The Labour party is considering them and Libdems have expressed their support, but I think they’re a bad idea. The idea is this. In an effort to boost the number of black or Asian MPs, in certain constituencies the parties will only put forward candidates for selection of a black/Asian background.
It sounds good on paper and Operation Black Vote, who have been pushing this, say it would only be applicable for about 20 years before being gotten rid of. Those who complain this form of positive discrimination won’t let people through on merit are either not acquianted well enough with our current crop of politicians, or understand how nepotistic and unfair the system is anyway. No, my objection is that it racialises our politics. As I said in my CIF article yesterday:
One of the many reasons to support Barack Obama is his attempts to overcome divisive race politics of the past and that of “community leaders” speaking for groups who never elected them. He ignored “black leaders” who endorsed Clinton but were later forced to accept that African Americans supported his united vision more than their communal one.
We have seen examples of that play out here, too. During the Southall by-election last year, when the Tories attracted five (factional and divisive) Labour councillors to join them, I said it was a boon for Labour, since it wouldn’t impact on voting. Blogger Iain Dale chided me for spinning it, but the Tory modernisers got sucked into the worst of communal politics by securing the block defection of five Sikh councillors but not the voters the councillors claimed to speak for.
By inevitably creating a situation where black, Asian or Muslim candidates would only speak for those of similar backgrounds, we only perpetuate this divisive communal agenda. Militant Sikh groups, for example, would start demanding that only turbaned Sikhs represent them, as they did in Southall, and so on.
Short-lists let them off the hook. There is a deeper problem with these political parties, which is why only middle-class white males mostly get selected and promoted. Why else is there so much gender and class disparity in our politics too?
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Filed in: Party politics,Race politics