Election Fatigue? I May Have a Solution.
I always find myself slightly depressed around elections.
It isn’t the desperate media scrabble for a “narrative” that they can pin their endless coverage on, often to the detriment of things as unimportant as facts or statistics. It isn’t the continual stream of besuited, sweating politicos, fed to the lions in an attempt to spin getting two votes in Chorley Wood into a resounding success. It isn’t even the constant guess-work wrapped up as truth that comes from the need to paw over every detail and result as it comes in, however little that result may tell us.
It’s the turn out.
I don’t know about you, but I think that less than 35% of the electorate deciding the future of the entire country is a disgrace. It hardly seems representative, does it?
That doesn’t seem like something that should happen in a healthy, working democracy.
The claim often levelled against politics is that voters feel disenfranchised because no one speaks for them. While the mainstream media may choose to focus on the white, middle class men who feel ignored, the truth is that disengagement goes beyond the borders of those turning to the right for succour.
If you are a woman, or gay, or from an ethnic background outside of Europe then it seems to me that you might damned well feel entitled to believe that Westminster politics has forgotten you and is no longer interested in getting your vote.
A government in a healthy democracy represents society. Our government is predominantly white, predominantly male and predominantly well funded.
The current crop of female MP’s stands at a meagre 23% of Parliament.
Sorry, I’ll say that again.
Twenty three per cent.
Are you kidding me?
Our highest level of government in this country has a gender imbalance of 77:23 men:women, there are 503 male MPs and 147 women MPs a bit more than 3:1. It’s no wonder people feel disconnected from politics, it hardly represents the world they see around them.
This is, of course, not just a problem within politics. Within business and at the highest levels of most institutions in this country women are grossly under-represtented. Women in postitions of power are under constant media scrutiny and while that may also be true of some men, the expectations of the women are quite different.
While a man at the highest level of business can buy off police, desecrate a landscape, silence opposition and forcibly evict landowners with barely a peep from anyone in the media, if Karen Brady voices a strong opinion on, say, sexism in football, she can face days of negative press and death threats.
Which segues neatly into how women represent us in Parliament.
The question of how we get more women into the highest levels of politics is an interesting one, and it is why I whole-heartedly support the 50:50 campaign. Of course there needs to be a massive cultural shift in how we think about women in public life, there also need to be more women to choose from in the political sphere.
At a fundamental level we all need to look at how we treat female politicians when they actually gain those positions, for that, as much as anything, may have something to do with finding fewer women willing to put themselves at the mercy of what must seem like a baying mob of would-be-rapists.
The language used around, and very often about, female candidates and MP’s should give serious pause for thought. The ferocious commentaries of their every fashion choice (I do not care what shoes my MP is wearing, I care whether they are doing the right thing by the bloody country, you smug, mugging, asshat of a journalistic tosspot!), the slightly condescending tone taken when addressing anyone female in political life-the nadir of which must surely have been David Cameron, and his now infamous “calm down, dear”; all of it plays into the same culture that allows men to send threats of death and rape to a woman like Sella Creasy, who had the temerity to stand up for something she believes in.
There are obviously huge cultural problems that need to be addressed around these issues, but a jolly good start would be to see more women at the top of our society.
At the moment there are a few prominent targets for those who espouse hate towards women. That can be drowned ou by sheer weight of numbers. The moment that a female MP on Newsnight or Question Time no longer has a stigma of tokenism will be a fine day for both television and ministers, god forbid there may even be more than one female on a panel without everyone losing their minds.
That’s just part of the reason I think the 50:50 campaign is so vital.
I also believe that more representative government can only be good for everyone. The broader spectrum of those in government, the more diverse opinion there will be and the more rigourous intellectual debate we can have. That just seems to be good sense. It’s the same reason that I would like to see more candidates from every walk of life being put forward, not just those with the financial clout to push themselves to the top.
Guys, let’s not kid ourselves.
Men have had the majority of the wealth, the power and the influence since the dawn of time. This has resulted in many fine and worthy things, don’t get me wrong.
It has also led to more than a century of constant war, to a disparity between the rich and the poor which has never been breached, it has led to subjegation, imperialiasm, violence, unchecked and unregulated greed on a scale that has cost the whole world dear, it has seen peaceful protest met with murder and the lives of a select few made easier by the suffering of many.
When power is in the hands of a small section of a society of course it will never represent the needs of everyone.
I want to live in a country where women are no longer thought of as a minority interest group. They are 51% of the population, how is it that we can attempt to distill all of those experiences, all of those lives into ONE MINISTER FOR WOMEN’S ISSUES?
One; who does not even have to dedicate all of their time to women’s issues, as he now has two roles within government.
How. Very. Heartening.
I want to live in a country where women have a strong voice at the highest levels, and where the culture is not such that they are afraid to use that voice.
We can change the culture.
We can change government.
It just takes the will.
Who knows, it might even bring some of that 65% who don’t vote back to politics?