Asian women in British politics


by Sunny
31st March, 2010 at 3:25 pm    

The BBC website today has a little feature on the “record number” of Asian women who will be fighting for Parliamentary seats as prospective candidates. Some are a shoo-in, like Priti Patel (Con) and Yasmin Qureshi (Labour). Others have little to no chance, like Adeela Shafi (Con) and Satnam Khalsa (Libdem).

Of course – just because they’re Asian doesn’t mean I would automatically like to see them elected (not a fan of Patel, or Qureshi, and prefer the Labour candidates – Kerry McCarthy and John McDonnell – who are being challenged by the other two). Anyone know why Emily Benn is on that list?

But it would be good to see a diverse parliament and on that basis I think the more Asian women MPs the better. Although, as I’ve said before – I’m for all women shortlists but not all ethnic minority shortlists.

Another argument against ethnic shortlists seems to have emerged – that it will end up with some demanding further segmentation. For example: the percentage of Muslim women candidates is way higher than Hindu or Sikh women candidates. Don’t know why this is… perhaps because Muslims are more politicised. But I certainly would not back any demands to see more Sikh or Hindu candidates being favoured.

Also interesting: How Conservatives’ software targets Asian voters.
Get used to micro-targeting people, it is inevitable.


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  1. Sona Hathi — on 31st March, 2010 at 3:33 pm  

    Read this too Sunny… The more diversity in parliament the better, but for some reason these shortlists make me uncomfortable, it shouldn’t be a big deal, it should just be accepted and normal. People can see for themselves when there’s an increase in ethnic minority representation in anything – be it in the media or politics, there’s no need to create a song and dance about it.

  2. Diana — on 31st March, 2010 at 3:41 pm  

    Isnt Emily Benn half Asian?

  3. Leon — on 31st March, 2010 at 3:47 pm  

    I thought she was mixed also…

  4. alone — on 31st March, 2010 at 3:49 pm  

    Politics in general needs to be more reflective of the society at large. I agree with you on all women shortlists but no Black shortlists. We also need more people from ordinary backgrounds that are working-class, haven’t been to fee-paying schools and have life experience outside politics. It really does need to be more diverse but quotas are not the way. How and who is able to access politics is an issue, as is funding. We need to have a full scale debate on this.

  5. Sunny — on 31st March, 2010 at 4:19 pm  

    sorry, didn’t know she was from a mixed background.

    alone – I agree. I think class is also an important issue.

    sona – also agreed, though they don’t make me uncomfortable. I think its a big achievement in the sense the face of British politics is slowly, slowly changing and catching up with modern times. That’s enough to dance about? ;)

  6. sonia — on 31st March, 2010 at 6:12 pm  

    getting more diverse, Have retweeted!

  7. alone — on 31st March, 2010 at 6:20 pm  

    haha, lets get the drums out now…..on a serious note though it is an achievement by dint of the fact they are women if nothing else.

    agree with you Sunny. I don’t think we should be supporting people, just because they share the same skin colour as us. They must also stand for something, perferably social justice and equality of opportunity, etc, etc and most importantly actually DO something.

  8. D-Notice — on 31st March, 2010 at 7:42 pm  

    According to the Times, she’s 1/4 Indian from her mum’s side
    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/politics/article5452741.ece?token=null&offset=12&page=2

  9. MaidMarian — on 31st March, 2010 at 8:50 pm  

    alone – The problem with that is that you are looking back on a golden age that never really was.

    At the time you are talking about Conservative MPs came from the landed upper classes and the Labour MPs emerged from the massively political environment of the trade unions.

    ‘Working class’ is a total misnomer and a real red-herring. Nadine Dorries grew up on a Council estate – would you regard her as working class? ‘Ordinary background’ is nice sentiment, but it is meaningless.

    Indeed, it is telling that the primary that the Tories held produces a white, educated doctor who works in the public sector. She may be an excellent candidate for all I know, but trying to talk about ordinary backgrounds is a mug’s game.

    What, to my mind has changed is civil society. In the past your ‘ordinary person’ would participate much more in society – in the unions, but also schools, local government, children’s groups and so on. This is the level at which we need to increase participation.

    All your ‘ordinary’ MPs would face is the same calls on talkboards for, ‘something must be done – why are you not indulging me – you hate me.’

    Indeed, cutting the number of MPs by half would not be a bad start.

  10. Sunny — on 31st March, 2010 at 10:59 pm  

    Indeed, cutting the number of MPs by half would not be a bad start.

    Really? How would making MPs try and represent double their existing number help?

  11. sonia — on 1st April, 2010 at 12:48 pm  

    Heh, MPs are struggling already anyway to represent their constituencies. Its not about slashing the number, rather question is how do we actually ensure they “represent” us -and our needs, not their own political careers!

  12. MaidMarian — on 1st April, 2010 at 6:07 pm  

    sonia – Who is this, ‘us.’ MPs represent someone, that they are not representing you in certain of thier views is not an affront to democracy. Politicians do not exist to indulge individuals.

    Sunny – We need to slash the number of MPs because to improve the quality of government. At the moment there is just a vast amount of trivia in Parliament. We need people, civil society to lobby locally, to go to local figures, not just go straight to the national/central level.

  13. alone — on 1st April, 2010 at 11:33 pm  

    I wrote a long reply to MaidMarian and lost it. Suffice to say I will reply tommorrow with hopefully a better chance of posting it!

  14. alone — on 2nd April, 2010 at 6:19 pm  

    Surprisingly, I must say I disagree with you, MaidMarian.

    I do not think there was a ‘golden age’ though l do believe that people who were from a certain background were often the ones who were able to be in positions of power and influence. I will call them the upper/middle classes. Working class and the poorer classes in general would and still do find it very difficult to get ‘to the top’

    I don’t agree ‘working-class’ is a mis-nomer or a red herring. Many factors determine which class people are in and growing up an a council estate alone does not automatically mean you are working class. However, people do and are upwardly socially mobile so class is not fixed.

    Whilst I witness apathy everyday, I also see ordinary people take part at local levels, in schools, at faith centres, at after-school clubs, volunteering at sports clubs, in local politics, etc, etc.

    I do agree with you that we must increase particpation at local levels but also at every other level in society.

    I do not unnderstand your point about cutting the number of MP’s or how this will help anything.

    I believe we do need to reform the way politics in general, local and national is conducted. It needs to be more transparent, more accountable and more equitable. How will cutting the numbers of MP’s do that?

  15. alone — on 2nd April, 2010 at 6:26 pm  

    I also sincerly believe that all/any positions of power and influence should be representative of the population at large.

    My point of fee-paying schools is that the people who attend such schools are under 10% nationally. Yet people in positions of power/influence are dispropotionally made up from this group. Depending on which report you read over 70% to 90% people in top positions have been privately educated.

  16. alone — on 2nd April, 2010 at 6:29 pm  

    Sorry but finally.

    It’s not divided along party lines. All the parties have people in the top positions who have been privately educated.

    The issue is about it being more representative and creating a more equitable playing field

  17. MaidMarian — on 2nd April, 2010 at 7:02 pm  

    alone – various. The aim of cutting the number of MPs would be to transfer ‘politics’ to the local from the central.

    I have to say that I am having a bit of trouble understanding some of that – no offence. Perhaps can I put it like this to you. The lady who won the Conservative primary was white, middle aged, public sector worker – would you call her an, ‘ordinary person?’ You did dodge the question of whether Dories – Council estate, former nurse – is ‘ordinary.’

    What is far more important than the ‘who represents’ question is ‘who participates.’ Coming onto a talkboard and bad-mouthing the government is not civic participation. When you say you see, ‘ordinary people,’ participating, what is this, ‘ordinary?’

    You are probably on stronger ground with this stuff about provate schools – though I still don’t really know why someone from a private school background is not as such, ‘ordinary.’

  18. alone — on 2nd April, 2010 at 7:30 pm  

    MaidMarian, no offence taken and sorry if I didn’t make myself clear.

    I think your points are too simplistic. It’s not for me to judge whether the lady in question or Dories are ‘ordinary’. It’s much wider than that and we can all site individual cases.

    Generally, the evidence shows there is great inequality and class/race/gender/poverty are all factors.

    I just do not agree with you that it is more important the ‘who participates versus the who represents’. For me, they are both equally important.

    I do not understand why you think anyone is badmouthing the government. I certainly am not and actually think they are doing a good job in lots of areas. As I said before, this is not party political.

    I guess languague means different things to different people. To me, ordinary is the majority in this context. In my opinion, someone who goes to a fee-paying school is not ordinary as less than 10% of the population do this. Equally the examples I cited are people who are the majority of people in this country who earn the average wage.

  19. alone — on 2nd April, 2010 at 7:35 pm  

    I would also say that I believe that the internet and comment boards such as PP are part of civic participation and increasingly growing parts.

    Even Downing Street have online petition space.

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