Greens can be good for you (If you are a political party)

The leadership of the Green Party is unlike any other party with a presence in our Parliament. Not only is it changed every two years, it is also one of the few opportunities for the Party to get their leadership into the public eye. I must confess before this leadership election I was only aware of one Green Party member, Caroline Lucas, MP For Brighton Pavilion, but now I am aware of 3. Caroline Lucas, new leader Natalie Bennett, and her Deputy Will Duckworth. Brilliant. Learn something new every day and all that.

Caroline Lucas, UK Green Party Leader, MEP for...
Caroline Lucas, Former UK Green Party Leader, MEP for South East England and the only Green any of us used to know… (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


But this leadership election also raised debates about gender quotas. With Natalie Bennett being elected leader, her deputy must be male, due to the Green Party’s rules on gender equality. The Deputy Leader post was won by Will Duckworth, with two female candidates unable to take part in the vote. This blog will mention just a few things about the new Green Party leader, and will argue that gender quotas, while often frowned upon, are actually a pretty good thing.

Firstly to the new Leader, Natalie Bennett. She received a baptism of fire from Andrew Neil in her first interview after being elected, particularly on the point of one particular policy. The Green Party argue for a living wage, admirable, and a policy I think is popular. But, they also argue that no wage should exceed two hundred thousand pounds. This raises a few issues. Not only is an idea such as this well to the left of even the Labour Party, but it is incompatible with a global economy, with many of our businesses needed to pay higher salaries for the higher performance jobs. It is a mere side-note that this policy would also cripple football and the Premier League, with its highly paid stars. Clearly, and I wont go on about this much more, the Green Party is not entirely economically credible, or suitably ‘middle-ground’ enough to gain a a large number of MP’s at the next election. That micro-rant aside, I think there is something the main parties can learn from the Greens, and that is their application of gender quotas.

Now I must say that my position has changed on this issue over the past few years, I see gender quotas as massively essential in promoting a gender balance in politics, which is undoubtedly still a white, middle-aged, men’s game. The sort of people I have heard arguing against Quotas are the same people who say, on International Women’s Day “We don’t have a Men’s Day” then “huh huh” often follows. The reason we don’t have a specific men’s day is that the idea is that EVERY OTHER DAY of the year is Men’s Day. For whatever reason, women are put off from politics, and gender quotas do work in getting more women considered and more talent recognised.

If you want evidence on quotas working, look over to the US, again to football (of the American variety). The Rooney Rule was introduced in 2003, which meant for every coaching vacancy, a minority candidate must be considered. Within 3 years the number of minority coaches rose from 6% to 22%. Purely for the fact that they were drowned out before by the sheer volume of ageing white men…a terrible mental image I know.

Its clear that the more positive female role models exist in politics, the more people will think that such a position is achievable, and will not be put off applying for fear of entering an old boys club which, lets be honest, politics still is. Now although in this case, women were unable to be considered for a post, this was simply because the more senior and influential position had already gone to a women, so there is no need for panic about discrimination or any need to reconsider gender quotas as a concept.

The current situation is that the government is still nowhere near its target set of having a third of the cabinet being made of of women. Anything that gets more women or minorities into politics is a good thing, end of. As Liberal Democrats, we must accept that not all playing fields (those which haven’t been sold off… #satire) are equal, and sometimes we must re-address the balance so that in future generations, every person has the same chance to reach their potential in any given field.

Alex Nye is Vice Chair of University of Sheffield Liberal Youth, where he studies History and Politics. He is Head of News at Forge Radio, and Libertine’s new columnist. You can follow him on twitter as @Alexgnye

This article solely represents the views of the author and does not necessarily represent the views of Liberal Youth, the Liberal Democrat party, nor the editorship of the Libertine.


4 thoughts on “Greens can be good for you (If you are a political party)

  1. So we should choose inferior minority candidates now in the hope that doing so will promote more competent ones coming forward in the future?

  2. I’m not convinced by “Anything that gets more women or minorities into politics is a good thing, end of.” I’d like to see politics represent a wider range of people than the predominant white, middle-aged, able-bodied, middle-class, cisgendered heterosexual man. But quotas are curing the symptoms, not the problem. You only have to look at the “Blair Babes” – female MPs parachuted into safe seats improved the gender balance on Labour’s benches, but they received little respect in the House and in the press as it was felt they’d been selected unfairly; the existing bias towards men is so subconscious that the strategy was seen as an imposition rather than a correction.

    The Liberal Democrats, not having safe seats to parachute candidates into, have had many debates about this issue on the Conference floor – we’ve learned that the main problem we have in getting minority candidates elected is not in the election, nor the selection, but the relative lack of diversity in people putting themselves forward for candidate approval, which is even less diverse than our membership as a whole (which still needs work). Schemes like the Leadership Programme are encouraging a wider range of people to get approved as candidates by targeting resources and understanding their needs, and the party’s recruitment training is explicitly encouraging more diversity in recruitment. It’s a long process and requires buy-in at all levels at the party, but it’s trying to fix the problem, not the solution – and that’s the radical, liberal way.

  3. I’m with Dave Page on this. Clearly, we need to do more on diversity, but quotas tackle symptoms, not problems. If there is gender discrimination in a selection procedure (whether in politics or in any other field) then the last thing we should be doing is papering over it – we should be seeking to find it, isolate it, and destroy it.

    It’s not enough for a political party to have perfectly a perfectly gender-balanced parliamentary party. It’s not even enough if it looks similarly good on ethnicity, religion, sexuality, gender identity, and disability. What really matters is whether any given individual, male or female, has a fair chance. Are we there yet? Maybe not. But quotas won’t do it – because quotas prioritise changing the statistics above creating a fair process.

    The strongest part of the article is the bit about role models. But on gender we pretty clearly have them – each party has prominent women. The Tory party practically venerates one, in fact! But even leaving that aside, can women really only be inspired by other women? If that were true, it would be more than a little sad. Thankfully, it is not.

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