Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Will "jobs for the girls" fuel the Nasty Party?

This is a guest post by Rev Julian Mann

David Cameron’s move towards all-female shortlists for Parliamentary candidates appears to be motivated by ideological rather than electoral considerations.

He appears to be convinced as a matter of moral principle that a Conservative Party that does not significantly increase its quota of female MPs is somehow deficient. Where is the clear evidence that a Conservative candidate would be more likely to win a seat if she were female?

Even if there were a reliable survey in a particular constituency that pointed in that direction, the problem for Mr Cameron is that his inclination towards positive discrimination is not strongly shared by those most inclined to conservative values in Britain today. When they compare the male-dominated Parliaments of the past with the present one, whose female quota has increased significantly through the New Labour all-female shortlists, they are even less inclined to be persuaded by David’s Cameron’s moral fervour about "diversity".

For this reason and also because it is fundamentally anti-meritocratic, positive discrimination is likely to boost the pitch of the BNP to conservatively-inclined voters. Meritocracy became a cherished value to Conservatives and to British society more generally under Margaret Thatcher. It was not only non-public school Conservatives who cheered when she beat the Clarendon public school old-boy network at their own game.

As Ann Widdecombe pointed out yesterday, Mrs Thatcher had no need of all-female shortlists. Her rivals for the Conservative leadership were all male and when she led the Conservative Party to victory in 1979 and in two subsequent General Elections her Labour rivals for the job of Prime Minister were also male.

Mr Cameron’s approach, if taken to its logical conclusion, would require an all-female shortlist for the job of party leader and, if we do not get another female Prime Minister before too long, an all-female shortlist of potential contenders for PM.

For an old Etonian to play anti-meritocratic games on the platform of the post-Thatcher Conservative Party is therefore none too clever.

The BNP’s ‘retro’ pitch with its invocation of Winston Churchill and his stand for ‘Christian civilisation’ is already aimed at the sort of person who is drawn both to a meritocratic winner and to the perceived moral superiority of the past.

As an Evangelical Christian, I am clearly more appalled at the attempt by the BNP to draw Christ into its shameful cause than I am by its invocation of Winston Churchill. For the BNP to commandeer Christianity is utterly deplorable. Those men and women who are most pro-active in standing up for Christian values against political correctness in Britain today happen to be black Evangelicals such as Christian registrar Lillian Ladele and in the case of Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali of Pakistani background.

It would be tragic if David Cameron’s tilt towards political correctness were to help the really nasty party.

The Heresiarch adds:

I sincerely hope there aren't many Conservatives who would rather vote for the BNP than for a woman. Nor can I imagine that there are many of them. And, of course, most BNP support comes from traditional Labour areas. Tories are more likely to defect to UKIP.

David Cameron's problem is simple: local associations have historically been reluctant to choose female candidates. However unfair it is to promote people on the basis of sex rather than pure ability, a political party is more than a collection of talented individuals. It's also a public face. These days, a male-dominated front bench is a serious political liability. Cameron must at least give the appearance of trying to do something about it.