Gender quotas? Do me a favour - politicians are all the same anyway

23 Mar 2015 Guest Author    Last updated: 7 Jul 2015

Alex Kane

Political commentator Alex Kane explains why quotas for female politicians will never get his vote.

One thing that forty years of political activism and commentary has taught me is that when it comes to party politics there isn’t a button of difference between men and women. They will abide by the same rules, take the same whip and trot through whichever voting lobby they’re pointed towards. They will have the same sort of ambitions when it comes to climbing the ‘greasy pole’ and the same determination to hold on to whatever seat or office comes their way. Politicians—irrespective of age, background, ability, ideology or gender—are pretty much the same. Always have been and always will be.

So the fact that women aren’t ‘properly represented’ in Parliament, the Assembly or local council doesn’t, in fact, cause me sleepless nights. And the reason it doesn’t bother me is that I don’t buy into the nonsense that the mere presence of more women would do anything to improve politics, let along produce a form of government which would be less confrontational or gladiatorial in style. Nor do I accept that more women would, somehow, help to create and deliver an entirely different form of legislative agenda. The business of politics and government would go on much as it always has.

Anyway, like Mark Twain, I have reservations about the sort of people who want to hold elective office: and I can’t imagine those reservations being lessened by increasing numbers of them being women. People who want to be politicians tend to be cut from the same cloth and they tend to have the same aptitude for convenient, career-promoting flexibility. When I hear the words, “I’m in it to help people and make a difference,” I invariably hide the children and wake the dog.

How would you even boost the number of women in, for example, Parliament? The only way you could absolutely guarantee a woman winning a seat would be to have constituencies in which all of the candidates were women. Or maybe just force the parties to put women candidates in their bankable, safe seats. Yet that would mean constituencies holding ‘men need not apply’ selection meetings. In other words, short of women adopting an ‘entryism’ strategy for constituency associations, or a very substantial majority of women voters choosing not to vote for men, I don’t see how it’s possible to balance the genders in Westminster—or any other elected body for that matter. Hell’s teeth, why not just cut to the chase and give women seats without the hassle of an election!

What does give me real cause for concern, however, is the growing army of career politicians who have never dirtied their hands in the ‘real’ world and who know little of life other than student politics, helping in constituency offices, party research, bag carrying and then their own seat. Young men and young women with an eye on the main chance and a nose sniffing out the safe seats. They don’t have passion or dynamism: all they have is the Pavlovian ability to respond to a Press Office directive while happily ‘donutting’ the leader during photo-ops and constituency visits.

I hate these Stepford Wives and Westworld robots. I hate that their every response and position is texted to them and that they tweet platitude as if they were handing out nuggets from the Gettysburg Address. I hate the fact that every day brings a new badge or ribbon. I hate the fact that they dumb themselves down so that they can be “relevant to the ordinary Joe and Josephine in the street.” I hate the fact that they think that watching The West Wing and The Thick Of It is the only education they need for a political career. I hate the fact that they embody Sherlock Holmes’ dictum that “mediocrity recognizes nothing higher than itself.”

My bottom line? I don’t really care if my political representatives are men, women, gay, coloured or disabled. I just want them to be passionate, idealistic, provocative, interesting, road-tested and unafraid. I don’t want quotas that just give me more of the same type of politician.

Join the Conversation...

We'd love to know your thoughts on this article.
Join us on Twitter and join the conversation today.

Join Our Newsletter

Get the latest edition of ScopeNI delivered to your inbox.