Tuesday, 24 March 2015

If the SNP membership believes in meritocrcacy then ...

Day off from laughing at Labour or poking holes in their strategy and claims to consider a key motion at this weekend's SNP Spring Conference. The 'contentious issue threatening to break SNP unity' (as our London media pals like to put it) on all women short lists for a percentage of SNP CPs, to reduce the current gender imbalance.

The logic for such lists is they are the only way to address the issue of female under-representation in politics and in the SNP in particular. Yet, as the experience of both Labour and Conservative parties show, these 'women only' listings do not go down well with CPs on which they are imposed and are seen as 'top down' or 'parachuting in' of head office's preferred choice. 

The question to be asked is: While most SNP CPs see merit in the idea, how happy would they be to have an all woman list forced on them by SNP HQ?

The SNP is, after all a membership party which has a strong meritocratic soul so will 'all women lists' actually be received well in practice? Where will the dissenters, 'Aye beeners' and party misogynists go?

Let me be very clear; I agree there has to be increased female representation at all levels of the SNP and I agree with the aim of at least 50% of our MSPs, councillors and MPs should be female, I simply do not see this top down approach is the best way and how rancour is going to be avoided, no matter the motion should sweep conference at the weekend, largely uncontested.

Here is my suggestion and if some feel it has merit, they could put it forward as a late amendment on the motion because, as I read it, Ms Sturgeon's proposal has polarised opinion:

All CP lists for councilor, MP and MSP constituency candidates must have one out of three of the opposite gender. Provision is made to encourage at least 50% of constituencies parties to weigh their selection list in favour of women candidates.

The aim remains to have 50% of CP lists weighted in favour of women but it does do away with the sense of CP lists being imposed by SNP HQ - while giving more women the chance of being selected, not just in the weighted CP lists. If we are the meritocratic party we claim to be it should not matter if there is only one woman in three, if the female candidate is the best then they should be confirmed as candidate.

I understand in the old SNP, with its cadre of 'aye beens' and its sense that 'Buggins' should get their turn, would have created difficulty in delivering the aims of our leader for 50% female representation on the basis of my proposal. I would suggest from my own experience, in my own local SNP Branch, this is no longer the case and many of the old 'aye beens' and 'it's only fair, its Jimmy's turn' are now left chuntering into their beer glasses as branches move in a new direction. I doubt my own branch is the only one changed in this way, our branch elder statesmen are respected but their word is no longer 'law'.

So that's my tuppence worth, I will not be there at the conference for what could be the most enervating debate since NATO at conference in October 2012. What I do know, as happened in the aftermath of the NATO debate, is both sides, who ever wins, will shake hands, the 'losers' will chunter on for a bit in the pubs and restaurants, that night, and then get on with the important task of securing as many SNP MPs as possible for Scotland on the 8th of May.

After all the delegates of the branches will have spoken, through them the branch membership will have spoken, in this last truly membership driven political party in the UK; a democratic and meritocratic party I am proud to be a member of.

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