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    Tories in race row (again)


    by Sunny on 10th April, 2006 at 6:06 pm    

    You could not make it up. After David Cameron called UKIP “closet racists”, one member of his own party declared she would not want an ethnic minority colleague standing for parliament in her constituency. Cameron moved quickly to say she was in the “wrong party“. Ms Joan Howarth refuses to back down has now apologised. Cue UKIP calling the Tories fruitcakes and closet racists.
    Update: BBC and Telegraph follow up.

    Update 2: Matt Murrell asks an interesting question:

    How far can a party push a progressive agenda if the public don’t accept it? While tradition has left the main parties largely the preserve of the upper-middle-class white male, the fact that the general public in a country as small-c conservative as the UK might be less willing to trust female and ethnic MPs. In which case, the desire to combat bigotry and discrimination comes into conflict with the guiding principle of political parties – to win seats.

    My feeling is - it depends on the candidate. Someone like Piara Khabra, who can barely walk let alone speak English properly, would not work. On the other hand people like Shailesh Vara have done well in pre-dominantly white areas.

    Given that women are grossly under-represented in politics, and there is no reason why people should trust them less, political parties have so far rewarded members on contacts than merit, rewarding discrimination in favour of seats. Thus, they may be patronising their constituents in assuming working class people cannot see past a candidate’s sex or colour and keeping politics the preserve of white males. Others may disagree…



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    26 Comments below   |  

    1. Vikrant Singh — on 10th April, 2006 at 7:07 pm  

      Tory’s are a confused bunch these days.

    2. matt — on 10th April, 2006 at 7:32 pm  

      In defense of the Tories (did I just say that?), Ms Howarth didn’t say she wouldn’t want an ethnic minority candidate, just that it wouldn’t work.

      So technically she’s calling her constituents racist. Which is hardly the best campaign strategy to adopt…

    3. Vikrant Singh — on 10th April, 2006 at 7:35 pm  

      Well maybe she might be giving a honest evaluation of the constituents.

    4. Sunny — on 10th April, 2006 at 7:46 pm  

      I had a feeling that was her implication anyway Matt. But I merely highlighted what the Manchester Evening News said.

    5. gaz — on 10th April, 2006 at 8:13 pm  

      I cannot see what all the fuss is about. Both the labour party and the tories would be falling over themselves to put up an ethnic candidate in areas with a high percentage of ethnic constituents.

    6. Jackie Brown — on 10th April, 2006 at 8:22 pm  

      I read the link to the evening news- and taking her comments in ‘context’ & at face value I don’t see what the problem is. If an area is 87% low wage 2nd generation immigrants- I don’t see how the canidate that would do well in the area would be an upper/middle class English person. From my reading of her comments- she is saying the same thing in reverse. It doesn’t seem that ‘ethnic’ canidates have been allowed to evolve to more than tokens yet here in the UK- so the row is Polictical correctness gone overboard

    7. Don — on 10th April, 2006 at 8:36 pm  

      ‘To each his own’? Ms Howarth is advocating communalism?

    8. matt — on 10th April, 2006 at 8:37 pm  

      It raises an interesting dilemma.

      Should political parties field candidates from minority backgrounds (which would be a great for promoting diversity) even if costs them seats?

    9. Don — on 10th April, 2006 at 8:54 pm  

      Was Central Finsbury predominantly asian in 1892?

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dadabhai_Naoroji

    10. Jackie Brown — on 10th April, 2006 at 9:09 pm  

      Matt- I don’t think so. At some point every person wants to be appreciated for what they can offer beyond the shade of their skin color. It’s a great move *if *in addition to having the skill set/background/ability to make a meaningful contribution etc- that person is also a member of a disenfranchised group that has not been fully represented in the past. But no one is served by having a candidate whose main ‘attribute’ is their race or religion.

    11. Sunny — on 10th April, 2006 at 9:49 pm  

      I’m not sure of the ‘political correctness gone mad’ comments again.

      Why should a candidate be judged on the basis of their skin colour? That I am interested in Asian political candidates, it would be naive to assume they are only interested in minority community issues. So this is patronising at best.

      Secondly, Ann Cryer does quite well in Keighley, so why should it be that only ethnic candidates can understand their “brown brothers”?

    12. raz — on 10th April, 2006 at 10:37 pm  

      Doesn’t Jack Straw’s seat have a big ethnic population?

      (dare we mention Galloway aswell :) )

    13. Vikrant Singh — on 10th April, 2006 at 10:53 pm  

      Doesn’t Jack Straw’s seat have a big ethnic population?

      Lol Blackburn. Sure it does.

    14. matt — on 10th April, 2006 at 11:24 pm  

      But no one is served by having a candidate whose main ‘attribute’ is their race or religion.

      I agree. Putting forward candidates purely because of their race or religion ends up helping no-one.

      That’s always been the problem with positive discrimination. While it can seema good idea in theory, in practice it just ends up causing resentment.

      There could be a slight Catch-22 at work. Greater diversity in the political system could allow issues such as discrimination to be tackled more effectively - but those issues need to be tackled before we see greater diversity in the political system.

      Does anyone know where statistics about the background of MPs can be found? Things like education, jobs they’ve held…

      To be honest, I don’t think any of the parties are equipped to seriously deal with race issues. Aside from racism is bad platitudes there just doesn’t seem to be the ability to debate it in grown up terms. It’s often the same with discrimination on gender and sexuality grounds - politicians are often so afraid of saying the same thing that they skirt round the issues.

    15. Don — on 10th April, 2006 at 11:49 pm  

      Does anyone know where statistics about the background of MPs can be found? Things like education, jobs they’ve held…

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_British_MPs

    16. Jay Singh — on 11th April, 2006 at 12:27 am  

      There are a few Asian MP’s in predominanltly white constituencies - one in Gloucester and one in Middlesborough I think.

      Bottom line is anyone who cannot see the ability before the ethnicity is a loser. Idealistic? Maybe, but when some speculate that the majority of people in Britain would baulk at having a black or Asian MP I think they’re wrong - the majority of white people are not like that and wouldnt care about their MP’s background provided he did the job well.

    17. Roger — on 11th April, 2006 at 9:10 am  

      “While tradition has left the main parties largely the preserve of the upper-middle-class white male”
      That isn’t actually true of the Labour Party: while a few UMCW males were Labour MPs the usual Mp was either a working classs or lower middle class scholarship boy or someone who had risen through the trade unuins.

    18. Justforfun — on 11th April, 2006 at 9:15 am  

      Don - nice link - and forfun

      - Bethnal Green in 1895 when they voted Conservative

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mancherjee_Bhownagree

      Justforfun

    19. leon — on 11th April, 2006 at 10:36 am  

      “In defense of the Tories (did I just say that?), Ms Howarth didn’t say she wouldn’t want an ethnic minority candidate, just that it wouldn’t work.

      So technically she’s calling her constituents racist. Which is hardly the best campaign strategy to adopt… ”

      It did look that way last week when Ch4 news interviewed her (although it also looked like they were trying to find someone to set up like that). The thing I’ve not seen much of is whether her constituency has a significant BME population.

    20. sonia — on 11th April, 2006 at 12:31 pm  

      it all depends on the person of course who’s standing for political office.

      this ms howarth person just sounds like your typical average politician. she may not necessarily be ‘racist’ - just seems to think she know what her constituents will think {in this case in terms of racist views}. but then all politicians appear to think they know what the voters think, and generally turn out to be wrong…

    21. SajiniW — on 11th April, 2006 at 1:06 pm  

      Don’t think Howarth’s in the wrong this time - she’s speaking on behalf of her constituents.

      Whilst its patronising to assume constituents WOULDN’T want a BME candidate without actually asking them - local councillors/those who select electoral candidates are pretty much representative of those living in the constituencies concerned.

      Positive discrimination sucks.

    22. Fisking Central — on 11th April, 2006 at 1:11 pm  

      Matt, I may be naive, but I think in most consituencies, voter loyalty to an Asian or Black candidate is stronger within Asian/Black communities than it is to a white candidate in the ‘white’ community (although obviously there are more ‘white’ voters than ‘non-white’ voters).

      The problem as I see it is getting candidates selected for election, rather than getting votes in those elections.

      Your question might be rephrased - should political parties field candidates from minority backgrounds (which would be a great for promoting diversity) even if it GAINS them seats?

      The answer, I think, is still yes.

    23. Sunny — on 11th April, 2006 at 1:16 pm  

      then all politicians appear to think they know what the voters think, and generally turn out to be wrong…

      exactly. Maybe she is patronising her constituents by assuming they would care about a person’s colour and not ability.

    24. Inders — on 11th April, 2006 at 1:20 pm  

      lots of labour safe seats including mine in the West Midlands are predom. asian areas.

    25. matt — on 11th April, 2006 at 1:35 pm  

      Don,

      Thanks for the link.

      I was hoping for a site that had done all the hard work for me. But I guess I’ll have to stop being such a lazy SOB.

    26. matt — on 11th April, 2006 at 1:36 pm  

      FC,

      I take your point.

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