It seems there is nothing the Left won’t subject to quotas, except perhaps competence. I declare myself inveterately opposed to such things; a non-solution to a non-problem, or as Margaret Thatcher so eloquently put it: “When you stop selecting by ability, you have to select according to some other inevitably less satisfactory criterion.”
I cannot help but think back to the risible attempt of Sir Lenny Henry to address the “inequality” suffered by the non-white community, as he received the ‘Outstanding Achievement Award’ at the South Bank Sky Arts Award ceremony, three years ago. You might think the knighted, multi-millionaire public figure would have trouble playing the victim, but he gave it a good shot:
You know, my thing is nobody left behind, no one left behind now in our industry. Let’s have people behind the scenes, and on camera, and let’s have that be diverse and representational.
We shouldn’t have to put up anymore with walking onto a set and not seeing people who look like us. So, 50/50 male female, 15 or whatever you want, 15% BAME, and you know 0.3% people with disabilities working in our industry—that’s disgraceful.
The trouble was, research available at the time showed that Sir Lenny was way off the mark: ethnic minorities and gay people are in fact significantly over-represented on British television, with non-whites accounting for about 13% of the national workforce, but securing 23% of on-screen roles. Meanwhile, gays are almost twice as prevalent as might be expected: landing 11.9% of roles, rather than their estimated 6.4% share of the national population. You can expect a retraction from Sir Lenny any day now…
The latest demand for quotas is National ‘Ask Her To Stand’ Day (21st November), which demands a 50:50 gender split across parliament. The spurious clamour for quotas is usually matched only by the hypocrisy of those pushing them—and this case is no exception. Among those foremost in trying to market themselves as uber-feminists are London Mayor, Sadiq Khan, whose modus operandi is attending gender-segregated events; Keir Starmer, who cannot get enough of all-women shortlists (except for Labour leader, obviously); and Rishi Sunak, who spent the best part of the year tearing Liz Truss to pieces.
Their tweets were odiously similar:
Ignoring for a moment the obvious opportunism, ‘gender equality’ across parliament might sound like a good thing, particularly when one considers the arguments which are usually parroted for the lack of equal representation: parliament is too aggressive/male-dominated, politics feels ‘unrelatable,’ concerns about abuse (particularly online), the long hours required, invisible barriers to women, and misogyny.
Again, I must declare an interest: I am hardly a feminist, but I don’t like the notion that any section of society feels unwelcome in the public sphere. The problem is, once you dig down into the details, you see that the aforementioned arguments are misguided at best and disingenuous at worst.
Parliament is certainly aggressive. MPs argue about the defence of the realm, so how could it be otherwise? Still, with female MPs at an all-time high of 35%, Westminster is not quite the bear-pit that Margaret Thatcher faced and brought to heel. Moreover, where is the widespread concern over the preponderance of female primary school teachers (86%), psychologists (88%), therapists (89%), and legal secretaries (96%)—and the obvious trauma this will inflict upon any males considering those professions?
Women may well find politics unrelatable, but I believe this is not the fault of parliament itself, but merely the fact that women are less engaged with politics generally. Research clearly indicates that even with all-women shortlists, and the high demand from parties to field female candidates, women are less likely than men to participate in political activities, make campaign contributions, join political organisations or write letters to political representatives.
The issue of abuse is of course a serious one, especially when one considers the high-profile murders of Jo Cox and David Amess. Yet once again, the widely-accepted notion that women bear the brunt of abuse, particularly online, is utterly false. Cherry-picked data aside, not only do males endure the majority of abuse, it is conservative men who suffer the most.
Parliamentarians certainly work long hours, but this is part of the job. The reason this represents an issue for most women, is that they are much less-inclined to work long hours than men. In addition, they typically have a higher number of life goals, with a smaller proportion of these involving the achievement of power at work. Women find high-level positions just as attainable but much less desirable than men, anticipating more negative outcomes and greater conflict with other life goals.
The elephant in the room, however, is the simple fact that men and women make different life choices—and that is something no amount of social gerrymandering can assuage. Women are, on average, less driven than men (I know, shoot me now). Specifically, this manifests itself at the apex of their careers: women start out as ambitious as men, but their career ambitions .
Even if you are an advocate of such things, quotas are fraught with difficulty. While naturally gender is an obvious principle of analysis, it is not the only one. What about age, race, religion, or sexual orientation—how long before these categories are mandatory too? What about vegans, philatelists, or Seventh Day Adventists—why do they never get a look in? Besides which, most politicians no longer even know what a woman is—does the female pronoun adoptee, Eddie Izzard, add to the female MP numbers or detract from them?
Far more sinister, regarding quotas, is the misapprehension they stem from. The victim narrative so beloved of the Left tells us that unequal distributions per se reflect societal discrimination. But this is quite wrong. Unequal distributions do reflect discrimination, namely the free choices that individuals make and should be encouraged to make. Furthermore, far from reducing inequality, quotas often simply trade questionable inequality for a definite one, being as they are not only frequently anti-white, but also anti-male. If you doubt that, consider why there are no campaigns against too many Asians in tech, too many blacks in the NBA, or why all the worst, dirtiest, lowest paid, and most dangerous jobs are performed almost exclusively by the patriarchy itself? Moreover, why should an otherwise equal (or sometimes superior) candidate be denied employment because his white skin or Y chromosome fails to tick any boxes? Why is such wilful discrimination desirable?
The UK Conservative Party has now had three female Prime Ministers, while the Labour Party cannot even muster a female leader. That would seem to suggest that erring on the side of competence, rather than political grandstanding is the way to go. So no, we don’t need quotas for female MPs. We require, as we have always done, the best man—or woman—for the job.