Mathew Parris claims the reason why the Conservative Party has failed so significantly in its attempt to achieve some level of gender balance in its list of MPs is down to a lack of swagger in the many otherwise competent female applicants. He identifies one example of the small group of exceptions being Anna Soubry and presumably he might consider Esther McVey and possibly Nadine Dorries as being others within the party. However Parris also identifies two MPs who presumably do not possess swagger but who have been successful for other reasons. These are Sarah Wollaston and Heather Wheeler who Matthew claims won through the selection process because of their local reputation for excellence in their previous roles as GP and Councillor respectively. The theory of Mr Parris appear in his column in the Times on Saturday. Matthew claims to have gained this insight in his role as ‘mediator’ of the various internal debates to allow local parties to select their candidates.
Sadly there is no comparable article for the warts on the inside of the Labour Party. They have certainly been a great deal more successful in identifying female candidates for their seats which is reflected in a much larger proportion of female MPs. However just like the Conservative Party, Labour are very happy to parachute in candidates into areas where the candidates have absolutely no previous experience of the community concerned, and just like the Conservative Party, these candidates cannot dodge the idea that their relocation and in time election owes a huge amount to the Party first, the local Association second and to the local voters third. This means that local residents who are not party supporters cannot expect to be high on their priority list once their families and career ambitions are taken into account.
Matthew is completely wrong, we don’t need more female candidates with swagger, whatever that really means, instead we need more candidates who are local to the constituencies concerned. It is clear from the article in the Times and other reading that both Labour and Conservative Parties have finishing schools full of ‘suitable’ candidates who are willing to travel to any vacant constituency to help the party succeed and their career to take off. These people are committing their time, energy and even money to climb a pole that should not exist. Although I am not a traditional supporter of the Conservative Party, I have enormous respect for Sarah Wollaston. If there were 650 MPs like her or Caroline Lucas or the small number of other MPs who understand that all of their constituents matter a great deal more than the party structure, nationally and locally then we would not now be contemplating enquiries into the tawdry behaviour of some of the worst offenders.
This is a curious argument. Caroline Lucas, who as you say is an excellent MP, has plenty of swagger and was parachuted in by the Green Party to their top priority seat. In order to secure the nomination the party leader (also Caroline Lucas, who had no previous connection with Brighton) had to make a deal with the existing local candidate, Keith Taylor, who had stood in the 2005 election, for him to be named in second place on the Green party list for the 2009 European Parliament election. The effect of this was that when she was elected to Westminster in 2010 he automatically replaced her as Green MEP. A classic political deal which worked well for both sides.
Hi Peter, whilst I understand your view that Caroline could be described as having swagger, I think someone who has been an MEP does have links to an area (even if that is relatively superficial) and not parachuting in my terms. I certainly accept that the deal was done and I would not disagree that the Greens are very capable of playing the Political games that all of the parties also play. Thanks for taking the time to read and respond to my blog.