Saturday, May 27, 2006

The Deputy

(Press Association)
This weekend I suffered from occasional blogger fatigue, in that I feel I want to blog on something, but on what!
I could for example do my blog entry on climate change, but I want to think about that a great deal beforehand, although Sunday or tomorrow is probable. I could do another "In Musical Praise of..." article, given some of the new CD's I have brought, but I am not too fussed right now!
George Galloway's recent outburst! Well I figure, why give the odious little *ahem* any more publicity than he deserves and I have lost my sense of shock over his behaviour, suffice to say that my ground rule in my take on him is that it does seem hypocritical to attack Blair and Bush and accuse them of war crimes when you look at the company he keeps!
But one little gem for a five minute blog entry has caught my eye, and that is Harriet Harman's call for a female Deputy, along with two others!
Aside from the fact that this kind of talk plays into Tory hands, it smacks of tokenism. Another point is is it necessary! We already have had more women in Blair's cabinets at any one time than any previous cabinet, Conservative or Labour. We now have a female Foreign Secretary, who incidentally, got to be Deputy in 1992 entirely on merit!
Maybe it's easy for me to say this as a white, middle-class male, but I find tokenism like this inadvertently sexist, patronising, restrictive, and potentially demeaning, and I am basically holding that view from the effects of tokenist policies I have seen first hand. There are a lot of talented women out there in the Labour Party and I am proud to know of some of them and some I owe a lot to in what political career I have.
Let me put it another way, take a look at the Labour activists who hold blogs which I have links with, such as Jo, Antonia, Lisa, and Lola. I could easily see any of them as Deputy one day and (not without reservations, although I am thinking of potential policy differences) they would have my unqualified support and help. But I would want to see them get there on their own abilities and merits and not because of a change in the rules. Otherwise it seems to be the old fashioned equivalent of a toff going to Oxbridge without taking any exams.

36 comments:

Tim Roll-Pickering said...

Is it me or is this Harman's only chance for the Deputy Leadership?

Mind you , as noted before, she has been hit by scandal, is being stripped of key ministerial responsibilities, is prone to making silly gaffes, has hit the headlines for her driving activities, can generate fierce political storms and is considered by some to be ignorant. So she's certainly qualified to succeed John Prescott!

Anonymous said...

Paul-I live in Letchworth and have bought papers from you on Saturday afternoon.I was at the meeting on Thursday as well.

Paul Burgin said...

"So she's certainly qualified to succeed John Prescott"

Tim if you want to take that route I will be more than happy to discuss gaffe prone Tories ;), in any case Harman isn't even a cabinet minister and I think her being a deputy is unlikely.
Anon, a pleasant surprise, I hope you will introduce yourself :).

Tim Roll-Pickering said...

You are happy to discuss them but we don't have a formal post of Deputy Leader. Who would you like to see - a near duplicate of Brown (shades of the Lib Dems' dream team) or someone dyametrically opposed to Brown ideologically?

Paul Burgin said...

Oh yes you didn't have one since Peter Lilley, who was acked if I recall!
But you have had embarrasing deputies in the past! Take Reggie Maudling and his lack of judgement over business deals for example. That said you have had decent one's like Whitelaw, who warned Thatcher time and again that Jeffrey Archer was dodgy and could cause great embarrasment to the Party! She ignored him and made Archer Deputy Chairman of the Conservative Party!
As for an ideal deputy, I think the best thing to do is to wait and see who the candidates are and to make a judgement then. I simply want to see a deputy who will be a credit to the Labour Party and to the country

Tim Roll-Pickering said...

Erm Michael Ancram was Deputy under IDS and Howard, not that many people noticed showing how insignificant the post is.

I agree we had one or two problems - but then Labour has not exactly been free of Home Secretaries who were forced to resign over personal scandals involving conflicts of interest.

As for Archer the only thing I can say is that the big embarassment didn't happen on Thatcher's watch! Yes we made a mistake there.

Paul Burgin said...

In forgot about Ancram, my apologies, and yes Labour have had a couple of Home Secretaries who had to resign in less than desirable circumstances.
The big embarrasment was cultivated by Thatcher though! She was warned time and again by Archer and she ignored that advice, leaving a ticking time bomb. She has also remained friends with him, as have several other retired prominent Tories, and hasn't he been allowed back into the party and aren't MP's like Alan Duncan calling for the Tory Whip to be brought back for Archer! And I have to say, Labour may have had the odd crook or two in Parliament in it's 100+ year history, but not one so lionised by many members and constituency associations of the said Party.At least you admit to the mistake though!

Tim Roll-Pickering said...

I forgot about Ancram, my apologies,

Don't worry - you were far from the only one who missed his impact as Deputy Leader!

As for Archer, I understand he has indeed taken out membership of the party again. But to deny it to him could be in breach of his human rights. He has served his sentence and would have grounds for a legal challenge if the party sought to brand him for life. It may be embarassing but that's the case. Incidentally I believe he could also have joined Labour if he'd wanted to.

As for any party events he goes to, at least he isn't spending the time writing books!

Lola said...

I should point out initially that the idea of me as Deupty Leader made me laugh for about 10 minutes!

However, that aside, I think that you should note that 3 out of 4 of those Labour women you cite are supporters of positive discrimination (it might be 4 out of 4 - I don't know Lisa).

Have no intention of getting into (another) row about this issue right now though, but I think that the fact it is supported by the very women you cite as examples of why it is not necessary is interesting.......

And I'm still amused by the thought of me running ODPM!

Lola said...

And it's not the equivalent of a toff going to oxford without exams - it's the equivalent of Bristol's progressive and fantastic policy where they offer places by potential, not just preidcted A-Level grades, with appreciation of the fact that kids from poor backgrounds might not have achieved their full potential at school but might flourish at university.

And my understanding is that those kids who were offered places with lower grades than the toff kids have so far done consistently better at uni than their toff counterparts.

Lola said...

Sorry, that sounded stroppy - wasn't meant to be!

Paul Burgin said...

Well of course an ODPM run by you or the other three would be a more dynamic and sophisticated dept.. ;)
No offence taken, I am aware, as I said earier, that it is perhaps easy for me to take this view, being a man (although Tammy agreed with me on this, and as she herself said, she fitted into several minority groups)but I think that positive discrimination is still discrimination. I think women can get by quite easily on their own merits. Take my CLP for example, last year we had to choose a woman for that year's conference, and yet hardly any, if I remember, were prepared to do it. The fact that we decided in the end not to send one for other reasons is neither here or there, but all the same...
I simply think that women are big enough and strong enough and bright enough not to get what appear to be exceptional favours.
Tim, still sorry I forgot about Ancram, esp as he is one of the Conservatives I like and respect. As for Archer, Labour would have found some clause in the rulebook not to accept him, and I am sure the Conservatives would have done the same! BTW Aitken tried to rejoin and was barred (and Aitken has apologised fully and is somewhat of a changed man, where Archer has given evasive regrets and seems to have changed little), what's the difference?
As for books, did you ever see that Spitting Image sketch where Archer was writing a new novel on a typewriter, and on the keyboard were pound and dollar signs and just four letters in the middle: CRAP! ;)

Lola said...

But surely you need to ask why no women wanted to go to conference? Is that not an issue in itself?

And yes, women are bright enough to succeed, but not when the odds are stacked against them in what is still a fundamentally sexist party and society.

Society still overwhelmingly views women as carers, and still largely views politics as men's business - as long as people in political parties are worried that a woman being a women / wife / mum will get in the way of their political work we have an issue that needs action to be dealt with.

For example, women are bright enough to be paid as much as their male counterparts - and yet they are not - so government takes action to address this.

I don't think we can have a debate on gender and politics from the starting point that everything is fine and women have equality of opportunity - as they clearly don't.

If the debate starts from the position that there is a fundamental bias against women in soceity, politics and the party, then the question arises: what do we do to address that.

The answer to that does not have to be positiv action (although I think it plays a part). It should also involve changing the culture within the party, maybe the timing of CLP meetings, the agenda of those meetings, providing training for selection panels, training and support for women who want to get involved.

My view is that the problem is sufficiently severe that only positive action will have an immediate impact - but either way, I think we need to acknowledge that we have a problem and then debate ways of fixing it....

Tim Roll-Pickering said...

From recollection Aitken wasn't seeking to join the party but to be selected for his old seat - candidate selection is a somewhat different matter. In any case his subsequent endorsement of the fruitcake (UKIP) makes a comeback harder.

I understand Archer has rejoined through his local association and no we don't have a clause to stop him. I suspect Labour couldn't stop him either - party rules are not above the law. As for his books they are frankly dire. The only original one is the one for children and even that is silly beyond belief (little boy's cat goes missing so he puts on his spacesuit and at the press of a button he and his talking teddy are transported to the Square World where a race of people have no legs but springs, there's a wise old owl, a glow snake... zzz...).

Paul Burgin said...

Right then!

Lola, the conference thing may well be an issue in itself, but having these policies when they are difficult to implement is like locking up a Jewellers Shop with nothing inside!
I totally agree with you that the core of the debate on the argument that everything is fine and I think you have hit the nail on the head there! Which is why I am very aware of my sex, because as a bloke I probably don't spot forty-nine out of every fifty sexist acts that take place, or downplay them in my mind, so therefore I might not be the best judge on the status quo.. Perhaps that the best admission to make in a debate, but an honest one!
We do live in a very sexist and very bigoted society, somewhat less than it was a few decades ago, thank God, but all the same...
But I am wondering if this is the right approach to take! Surely this will cause a lot of anger and resentment and drive it all under the surface or encourage loutish attitudes when it should be tackled head on. In any case, a lot has been done already. We have had (well you wonder sometimes, but all the same) a woman Prime Minister, in the past ten years a good third of each cabinet has been women, far better than the token one forty years ago, and we have women involved in just about all walks of life. I totally agree there is far more to do, that there is still a lot of prejudice to overcome and fight. I just question, as a human being, not as a man or woman, whether this is the right approach to take. Positive discrimination in my view, doesn't change the culture, it just papers over the cracks and enforces it's own brand of sexism, and when do you decide that society has changed to the point that PD can be dropped?
Going back to the original argument, Harriet Harman wants to see three Deputies, one being a female. For administrative reasons I question the need for three, but in any case there are many talented women in the upper echelons of the Party and we have had one female Deputy leader already, is there any need for positive discrimination at the top, when the glass ceiling is cracking substantially already?
With regards to the core of the debate, I agree there is a problem, but I profess that I can only see it as a problem to a point, but you may well know more than I do!

Paul Burgin said...

Tim, I didn't know seat selection and party membership were two different things in your Party! I agree however, that I was unimpressed by his endorsement of UKIP!
With regards to Archer rejoining the Party, I would be interested to know if he attends meetings, in any case it is a propoganda coup for the other local parties!

Lola said...

but why should it cause resentment and anger amongst men? i know a lot of blokes who are 100% behind positive action.

ultimately there's only a finite amount of power / seats and if women are to have a greater share in that then men's share will have to be reduced... whether that balance is changed through positive action or not is almost irrelevant...

Paul Burgin said...

I wish I was wrong about the resentment, but I have come across one or two who seem to feel that. There is a sense of riding roughshod over people in this, but C'est la vie!
I agree that there needs to be more women in positions of power, but again I am unhappy with positive discrimination!

Paul Burgin said...

And at 18 posts thats a Jt record.
Hang on, this is the ninteenth post.
New record of postings, yeah! :)

Lola said...

yes, but is a lot of the resentment not just another manifestation of sexism as those bloody women try and get in the way of jobs for the boys (not always, but a lot of the time)??

Tim Roll-Pickering said...

Paul - yes I misphrased that but I think Aitken had rejoined the party at that stage. It was his seeking to be adopted for Thanet South (?) that led to Howard's intervention. Aitken also demonstrated his colours - pledging he would always give the party full support regardless of the decision beforehand then subsequently supporting fruitcake.

Incidentally technically many MPs were not members of the party when they were in Parliament - I forget the reasoning but it led to oddities that any who stood down/were defeated automatically ceased to be party members. Consequently Enoch was never expelled from the party for advocating voting Labour and in 1997 Neil Hamilton could not be expelled when the report came through (although quite a few were willing to buy him membership purely so he could be thrown out).

Paul Burgin said...

Lola

Yes that is the case, but some feel resentful just because they feel trampled on irrespective on the issue (In this case positive discrimination)

Tim

Thanks for making the membership issue clear, although I know some Conservative Party members were keen to give genuine support to Neil Hamilton. Norris McWhirter launched a Neil Hamilton Fighting Fund, and if I am right in remembering, McWhirter was at one time fairly prominent within the Party activist machine (although to be fair, from previous discussions I suspect your politics are not the same as McWhirter's were (Praise God) and you are no fan)

Lola said...

Then I don't care if they feel resentment as they should get over it already

Paul Burgin said...

Okay Lola, game, set, and match to you! I can't argue that :). In any case the crux of the argument, do we have gender equality at the moment! Has already been dealt with!

Lola said...

yay i win.

Kerron said...

Just got back from hols - so thought I'd add another comment to add to the record!

I'm genuinely surprised that so many of our up and coming women are in favour of positive discrimination in any form.

Although of course it does benefit them, doesn't it. :-/

I've never favoured positive discrimination for anything - it just creates more problems and resentment - especially from the communities it's meant to help represent and favour.

But then you probably think I think that because I want to be an MP in the next 20 years or so. :-p

Lola said...

"I've never favoured positive discrimination for anything - it just creates more problems and resentment - especially from the communities it's meant to help represent and favour."

I haven't noticed any huge resentment from women about it to be honest with you. Or indeed from that many men. Including a lot of men I know who probably quite fancy political careers themselves.

I just genuinely cannot comprehend why, if people are as committed to increasing women's representation as they purport to be, people would be resentful about this.

650 odd MPs - more women = less men, deal with it. ;)

Paul Burgin said...

Kerron mate, I tried.
This woman can be lethal! ;)

Lola said...

It's simply that I am right and your arguments are lacking legs on which to stand other than some imaginary 'resentment' which you have yet to identify. ;)

Paul Burgin said...

Lola

Note that I said that you won the argument, I didn't say you were right! And saying "I'm right!" in an argument can breed resentment! ;)

Lola said...

Breed imaginary and unjustified resentment maybe!!!!!!!

Anyway, does winning an argument not generally mean one gets to think one was right in the first place??? Otherwise what's the point of having a row?

Paul Burgin said...

Have you ever thought of taking up law?

Lola said...

No. I would be terrible and flakey in the extreme. I do love a good argument though.

I miss making tanky speeches where you get to shout at people and say that you are 'shocked and appalled' a lot.

Paul Burgin said...

Thats not an argument though, thats exercising righteous anger! ;)

Lola said...

said speeches were normally within a formal debate structure, which i believe makes them an argument.

Paul Burgin said...

having a diatribe during a debate does not necessarily make it an argument!