One reason why, at the tender age of fifteen, I first joined the Conservative Party (coughing up a then-valuable £1), was that it seemed to espouse the notion of meritocracy when compared with the Labour Party. Thus I have enormous difficulty with the proposition that a one-thirds quota of woman be established for the next Tory Cabinet.
One fully understands the desire to encourage more able, bright women into the Parliamentary Conservative party. A modern political party in the UK must, whether the die-hards like it or not, look as though it broadly reflects the basic make-up of the nation but that cannot be at the expense of the principle of the UK being a meritocracy, by which I mean, in this context, the advancement of the best man or woman for each post in government regardless of gender, race, colour, creed & co.
One need only look at some of the appointments made over the last ten years government by Blair and Brown as they have carefully assembled a coailition of the medicore in order to satisfy the beast of positive discrimination. For example, would the likes of Hariett Harman, Jacqui Smith, Patricia Hewitt, Ruth Kelly, Yvette Cooper, Hazel Blears, Estelle Morris or Helen Liddell ever have made it to where they ended up but for the desire to propitate the Harpy Lobby?
There will, of course, be some outstanding women in Parliament next time, provided Cameron does the business. Their careers should be advanced commensurate with their abilities and achievement in post. But the interests of the the United Kingdom surely demand that we have only the best person for the post. That is quite apart from any consideration that such quotas may be inherently unlawful in any event.
Not only that, but consider the deterrent that will then exist to able bright male candidates to come forward as Prospective candidates. They will be faced, as The Observer’s Gaby Hinsliff points out, with:
denying talented male candidates promotion while less able women leapfrog them. On the party’s current course it may get around 55 women into parliament, leaving fewer than two female MPs competing for each of 36 frontbench posts – and almost four men scrapping over each of the remaining jobs.
Quota preferment will do women no favours. If one of them demonstrates, as is inevitable, that she is, as it happens, hopelessly incompetent, this will do the cause of advancing women no good at all. Men will point out that she only got the job because of discriminatory policies and this in turn will reflect badly upon the judgment of the Prime Minister. It will cause enormous and wholly unnecessary anger amongst those who rightly feel they were passed over to meet the needs of politically correct gender-balancing. And many who support the Conservative party precisely because it is supposed to be meritocratic will feel utterly disaffected by a move that reeks of NuLabour social engineering rather than promoting people on the grounds of ability, a concept to which all true Tories ought to aspire.
In the interests of getting a Conservative government into power, and thus enhance chances of finally getting our people to have their say on the Treaty of Lisbon, I have been avoiding criticism of the party since the period of Cameron’s fall from grace in the summer of last year. I feel no such constraint when it is proposed that the party depart from a core principle such as this. Thus I feel constrained to say that this proposal is one which should never be entertained and most certainly never have been articulated.
One worrying aspect of the ejaculation of this so-called ‘aspiration’ is that it smacks of ill-considered misjudgement such as we have seen more than once with David Cameron and reminds us all too clearly of that repellent desire to be the ‘heir to Blair’. As such it takes us back to the days when Cameron was denouncing anyone who backed Grammar Schools in intemperate terms or rejecting any contrary position as ‘pointless’ or deluded or whatever. One wishes that such stupidity might be avoided, but I fear that we shall have more on the way to the next election.
ConservativeHome’s take on the matter is here.