More female MPs needed, says Labour

// 26 November 2007

Female Labour MPs and officials will be meeting today to discuss plans to increase the representation of women in politics, according to a report by The Guardian.

At this summit deputy PM Harriet Harman, along with 50 female MPs as well as MEP Glenys Kinnock, deputy London mayor Nicky Gavron, and the party’s leader in Scotland, Wendy Alexander, will discuss how women can be encouraged to participate in Parliament, as well as in national and regional assemblies.

The group will also discuss how to increase the numbers of black and asian women involved in Labour politics. Harman will soon receive the results from the pressure group Operation Black Vote (OBV), examining whethere the party ” could introduce shortlists for parliamentary seats made up only of ethnic minority candidates.”

OBV claimed in September that the Tories were by far more successful that Labour in getting ethnic minority candidates into safe seats, although Harman was quick to counter this by demonstrating Labour’s continued dedication to increasing female participation.Referring to the Tories, she said:

“They have only 17 women MPs compared to our 96 and remain a male dominated party which fails to understand women’s lives…Labour is proud to have a mighty force of powerful elected women representing the interests of women and families at local and national government in Scotland, Wales and England.”

Politics should be made more accessible to those who are deterred by the archetypal white, middle-class male politician, and with a woman now occupying the higher aechelons of the Labour government, it’s likely aspiring female political aficionados are going to get involved.

However, to a certain extent is this not patronising? And should more be done to encourage those from areas of socio-economic depravation to get involved, irrespective of gender or race? By introducing considerations for women and ethnic minority candidates, and ensuring they get seats, does this not leave them susceptible to claims that they only got in because of special dispensation – devaluing their professional abilities? Perhaps what needs to be changed is the social prejudices that mean female candidates and ethnic minority candidates are not given the equal platform on which to compete with their white middle-class male counterparts in the first place? Although this would be a big undertaking, and one difficult to enforce. It’s good to see that the Government does recognise the need to represent a diverse number of voices in Parliament.

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