Wednesday, 5 August 2009

When fools rush in

I did something stupid yesterday. I ran in guns blazing to comment on somebody's blog when I didn't know the entire story and hadn't made an effort to fully understand the issue before putting my foot in my mouth.

The victim of my wrath was the [Tory] Thunder Dragon blog, who published a post denouncing Harriet Harman's call for the leadership of the country to always include a woman, at which point I jumped in to stick up for her on the basis of fairly representing women in government.

I'll come clean, I'd missed the story the first time round, didn't bother to follow the links to the story and thus wasn't aware Ms Harman was referring particularly to the leadership as in the top two positions of power, rather than the cabinet, as I interpreted it for some reason.

Now, I was off work sick yesterday and hadn't slept well, which is probably in part to blame for my lapse in concentration and failure to read everything in its context before sticking my oar in, but I was also in a bit of a blind 'fury', which is no excuse to be honest.

Nonetheless, I still stand by what I said, which is that in a relatively unequal society as we have today, an absolute meritocracy is not a fair way of representing people in government, as many people face barriers to acquiring and/or exercising the kind of ability that excels in such a scenario. In which case, 'positive discrimination' is a necessary short-term means of accomplishing something approaching fair representation in government. Hannah Nicklin does a better job of explaining my position in her blog post. This is why I believe more women should be 'pushed' into Parliament and the cabinet, although I'm undecided whether this should apply to the very top two positions of government, which is where I went a bit wrong yesterday.

Admittedly, what Ms Harman said about men not being left to rule alone can be construed as being sexist. On the face of it, that's how it seems, but she goes on to make the point that a balanced team makes better decisions. Was it really a sexist comment? I don't think so.

On the subject of Harriet Harman, how disgusting to see the Daily Mail's James Slack shoot down her plans to teach children not to beat women, calling it a 'feminist initiative' and suggesting that it's controversial to teach children not to beat people up.

Whilst Slack has a somewhat fair point to make, that this should be taught at home (a view I completely disagree with), to go about it in such a vitriolic, spiteful manner is downright atrocious journalism. I won't go into a critique of the article as it's been done by dozens of other bloggers since the article appeared this morning, so I'll just point you in the direction of @antonvowl and @BevaniteEllie's efforts here and here, respectively.

1 comment:

  1. First it is good to see someone admit to an error and clarify a position rather than try and defend one they happened to get themseleves into inadvertantly.

    On this I agree in part with what you have to say but I don't think I do with it all.

    I think that there are issues about getting people involved in politics in the first place and if I am honest, my party in Leicester has been particularly bad at addressing them (not at recognising the problem but at successfully overcoming them). I hope we will have some greater success in the near future with some initiatives we are working on.

    If a more representative group of people engage I think there is a real chance that meritocratic principles can work. The problem is, using free market terminology, that there is an imperfect market with inadequate supply.

    As you get higher up the ability to be representative not only becomes more difficult but I would say less desirable.

    By definition if you are going to have gender representation amongst the top two positions in a political party one has to be a woman and one a man. Is it wrong for the top two positions to be taken by women? Do BME politicians have to wait until the population is defined as near to 50% before they are allowed on?

    On the last point will it be considered acceptable if say the cabinet has enough members of BME origin compared to the Country? But BME is a definition, not a real homogenous community, so what of representation within that group.

    At some point this will be a double edged sword holding back good people as much as promoting them. As I said earlier the emphasis needs to be more on getting people involved and supporting them reach higher rather than applying quotas.