Sunday, 20 September 2009
Sweet Talkin' Woman
A week or so ago went along to a meeting of my local Labour party to cast my vote in our selection of a candidate for MP for the next election. Normally I am a bean-bag of apathy about these things but one of the candidates had shown such enthusiasm that she actually bothered to knock on my door to say hello, and seemed like both a very nice person and a formidable electoral asset, so I thought I’d tottle along to Blackheath to wield my disproportionate influence as a card-carrying Labour member. I don’t actually carry the card with me, but as luck would have it I found it at the back of a drawer where I keep drawing pins and old buttons.
It was all very lovely. My only slight apprehension about the selection process was that we had to choose, firstly, a non-white female candidate, and then a female candidate (white or non-white) because Labour want to field more MPs who are female and/or from ethnic minorities.
This annoys me, because I believe in equality and meritocracy, and I think part of the problem with the current Labour cabinet is that there are rather a lot of people on it who aren’t there on merit but because their face happened to fit.
And so, basically, I had two votes: A sexist, racist vote, and a sexist vote. On the one hand, I fully support the idea of encouraging people to become MPs irrespective of gender, race, sexuality, age, or any other discriminatory factor you care to name. And I fully support the idea of getting Labour MPs elected. But there is something very cynical about the idea of trying to make the House of Commons look like an advertisement for the United Colours Of Benetton (as cynical as an advertisement for the United Colours Of Benetton, in fact). Even if female or non-white candidates stand a better chance of being elected, that must mean the electorate are favouring candidates based upon sexual or racial prejudices, which is not something to be encouraged or pandered to. The idea that black people will only vote for black candidates is as patronising and offensive as the idea that white people will only vote for white candidates. It doesn’t matter to me whether my MP is male or female, short or tall, fat or thin, or what colour their face is; it’s their politics, competence and integrity that matters. Not their chromosones or level of melanin.
Still, fingers crossed the best person got through anyway.