The SNP will this weekend at their Spring Conference debate the issue of all women shortlists for candidates to Holyrood; with the power to implement this policy transferring to the NEC should they convince the party to vote for it. Nicola Sturgeon backs the proposal and noted:
“I think people should get on merit. The problem is that’s not what happens very often just now. If we had a system that was purely based on merit, we’d have gender balance because women are 52 per cent of the population, and unless you think that women are somehow less capable, then if we had a merit-based system we wouldn’t have these problems of under-representation of women.
“I do think we need to look at system-wide approaches to deal with that so we can one day get to a position where all of these decisions are entirely based on merit.”
I’ll be honest from the start, should this motion pass I will be considering resigning as a member of the SNP, and before anyone decides to hammer me as an old male dinosaur please hear me out.
First of all, all women short lists restrict the freedom of local party members to select the best candidate at the time of the election irrespective of gender. The best candidate should win the nomination based on merit alone. Of course there should always be equality of opportunity, where a persons gender, sexual orientation, background, colour, religion and age do not count as factors in restricting any person putting themselves forward as a candidate for election.
The media really don’t help and should stop focussing on women who are political reps and their shoes, that is demeaning and a part of the wider issue of how women are perceived in politics, all female short lists will not change that.
You also don’t end discrimination against women in political parties by discriminating against men.
A YouGov Poll in August 2014 found that 56% of the public oppose the principle of all women short lists. The poll also found that 51% of women also opposed them.
We should be working harder to get more women involved in political parties and leadership positions through their work and skills, not their gender. There is a risk that all women short lists not only demean women, but demean the position that they are standing for due to the suspicion that maybe they were not the best candidate for the nomination in the first place. I could possibly accept the 50 50 idea of equal gender lists, that could work and leaves a democratic choice.
I also wonder if all women shorts lists might even be illegal under European Law, the Equality Commission have certainly said as recently as July last year that in their opinion all women short lists are illegal under the Equalities Act 2010.
We should also make parliament more female friendly around the times it sits, child care options etc. I am also not denying that there is need for a greater balance of women, not just in parliament, but across all decision making structures from business to education etc.
But to deny myself, should I wish, the opportunity to put myself forward for nomination as a potential candidate based on the fact I’m a dude is just plain wrong, as I said above, you do not end discrimination against women in politics by discriminating against men and any argument of the greater good is just not good enough.
No doubt many might want to lynch me for my view but it is how it is. Should the party decide to follow the Labour Party down this road I will be seriously considering my membership of the SNP. I cannot be a member of a party that discriminates against anyone, no matter how much they might argue that it is positive, it is needed, it is unfair to be fair etc. I cannot and will not accept it, there needs to be another way and to be honest women need to be treated better than an all female short list in my opinion.