I worked for the Conservative party as a business consultant at their London campaign HQ (2006-8), during which time I became a party member and minor donor. In the autumn of 2009 David Cameron announced his intention to introduce all-women shortlists for some seats (winnable ones, inevitably) for the coming general election. Along with many others members, I cancelled my party membership on the day of his announcement. The plan was quietly shelved.
Caroline Spelman MP was the party’s chairman during part of the time I worked for them. Four years ago we posted a piece titled Caroline Spelman MP drives me to despair, Laura Bates drives me to drink. In a BBC radio interview she was calling for all-women shortlists despite admitting that during her tenure as party chairman, ten times more men than women had applied to become prospective parliamentary candidates (PPCs). This partly explains why MPs selected from all-women shortlists are invariably blithering idiots (Jess Phillips comes inevitably to mind). Needless to say, the Tories wish to jump on the anti-meritocratic bandwagon, because vagina.
There’s an appalling piece by Lauren McEvatt in the current edition of The Spectator, Should the Tories consider all-women shortlists? The issue of gender-typical differences in ambition to become a PPC merits not one sentence from the silly woman. An extract:
Is it possible that women are not standing because they are worried about the rough-and-tumble of Westminster politics? I like to think we’re made of stronger stuff than that, so I sincerely hope that’s not the reason. [J4MB: Your ‘hope’ is driving your analysis?] Equally, is there a sense that it’s hard to strike a balance between having a family and work life? I know many of my female contemporaries share my view that having children before standing for election would be our preferable outcome, but this is not always possible. [J4MB: Why not? If only there were means couples could use to prevent pregnancy…]
In order to overcome this, [J4MB: To overcome WHAT?] the Tories may have to [J4MB: WHY may they have to?] consider adopting a selection system that I have always felt to be patronising to women, namely the all-women shortlist [J4MB: It privileges women, it doesn’t patronise them]. It could then be imposed [J4MB emphasis] on an adequate percentage of winnable seat selections. [J4MB emphasis: So, the same system that’s been adopted by the Labour party, the Lib Dems, and the SNP. That makes sense.] While this would certainly guarantee us an increase in female representation within the Conservative parliamentary party, would this guarantee us high-calibre candidates? [J4MB: No, it would by definition guarantee you low-calibre candidates, because they wouldn’t have to be better than the best men available.]