1996: 35-85
  • 1999: 37-83
  • 2002: 35-85
  • 2005: 40-81
  • 2008: 41-81
  • 2011: 40-81

So ... how long until the system magically fixes itself, and we get a Parliament that actually reflects the country that it is intended to represent? Because we've been stuck at a 33%-67% split for three terms now.

(3) Accept that it's "not right" that men somehow get chosen to be representatives (both because parties select them as candidates more often, and because voters then elect them) far more often than women do, but actually do something about it. Which is what Labour has chosen to do. And, frankly, I think they deserve more credit for that decision than they are getting.

by stuart munro on July 04, 2013
stuart munro

Labour needs to look more closely at how the Greens have managed the representation issue without massive conflict. The male and female co-leadership was brilliant, and has proven to be robust.

Quotas should not be set at 50%, that asks too much, in that interventention at 51% is probably premature. Labour would also be wise to specify that this affirmative action will also apply to men, should they become the disadvantaged fraction.

It seems poorly designed, and a gift to a failing National party that desperately needs such straws to grasp at, for all that a properly developed policy in the area will eventually stabilise Labour support to some degree.

 

by Scott Chris on July 04, 2013
Scott Chris

Introducing a female quota would be a smart political move for Labour in my opinion.

Makes a change.

 

by Andrew Geddis on July 04, 2013
Andrew Geddis

@Tim,

How's the Labour system stacked against them? Just because the numbers are lower doesn't mean Labour's electing system is sexist. Assuming there's a problem at all, I'd assume it's a deeper social issue, not one inside Labour. So they're fighting on the wrong battleground and trying to fix a problem that doesn't exist in that place.

Two points:

First up, I think an electing system that systematically produces less than 50% female MPs is sexist, by definition. It may not be consciously so - I doubt there's many in Labour (or elsewhere, for that matter) who openly think (much less say) "we should pick a bloke over a shiela". But institutional practices and unconcious biases can produce gender discriminatory outcomes irrespective of what those participating in them "think" they are doing.

Second, political parties are responsible for placing indviduals into Parliament, where they have considerable power to shape the laws and practices of society as a whole. So if it is true that the underrepresentation of women in Labour's ranks is reflective of "a deeper social issue", then isn't it Labour's responsibility as an organisation to do something about that?

by Nick Gibbs on July 04, 2013
Nick Gibbs

But isn't it a contravention of the Bill of Rights to prevent someone from participating fully as a member of a political party based on gender?

 

by Keir on July 04, 2013
Keir
Two things: one, while few aspects of the Labour Party selection process are consciously sexist, there are many parts which unfortunately do end up excluding women. Secondly, skill as a politician is learned. By selecting and supporting more women, we can give women the same opportunities to develop as politicians men get as a matter of course. I don't quite see what BORA has to do with it. Labour, after all, discriminates against people on political grounds, all the time (and we have a women's vp, a women's sector, etc.) Also, of course, I don't think a women only short list does stop men participating fully. Finally, while this is just the right thing to do, and that's enough, I'd be pretty happy fighting an election on feminism. Look at the states: women's issues are election deciders, and the views of a predominantly male group of commenters are a bad guide to the mood of the electorate.
by Pete George on July 04, 2013
Pete George

Should "we get a Parliament that actually reflects the country that it is intended to represent" by proportionally matching the gender, sexual orientation and ethnicity of  the population? That seems to be what Labour seem to be aiming at.

Or should Parliament reflect what the voters want?

It's possible that some females prefer a male electorate MP and a male Prime Minister, some of the time at least. And gays might prefer the straight candidates on offer over a token gay (or a gay less capable). It's possible that some Maori prefer John Key as PM over Tariana Turia, Metiria Turei or Hone Harawira.

If you dictate proportions of various things you are overriding democracy and the freedom of people to choose.

I think a better approach in a party is to actively look for good prospective female candidates and encourage enough of them to put themselves forward to balance the male prospects.

by Tim Watkin on July 04, 2013
Tim Watkin

Andrew, I hear you, but think you may be thinking about this upside down. You've started with the outcome and working backwards to assume what the cause.

Sexism implies some will, prejudice, ignorance or, at least, apathy on the issue. The Tories have a pretty clear culture problem inside their party, reflected in their selections. No-one can look at the Labour Party of the past decade, the legacy of Helen Clark and the influence of the likes of Margaret Wilson and Maryan Street (both presidents as well as MPs, remember), Lianne Dalziel, Ruth Dyson and many others and say they suffer prejudice or ignorance or anything like that.

Indeed, one of the joys within Labour circles when Shearer was elected leader was that he was a bit of an ordinary bloke. So while I don't question the outcome has seen more men than women end up as Labour MPs, but can't see any evidence that's down to institutional practices or biases.

As for the second point, sure. The party provided the first elected women PM, who in turn promoted able women, and together they appointed many others to senior positions in the public service and introduced female-friendly laws. Those things – and I'm sure many others they can do once in power – can make a real difference in boosting equality. They could even reform parliament more, for example, to make it less macho. And that may be getting closer to the real reason more women aren't MPs, and so therefore actually be useful.

I can't see how the problem is inside the party; it's already 'modeling' a pro-women attitude, so this rule will have next to no symbolic value; and to make any real change they need to be in power, something this rule makes less likely. So wrong-headed, for me.

And what Nick said. Whether it's contrary to the Bill of Rights or not, it'll be viewed as anti-male.

by Tim Watkin on July 04, 2013
Tim Watkin

Keir, if you want the Labour Party to fight an election on feminism, then you're simply not paying attention and you're dooming your party to years in Opposition. This isn't the US and having 17 rather than 13 women MPs is nothing like women's health issues (and they were only a small part of Obama's electoral maths).

@ Pete – quite right. You can go for the same goals with a much subtler and less damaging approach. You have to listen to your electorate, and if Labour didn't hear at the past two elections, maybe they'll get the message after losing next year.

Sure, there are times to make an unpopular stand because it's right. Is this really the one to die in a ditch over?

by Keir on July 04, 2013
Keir
Obviously you're not going to go to the polls on "smash the patriarchy". But it's kinda revealing that the discussion here hasn't involved a single obviously female voice, but a great many obviously male voices (oh, I see Josie's written a separate post.)

The Labour Party has adopted many progressive stances, been told they were overly pc etc, and then found that in the long run, they were on the right side of history. Put it the other way: in ten years time, do you think anyone will be attacking Labour for reaching 50% female representation in 2014 or 2017?

Further, it's probably worth noting that evidence from overseas shows in absence of quotas, representation stalls at 40%, as it has here in NZ.

by Tim Watkin on July 04, 2013
Tim Watkin

Well, I can't change my gender to claim more legitimacy in this discussion... and the men have offered different views.

But you're missing my points – that this is this wrong way to fight the fight (and arguably the wrong fight), you're already on the right side of history in the gender debate, the public doesn't care about this right now and it looks self-indulgent, and it's harming your electoral chances to actually do useful things for women (as Josie says as well). And again, this isn't taking the front seat on the bus... or going nuclear-free... or introducing state homes. It's a procedural issue that will make a minor difference but do disproportionate damage.

by Andrew Geddis on July 04, 2013
Andrew Geddis

@Nick,

But isn't it a contravention of the Bill of Rights to prevent someone from participating fully as a member of a political party based on gender?

No. The Bill of Rights Act doesn't apply to political parties. Nor would it be a contravention of the Human Rights Act to apply a quota measure in order to correct for past discrimination.

by Keir on July 04, 2013
Keir
And Josie's more than welcome to make that argument on the conference floor. But this is an internal matter, about what kind of party labour is. And I think Labour's a party that's willing to fight for women's representation.

It's impossible to argue this is worthwhile if you think this is purely a procedural issue (or, rather, if you don't think that procedural issues, being the implementation of substantive issues, matter) but I think this is worthwhile, and so do a lot of other people in the party.
by Andrew Geddis on July 04, 2013
Andrew Geddis

@Tim,

And yet, even in the Labour Party with all its gender equality commitments, somehow women have never been "meritorious" enough to warrant close to 50% representation. Apparently not because of anything like sexism or nothing (because we can't see any at work ... although, of course, we can't see what we can't see). Instead, this outcome is just because of - what? "Society"? "What people want"?

So, to reiterate a point I've made earlier, given that not even the best of intentions have delivered the right outcome, what do we (or rather, Labour) do? Just shrug and say "oh well, politics really is a man's game"? Or play a patience card and say "someday, in the far off distant never-never, things will recalibrate and then we'll get representational equality"? Or say "dammit - the people wearing our party badge in Parliament ought to look like the population they represent ... so we'll bind ourselves to doing so with a rule that makes it happen"?

Finally, the chief (actually, just about the only) argument that's been raised against the last approach is "it'll look bad". And the chief (actually, just about the only) reason for that is commentators (on this thread included) have immediately started to dust off the "sisterhood" meme. Which, frankly, says a lot about how gender biased our political discourse still is - and perhaps should make us a little less tut-tutty about the way Julia Gillard got treated in Australia. I'm not sure we're that much better here.

by Andrew Geddis on July 04, 2013
Andrew Geddis

@Pete George,

I think a better approach in a party is to actively look for good prospective female candidates and encourage enough of them to put themselves forward to balance the male prospects.

Genius. I'm sure no party in New Zealand has ever thought of doing this. That's the problem solved, then.

by Peggy Klimenko on July 05, 2013
Peggy Klimenko

Isn't it interesting that there hasn't been a single post from a woman? There you all are, talking about us as if we aren't here. Well we are...

It's indisputable that candidate selection processes are biased against women, whatever the intentions of those who established these processes. If that were not the case, there wouldn't be the persistent gender disparity in Parliament, as pointed out by Andrew Geddis. The range of competency and suitability with regard to candidacy must be broadly similar between males and females, after all.

@ Nick Gibbs: Will this bring the working class males back to the party? Your comment neatly illustrates the underlying issue: misogyny. Don't footle about calling it sexism. Why should it make a difference to working class males that there are more women in Parliament? What's their problem, if it isn't misogyny?

I've been horrified at how Julia Gillard was treated by the Autralian media, and I've defended the NZ political environment to an Australian relative: it wouldn't happen like that here, I said. There needs to be a fundamental change in the political discourse over there; what happened to her wasn't the rough and tumble of politics. It was misogyny of the most egregious sort.

While this discussion has in no way descended to the depths plumbed in Australia with regard to Gillard, I think I'm right to point out that objections to more female representation in Parliament - and quotas, if that's what it takes to get there - are based on misogyny.

I'm all for Labour adopting this policy. Parliament needs to be representative: it isn't at present.

by Pete George on July 05, 2013
Pete George

"Finally, the chief (actually, just about the only) argument that's been raised against the last approach is "it'll look bad""

In your rush to condescension you ignored other points I made.

Should Parliament reflect what the voters want or what parties try to force us to vote for?

And I'll add another that's related - what do voters want in their elected representatives. Would people prefer a Parliament that "represents Maori, ethnic groups, the disabled, sexual orientation and age groups" - or would they prefer people they think can best run the country while representing all minority interests? It might be that voters don't think the token senile dementia candidate is as good as the Rastafarian transsexual (or vice versa).

Looking at the Labour list from 2011 I think they would be better trying to lift the quality more than the quantity of females. Instead they dropped one of their more respected and electable MPs, Lianne Dalziel, to 22 on the list and she would now prefer to be mayor rather than MP.

Perhaps Labour should demand that rankings aren't skewed by a critera they haven't included - factions.

Labour have much more pressing issues than forced balance of gender and selected other demographics.

But if they want to improve gender balance they need to look at where they recruit most of their candidates from - staffers and unions. Oh, aren't those two groups overrepresented?

by Andrew Geddis on July 05, 2013
Andrew Geddis

Should Parliament reflect what the voters want or what parties try to force us to vote for?

I don't understand what this means. Parliament reflects what the voters vote for. But voters can only vote for the options that parties present them with. So the distinction is one without any content.

Unless you're trying to argue that every individual voter somehow has a right to have parties present them with the particular candidate that they personally would most prefer to vote for. Which is, with respect, nonsense.

by Pete George on July 05, 2013
Pete George

Ok, I'll put it a different way which is something I think Tim is getting at.

If Labour ensure their caucus "represents Maori, ethnic groups, the disabled, sexual orientation and age groups" - as well as the other current representation of factions, staffers and unionists - instead of putting up candidates and a list that voters are most likely to prefer (competence being high on that list) then "disproportionate damage" is a real risk.

A small number of Maori, ethnic groups, the disabled, sexual orientation and age groups represented in opposition are not going to be very effective.

But to ensure some gender balance I would question the quality of Labour's male representation too. Quality of candidates and MPs is a major issue across all parties.

And I doubt that Labour's attempt at getting a balanced caucus is going to do much to attract better prospective candidates. It will probably do the opposite - unless you want a melting pot of mediocrity.

by Andrew Geddis on July 05, 2013
Andrew Geddis

The problem with that claim, Pete, is that the metrics of "competence" or "quality" as currently applied somehow, mysteriously, magically result in a disproportionate number of male candidates getting chosen (and subsequently elected) to Parliament. And this has happened time-and-time again (the numbers of women in Parliament have not shifted since 2005, and barely have risen since 1996), it happens even in parties that are strongly committed to gender equality (such as Labour, which can't get above 40% representation), and it seems impervious to your suggested solution of "finding more better qualified women" (which is what every political party tries (and has tried) to do, to no discernable effect).

So given that basic fact, there are only two available explanations: 

(1) Women are less competent or of lower quality than men, full stop; or,

(2) The apparently clear and unbiased metrics of competence or quality are not, in fact, neutral when applied in candidate selections. Meaning that the sorts of things that get recognised as making a "good" candidate are things that men (on the whole, in the main) are more likely to display than women. Meaning that the people who get elected to Parliament disproportionately display qualities that, in fact, don't represent more than half of the country's population.

 Therefore, if (2) is your preferred explanation (because I assume you aren't going to go with (1), at least not in the open), then you have three choices.

(1) Shrug, and say "whatevs".

(2) Say "gosh - we must try even harder to recognise our unconcious biases and make sure that our ideas of "competence" and "quality" really are blind to gender." Which is, of course, a form of "discrimination", in that you are going to "skew" the selection criteria from what it was (i.e. favourable to male candidates) to something new (i.e. equally favourable to female candidates) in order to produce a desired outcome. But also note how hard this is to accomplish - as Tim has pointed out, Labour has tried its damndest to create selection processes that treat men and women the same ... yet the representation gap continues.

(3) Say "well, despite our best efforts, we just can't come up with a selection process that treats women equally to men. So we'll tie our own hands by forcing ourselves to do so, through mandating that the MPs who represent our party actually reflect the population of the country as a whole." To which you'll no doubt say "but those candidates will be of lower competence and quality" ... at which point the whole circle begins again.

Finally, instead of lecturing Labour on the shortcomings of its candidate selection policies and the calibre of its candidates, perhaps you might care to take a look at the party list that you yourself were a part of in 2011? Amazingly, despite women being more than 50% of the population, only one was judged to be "competent" or "quality" enough to make the top 10, and only 2 in total.

1 Peter Dunne (Ohariu)
2 Doug Stevens (Nelson)
3 Rob Eaddy (Hutt South)
4 Sultan Eusoff (Palmerston North)
5 Alan Simmons (Taupo)
6 Bryan Mockridge (Mt Roskill)
7 Vanessa Roberts (Ilam)
8 Pete George (Dunedin North)
9 Ram Prakash (Botany)
10 Martin Gibson (East Coast)
11 Clyde Graf (West Coast-Tasman)
12 Damian Light (North Shore)
13 Andrew McMillan (Rangitata)
14 Diane Brown (Otaki)
15 Brian Carter (Bay of Plenty)

So ... Matthew 7:5.

by Scott Chris on July 05, 2013
Scott Chris

Isn't it interesting that there hasn't been a single post from a woman? 

Yes. Why is that?

Why should it make a difference to working class males that there are more women in Parliament? What's their problem, if it isn't misogyny?

Well assuming working class males are all the same, I guess it must be.

by Peter Dixon on July 05, 2013
Peter Dixon

If the aim of affirmative action is to create gender equality, then it must also be accompanied by cultural change. Affirmative action can create needed change to equalise the gender gap in the sense that it means women will have more perspectives in parliament, but to neglect the obvious cultural problems like the wage gap between the genders and other entenched social norms which exacerbate gender inequality, would be to ignore a key aim of equality between the genders : that women should be able to pursue their interests individuall and independently of discourses which attempt to dominate their experience. Cultural change actually convinces women that it is a good idea to enter politics and creates the kind of politics that your  looking for. Without cultural change you may even find that women, recreate the same barriers to entry that made political participation difficult  for women the first place. I see no reason to suggest that women's involvement ipso facto means that gender equality is achieved. It is one part of a much broader argument and should be presented as such.

by Danyl Mclauchlan on July 05, 2013
Danyl Mclauchlan

Here's what confuses me about the 'man ban' proposal.

It addresses the problem of female candidates not getting selected for electorates, right? And the proposed solution is that electorates can chose to have female only selections, right?

But how many electorates that fail to select female candidates on current settings are going to chose to have female only selections? Even if they did, given that permission is needed from the party leadership and most of the senior MPs in the party seem virulently opposed to this proposal, how often will that approval be given?  And even if it was, how many candidates would want to be nominated under the 'man ban' provisions knowing the opposition, media and much of the public will mock them for it mercilessly throughout the election campaign? 

 

by Tim Watkin on July 05, 2013
Tim Watkin

Andrew, 'it's a bad look' is not the only argument I've made, though it's pretty fundamental in a political debate. Politics isn't always about judging voters, sometimes it's about listening to them, even if you don't like what they say. MPs sometimes change views to reflect their electorate or the times, PMs do deals with dodgy countries they'd rather not... They compromise until the find a line where they can't. I'm saying this is a dumb line for Labour to choose.

My other main point (yes there were several others) was that the Labour Party's selection process is not the problem. Do you really think that the fact Labour has fewer than 50% MPs is down to its selection criteria? If so, fair enough. I don't. It's about generations of sexism and social tradition and parliament's culture and child-raising practices and so on. 

Sure, a quota will ensure those few extra MPs. Will it work as an example to society or change anything significant? Given that Labour have already led the way in this, it's unlikely. And is it anything more than symbolic if you get a gender-balanced list, but can't win an election to actually make substantial change.

But I'm repeating myself.

by Toby on July 05, 2013
Toby

I think its misleading to frame this as Labour abandoning candidate selection based on merit in favour of political correctness. no one is suggesting that competency is irrelevant to the question of candidate selection, and at the end of the day, there isn't any exam that prospective MPs take that would allow us to judge one candidates 'merit' over another. In situations where there are two (or more) candidates who look like they would be of sufficient calibre to be Labour's candidate in an electorate, I don't have an issue with other considerations coming into play ie gender equality. I don't see why when can't have a party caucus (and a parliament as a whole), which is both competent and broadly representative.

Picking up on Pete's point about "Should Parliament reflect what the voters want or what parties try to force us to vote for?", I think if you asked most voters what the ideal gender split for parliament would be, the overwhelming response would be 50/50. So we get a situation where the individual candidate selection processes are consistently resulting in an outcome which is less equal that most voters would want, and that it is one group that is consistently under-represented in Parliament. So I don't think its quite as simple as political parties going against what voters want in the individual candidate selections when the overall outcome is not what voters would ideally want. 

I also really wish we could do away with this notion that this is what Labour is 'focused' on, or that this shouldn't be debated as it is a 'non-vital  issue'. This is, after all, a proposed change to the selection process which is to be debated at the party conference at a later date, not the central plank of Labours 2014 campaign. This sentiment is often expressed when it comes to discussing issues of equality (ie "why is Parliament debating on gay marriage when the economy is in such a state", or "why is Obama focusing on issues like women's health when the deficit is about to destroy us all"), but I for one have some faith in the ability of our MPs to deal with more than one issue at any point in time. It was predictable that this would generate some flak from the right-wing blogs, which would naturally be echoed in the mainstream media, but if Labour was to conduct itself on the basis that it should refrain from considering something it thinks is right because of what the right wing blogs might say, then it would not be a party worth supporting in my view.  

 

by Keir on July 05, 2013
Keir
My house is full of cracks because of earthquake damage. However, for obvious reasons, I don't intend to fix that problem by moving the earth back to where it once was. Likewise, the patriarchy may be to blame; however that doesn't mean the only solution is the wholesale dismantling of the patriarchy, or even that that is a possible solution.
by Pete George on July 05, 2013
Pete George

Andrew, while it's sidetracking, the UF list was nothing to do with only one was judged to be "competent" - it was because of a lack of females putting themselves forward. Two I know pulled out for differing reasons, but there is a lack of women active in the party. Doing something about it is a major challenge.

In fact getting competent candidates to put themselves forward of any gender is a major challenge as even the large parties demonstrate.

There are major deterrents to candidancy, and most people simply aren't interested.

The time and cost of being a candidate is substantial, especially if you want any chance of success.

If successful the impact on private life and family is substantial.

And most competent and sensible people wil not expose themselves to the exposure an MP gets, especially as they become more successful and prominent. It can be nasty, brutal.

And I suspect that females are less likely to want to expose themselves to all the criticism, abuse and ridicule politicians can get.

And current Labour MPs and supporters are as bad as any at nasty personal attack politics.And yes, that's mostly a male thing.

That's a major turnoff for many people, and probably more so women. Unless MPs can demonstrate that the job is decent and respectfulI think parties will keep struggling to attract good women candidates in particular.

I doubt there are many little girls who say "I want to grow up and be like Trevor Mallard". Or even work anywhere near him and some of his colleagues.

Toby says "I think if you asked most voters what the ideal gender split for parliament would be, the overwhelming response would be 50/50."

But I think if you ask most women (and men for that matter) if they would like to be an MP you will get an emphatic negative reply.

Imposing gender quotas does nothing to address the biggest problems.

by Andrew Geddis on July 05, 2013
Andrew Geddis

Imposing gender quotas does nothing to address the biggest problems.

So as seems par for the course with you, Pete, it turns out that there really is nothing can be done about the problem and so it's best to just let it lie in the hope that someday, down the track, in the future everyone just gets a bit nicer and more polite to each other.

Alternatively, if there is something that can be done in the here and now, you've got your own party to show just how to fix the issue ... so maybe rather than lecturing Labour about why its (possible) rule change "just won't work" and engaging in your somewhat tiresome Trevor Mallard fixation, you could spend a bit more time away from your keyboard convincing some "competent" women to hitch their wagon to the UnitedFuture locamotive.

by Pete George on July 05, 2013
Pete George

Who's lecturing who Andrew?

And no, I haven't said there is nothing that can be done. I think I've made more efforts than most in the blogosphere to do something different and not "just let it lie". 

You have no idea how much time I spend away from my keyboard. Tomorrow I'll be spending most of my time away it talking to peeople from around the South Island about how to try and fix some issues.

What do you do apart from lecturing? You seem to be happy to sit back and criticise but I don't see you doing much away from your keyboard..

by Pete George on July 05, 2013
Pete George

Ah, and Andrew, interesting to see you going in to bat for Trevor Mallard on a thread where you are trying to promote more women in politics.

To me Mallard represents some of the worst of politics, the negative and sometimes nasty side, both within the Labour Party and in Parliament. I think Mallard style politics is a major turnoff for people who might conntemplate getting involved and trying to get elected. Women especially. Who would want to risk being accused (without evidence) and attacked Mallard style? 

Thanks for highlighting a major mallardy in Labour's ranks. If they got rid of his sort of crap they might attract better candidates, and more women. And Those who didn't want to get involved might see some more good and some more decency in the house.

by nommopilot on July 06, 2013
nommopilot

"You have no idea how much time I spend away from my keyboard."

Clearly not enough.  Now please go away and solve the South Island's problems for them, and don't come back until you have.

Sincerely,

the rest of teh internet

by Pete George on July 08, 2013
Pete George

I asked those who should know about this - female MPs. This is Metiria Turei's views:

---

The Greens are the only caucus to have a majority of women MPs and to have a woman in place 1 on the party list in 2011. We have a gender equity rule for our list (no more than 60% of any gender from place 6), coleadership at every level (national, provincial, branch, electorate) and a strong culture of gender equity.

I think the barriers to women’s political participation are systemic and are based in the social and cultural pressures that women face everyday, all their lives. We still live in a deeply patriarchal society and as a result it can be very difficult for women to value their own skills and expertise because others don’t. Women are less likely to push themselves forwards as a result. This is why we need to have structure, rules and systems to encourage women into leadership roles in politics and elsewhere. We see this play out in parliament, in boardrooms, partners of law firms etc.

Parliament is particularly aggressive place and many women quite sensibly decide to engage in politics that is more constructive and less hostile.

The nature of parliamentary work is very anti family and the latest issue for Nanaia Mahuta shows this. A woman MP’s appearance is under greater scrutiny and recent media about me also shows this, although I have seen worse treatment of women MPs in the past.

It’s also my experience that male Speakers treat women MPs with less respect than they do male MPs. I talked about this to Speaker Smith very directly and challenged his treatment of women MPs. It is often difficult for men to understand their own prejudicial behaviour and is frankly tiresome having to explain it to them on a regular basis just to get equitable treatment.

It has been the case that women have been less likely to be selected for safe seats. But other MPs who come from electorate seat based seats will have more information about this.

I favour rules and structures to promote a cultural change. I am very pleased with the Greens approach of rules, systems and expectations to gender equity.

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