Today, Harriet Harman repeated her argument that Labour should change its rules so that the cabinet is split 50:50 in terms of women and men representation. This lead me to think about whether this would be different to all-women shortlists.
I don’t agree with all-women shortlists – they are unhelpful, make out women need some sort of ‘special’ treatment, take attention away from the policies that need to happen to help women enter politics (better childcare for example), and it actually reinforces instead of undermining the culture they seek to challenge. Where Harman’s proposals, for the cabinet to be more representative, differ is that the women have already been elected, so they have the democratic right to take office. It is not plausible to argue that there would not be enough able women to form half of the cabinet.
However, maybe this is contradictory to my opposition to all-women shortlists? Is it just another form of ‘special treatment’? Is it really fair for a law to bind the government to positively discriminate towards women? Is this just forced democracy? In the same way that all-women shortlists are artificial producers of democracy, maybe the same applies to Harman’s proposals?
It is a tricky call. I am yet to decide. Part of me agrees with Harman, as it is pure discrimination and undemocratic to only have 4 women in the cabinet. But is binding 50:50 split via law going to really help? Will it just create envy towards the women’s movement, or will it result in long-term cultural change? Or should we just wait until the women’s movement progresses further to help increase women in the cabinet without legal assistance? Or am I being too utopian in thinking to imagine a time when there would be a culture where women are equally represented in politics?
Too many questions, but important questions which require debate and deliberation.
Update: Question Time convinced me that Harman’s proposals are much the same as all-women shortlists and thus, I have come down against them.