Seems nice enough. Bit nondescript. Has even had his picture taken with Barack Obama…
Has now made a complete arse of himself (via Tom Watson)
In a remarkably frank interview in today’s New Nation newspaper, David Lammy MP (pictured with Barack Obama), Britain’s most senior elected ethnic minority politician, has called on the Labour Party to introduce all ethnic minority short lists for the selection of parliamentary candidates.
Oh fuck. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. Fuckity-fuck.
Look, David. This is not difficult – all you need to do is consult a dictionary thus:
Equality (n) : the state or quality of being equal; correspondence in quantity, degree, value, rank, or ability.
Tokenism (n): the practice or policy of making no more than a token effort or gesture, as in offering opportunities to minorities equal to those of the majority.
Which leads neatly to the following conclusions…
Equality – all candidates are assessed on merit and selected on ability.
Tokenism – gender/ethnic minority only shortlists
The Culture Minister and MP for Tottenham said, “there should be 18 black MPs, 21 Asian MPs and the rest made up from other ethnic minorities if we were in proportion to our population.
Huh? 18 black MPs, 21 Asian MPs and the rest made up from other ethnic minorities?
No English, Scottish, Welsh or Northern Irish MPs then? Surely not…
And, in any case, what’s all this Asian MPs business?
‘Asians’ are just one big homogeneous mass of humanity, are they? If it’s just 18 Asian MPs you want then 18 ethnic Kazakhs would fit the bill, wouldn’t it.
For fucks sake, David, if you must try an make a diversity-based argument for restricted short-lists, the very least you can try to do is not resort to unrepresentative generalisations like ‘Asian’. ‘South Asian’ would be an improvement as it at least recognises ethnic distinctions between those whose heritage derives from the Indian subcontinent as against, say, ethnic Chinese, who are also ‘Asian’, and so on so forth.
Not much of an improvement, mind, but at least one that shows some recognition of the fact that Asia is fucking big place – get an atlas if you don’t believe me.
We aren’t just politicians. Let’s remember, the House of Commons is a house of representatives.”
Okay, so following that particular piece of asinine logic, how far should we take this idea that parliament should be ‘representative’ of population demographics.
We’re starting here with 646 MPs and a population of 58 million to play with, of which, using the main census classifications and data as our guide…
51% (329 MPs) should be female.
92.1% (595 MPs) should be white – I suppose we should drill down into matters of the proportions of English, Scottish, Welsh, Irish, etc. but I can’t be arsed to do the numbers.
Then we’ll take Lammy’s 21 ‘black’ MPs and 18 ‘Asian’ MPs as read, plus we’ll need 6 ‘mixed’ – exactly what the mix should be isn’t specified in the data I’m looking at – a couple of Chinese and a couple of ‘other’. Quite what ‘other’ amounts to isn’t detailed either. Could be fucking Martians for all I know…
Actually, if it is Martians then we’re half way to being covered – step forward Lembit, and I suppose there’s the Vulcan as well.
There’s no census data on sexuality, but as post-Kinsey thinking put general estimates of the gay population at around 3-5%, so we’re looking for 20-32 gay, lesbian and bisexual MPs… do they have to be out or does closeted count as well?
Matters of faith demand that we have 463 Christians, although if we factor in church attendance figures as well then most of them only need go near a church a couple of times a year, and a few could get away with just admitting to watching ‘Songs of Praise’ once in a while. Plus we need 17 Muslims, 6 or 7 Hindus, 4 Sikhs, 3 or 4 Jews, a couple of Buddhists and two ‘others’ – don’t suppose we’ve got much chance a squeezing in a Jedi?
As for the rest, no religion required – although whether that means just atheists or leaves space a few agnostics is anyone’s guess – don’t try asking the agnostics by the way, they’re not sure either. (Boom-boom!)
We’ve also got over 5 million carers – they’ll need 58 MPs – and 194 MPs for all the people who live alone, half of which should be of pensionable age. Mmm… might have to borrow a few from the House of Lords to cover us.
About 10% (65 MPs) should be in poor health – sorry haven’t had time to do the numbers for disabilities in detail, but we’ll definitely need a few members of the ‘wheel and stick’ club, a hearing loop system and Blunkett’s dog will probably get a couple of new friends to play with, which I guess will mean we’ll need a ruling from the Speaker on whether shagging, pissing on the upholstery and sniffing MPs crotches is allowed in the chamber…
…unless the late Alan Clark managed to create a few precedents that I’m not aware of.
And so, and so forth ad nauseum until one reaches the point at which we get to the constituency with the ‘one-legged, Armenian, lesbian with dyslexic child only short-list’.
Parliament in NOT representative of the British population – if it were, a quarter of us would be lawyers and there’d be no one to empty the fucking bins.
MPs are representatives in the sense that – nominally speaking – they are elected to represent the interests of their constituents, who may belong to any of the above mentioned categories and thousands more besides. They represent the people, but are not representative OF the people. If you want a democracy that is actually representative of the people, then you need direct democracy and to be taking all your decisions by public plebiscite.
The Labour Party is presently taking legal advice on the viability of the introduction of hybrid (all women and all ethnic minority men and women) shortlists, but Lammy goes further:
I think the party will have to look in constituencies like my own where 50, sometimes more than 50 per cent of the electorate are from an ethnic minority background.
And if 50% or more of the electorate of a constituency are from an ethnic minority, then where’s the fucking problem in the first place? Give or take the odd bit of fucking around by party HQ, constituencies still select their own candidates/MPs, so you might think that where ethnic minorities are in a majority it would follow that they’d choose an MP whose background is similar to their own.
And against a background that London 2020 is 50 per cent ethnic minority, the party does have to look at all-ethnic minority shortlists where the constituencies are failing to step up to the task.”
So the beef here seems to be about London, where there are ‘too many’ white MPs at present.
First question has to be, why? If the supposition is that an area with a majority ethnic minority population should return an ethnic minority MP, then why isn’t that happening.
It could be that this is simply a function of population mobility – if the sitting MP has been in situ for a while, they may well have been selected at a time when the majority of the local population were white, and things have now changed around them.
In which case, maybe its time for the CLP to consider selecting a new candidate.
It could also be that the membership of the CLP is out of kilter with the make-up of local population – in which case the answer is to go out a recruit some more fucking members from those communities that are under represented.
It could also be that the membership, given the chance of a selection contest, votes down communal lines, splitting the ethnic minority vote and letting the white candidate through – in which case, tough shit, that’s democracy for you, and if you must try and cook the electoral process your best option might well be to introduce the alternative vote system for selection contest. It’s a bit less obvious than cooking the short-lists.
And, of course, all this presupposes that ethnicity is an overriding factor in determining how members vote in selection contests – it couldn’t possibly be the case that, having given the candidates the once over, even the ethnic minority members decide they like the white guy best and vote for him.
If we’re serious about equality – and not just creating the tokenistic appearance of equality – then our starting point has to be to develop a culture in the party in which things like gender, ethnic origin, sexuality, age, etc. are not a factor in influencing the outcome of selection contests.
That’s equality, a political culture in which merit (and politics, of course) determines who gets to stand for election and enter parliament not whether someone possesses the right arrangement of chromosomes, the right amount of melanin or an extensive collection of ornamental dental dams.
It’s that simple – either we are the progressive party we think we are, in which case gender, ethnicity, etc. should not be a factor in determining who we select as candidates – or we’re not the party we like to think we are and need to do something positive about it, which means changing attitudes and not relying on a bit of tokenistic fucking about with short-lists.