Sunday, July 19, 2009

Positive Discrimination

Most interesting opinion I can find in my daily reads this Sunday is this report by ConservativeHome on suggestions made by the leader of the Conservatives in the National Assembly for Wales, Nick Bourne. He wants to introduce an element of positive discrimination into the candidate selection process for the next Welsh Assembly elections, to ensure there are more Conservative Assembly Members who are either women or from ethnic minorities.

Must admit that I would be disappointed if this were to happen. Compulsion would be an admission of failure - or of insufficient effort. I agree with Nick that we should be tackling the problem of why so few women and individuals from ethnic minorities want to become Conservative candidates. But I don't like the idea of forcing candidates on local associations, who after all work on a voluntary basis. I accept that compulsion can sometimes be turned to as a last resort, when all else has failed. But as far as I can see, not much else has been tried. For example, the Welsh conferences and policy forums I've been to usually have the same few faces making the main speeches - and they're nearly always white males. No effort to enhance name recognition or to create opportunities to impress. And Shadow Welsh Secretary, Cheryl Gillan doesn't count. We're talking Welsh representation here. If we are genuinely serious about changing the balance, lets give a few of the best speaking slots to women and ethnic minority candidates.

And if we are going to introduce positive discrimination, it should be done through the regional vote, which is a compensatory system in any case - though I do accept that if we win more seats 'first-past-the-post' there may not be any regional Conservative AMs elected! Imposing candidates on local associations causes offence and disillusionment, which would not be the case with regional list candidates - at least not to the same extent. Nick Bourne is raising an important issue - but we need to be careful how we dael with it.


Anonymous said...

Positive discrimination is never a good idea, it builds resentment and can push candidates into roles to which they are not suited. Positive discrimination is STILL discrimination! Your policy is the best, encourage participation without forcing things against the wishes of local associations.

The Welsh Jacobite said...

Didn't the Conservatives in the 1920s (either secretly or at least discreetly) introduce positive discrimination for female delegates to the party conference? They wanted to make sure that with female suffrage the party did not lose out.

mingrous said...

One could make the same argument for people born to hard up parents (perhaps with a mum or dad lacking the ability to read and write properly), father in and out of work, and folks essentially homeless (e.g., living in a downstairs living room of a relative until getting a council house). Childen living in such circumstances are disadvantaged from the get-go - how about tapping into this part of the population?

penlan said...

I would not vote for a candidate of any party selected in that way on principle.If we do not know that the candidate presented is necessarily the best available,then why should we be expected to give our support to a party that shows the electorate such little respect?

Colionac said...

Hey, the Conservative Party can't be too far off the mark given that the party elected a great woman as its leader to take over the reins from Edward Heath. Margaret Thatcher. Many hate her, most still love her and what one can say about Margaret Thatcher, she had what it took to make a great leader. Just a pity that the likes of Arthur Scargill tried to call her bluff and lost in trumps. The Welsh coalminers suffered when they got bounced into supporting AS's strike, and never recovered. Very sad.

Glyn Davies said...

Roman - The key is a genuine strategy to raise the profile and opportunity for the under-represented.

Welsh Jacobite - No idea. How on earth do you know this?

Mingrous - You are right of course, but like everything else, some things are in fashion, and others are not.

Penlan - I do accept that if all else fails, an element of discrimination becomes justifyable - but as far as I can see, not much real effort has been made.

imetie said...

... adding to mingrous's comments, a report on social mobility just published; e.g., see:

"Britain's closed shop: damning report on social mobility failings"

Boys and girls brought up on large council house estates are gravely disadvantaged compared to children born to wealthy parents who have 'gone to university' in their youth.

Children from poor families living on council estates tend to have low expectations if their parents have low expectations. Lack of financial means puts a lot of teens living on council estates off staying on at school and going to college.

If there is family disruption/disharmony it is even harder. Such children don't have parents that can guide them or who have contacts to help mentor them into professional careers. Careers like law or city trading are essentially 'over the horizon' and so never considered as a career.