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.
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.