If political parties cannot hugely boost the number of women in UK parliament by 2020, they should be forced by law to field female candidates in at least 45% of constituencies, Britain’s prime minister Theresa May has been urged. Financial penalties are also being suggested for those parties that fail to comply.
The proposal to legislate for this ratio comes as the UK government plans to redraw the boundaries of Britain’s political map, which will cut the current 650 constituencies to 600 – a move that could adversely impact the number of women considered and therefore elected.
The UK Women and Equalities select committee chair, Maria Miller, said Britain had slipped to a “shockingly low” 48th in the world league table for female representation from 25th in 1999.
Admirable as the target ratio is, you have to wonder if the male-dominated world of politics will accept moves to legislate for it. But then you also have to wonder if legislation is the only way to achieve it.
Politics is a boys club and always has been. Convincing women to even put their hands up as candidates is difficult when incidents like the tragic death of MP Jo Cox is a reality in today’s world.
Progressive action — no, we’re not going to use the term ‘affirmative action’ — needs to be driven from the top down; and also to be be supported by the entire political system. That’s a tough ask when it is evident (and no secret) that to gain power in the UK and other leading nations, you need to already playing politics. And that doesn’t mean throwing female candidates into election contests they cannot win. For example: in seats where the opposition holds a steel-clad grip on the majority vote.
“We need to see more women candidates in winnable seats,” Miller said.
The committee suggested that political parties should initially be allowed to try to meet the challenge voluntarily through published plans; however this looks unlikely due to the nature of the political game.
Other countries that fall behind female representation in Government include the Unites States and Australia, with the latter’s 45th parliament to have lowest number of women MPs since 1993.
Canada on the other hand … well we can all learn from PM Justin Trudeau who has equal representation in his diverse cabinet. Perhaps the crusty career politicians in London’s Whitehall need to take some lessons from young Mr Trudeau about how to run a government that truly is ‘by the people’ … not just by the male 50% of them.