Is Parliament ‘institutionally racist’?
And politicians wonder why people are dismayed and disillusioned with the democratic process and their institutions of government.
Cranmer is of the opinion that any ‘diversity’ target which actively discriminates against white men is racist. And any that discriminates against straight men is heterophobic. But one does not hear much about these, for it is only minorities who are permitted to establish a –‘phobia’. ‘Positive discrimination’ is still manifestly negative towards the disadvantaged other, and the policy has most certainly seen lesser-qualified people from minority groups appointed to jobs at the expense of higher-qualified applicants from majority groups. It is patronising and divisive for a number of reasons, not least being the implicit assertion that minorities are not able to succeed on merit. There is also the stigma of never actually knowing if one is in Parliament because of one’s political ability or because one is a one-legged Asian lesbian.
There has been no Macpherson Report into parliamentary representation, but there is an increasing awareness of an unwritten Harmon Report which forms the backdrop to the first Speaker’s Conference in 30 years. Ms Harmon appears to have a clear grasp of what is wrong with democracy and intuitively gleaned why Parliament is failing.
It has nothing to do with governmental incompetence, policy failure or having abdicated authority to Brussels. And neither does it have anything to do with political duplicity, the lack of personal integrity or sleaze. Parliament is not working because there is a democratic deficit in its composition: it is not only ‘marred by institutional racism', but sexism and homophobia.
Thus Mr Speaker is to confer with sundry others on how best to address these deficiencies. His Conference shall consist of: Anne Begg (Vice-Chairman, Labour), Diane Abbott (Labour), John Bercow (Conservative), David Blunkett (Labour), Angela Browning (Conservative), Ronnie Campbell (Labour), Ann Cryer (Labour), Parmjit Dhanda (Labour), Andrew George (Liberal Democrat), Julie Kirkbride (Conservative), William McCrea (DUP), David Maclean (Conservative), Fiona Mactaggart (Labour), Anne Main (Conservative), Jo Swinson (Liberal Democrat) and Betty Williams (Labour).
This appears to be made up of 44% male to 56% female, 6% disabled, 6% lesbian (though this could be higher). There are no gay men (or gay men who are ‘out’ – should that be a separate category?).
Their objective is to formulate a strategy to recruit more ethnic minority MPs in direct proportion to the make-up of the country, and also more gay, lesbian and trans-gender MPs, not to mention the disabled – a few in wheelchairs, a few who are blind, maybe one who is deaf and a couple who are mute.
Cranmer would actually favour a disproportionate number of mutes.
But in order to achieve this, one must actively 'deselect' all the able-bodied white, heterosexual males. Or at least somehow advantage the one-legged Asian lesbians in the hope that, when it comes to government, one or two of them might know something about economics or defence.
White women shall not be discriminated against because of a separate policy aimed at encouraging women into Parliament. The disproportionate number of white women who make up this Conference will doubtless ensure this.
Cranmer has more than a few problems with this 'box-ticking’ culture which is fundamentally anti-meritocratic and a profoundly damaging manipulation of the legislature. Let us begin with the primary concerns of this Speaker’s Conference: ethnicity, gender and sexuality.
Ethnic minorities constitute around seven per cent of the population. With 646 MPs, one might expect to see 45 members with brown, black or yellow skin. Yet there are just 15.
The gender division is Parliament is 521 male as against 125 female. But there are 31 million women in the UK and 29.9 million men. With a 48:52 per cent division, one should expect Parliament to be composed of 336 women to 310 men.
Sexuality is unfathomable and not statistically verifiable. In terms of proportion of the population, Cranmer has frequently heard the 10% figure, though there are those who assert that it is much higher.
But how is Parliament going to redress any imbalance? Will it oblige all MPs to fill in a questionnaire about their sexuality or sexual behaviour? Might not those who wish to remain ‘in the closet’ somewhat distort the eventual representation? Should there be equal numbers of ‘in’ and ‘out’ homosexuals? And what is the proportion of bisexuals to be?
And what of the cross-dressing masochists or the hermaphrodite narcissists?
As if these issues do not raise enough problems, why should the Speaker’s Conference stop at gender, ethnicity, disability and sexuality? Should not diversity be... err... diversified?
What about selecting MPs by age, profession, income, or - dare one say - religion?
Has politics become so utterly superficial as to be more concerned with the colour of one’s skin than with one’s moral worldview? Which is more likely to determine the way one votes?
The average age of MPs is presently 50.6. This needs to be drastically amended to incorporate a fair proportion of teenagers. They are not all obsessed with making babies, and their idealism will be a welcome antidote to the prevailing negativity and cynicism. They would doubtless help to drag Parliament into the 21st century, supplanting ‘My Honourable Friend’ with ‘Yo Dude’ and ‘Black Rod’ could become the Dark Force. The teenagers would, of course, be recruited in proportion to ethnicity, gender, sexuality, disability and those who favour X-Box over Wii.
In order to improve the social diversity of the House of Commons, it needs MPs who are dustbin men, road sweepers, charity workers, teachers and nurses. These people would not be able to afford the costs of being a parliamentary candidate, so Mr Speaker needs to look at subsiding their costs. And let us not forget those who are content to be mothers and home-makers. In order to make space for these, Parliament will need to dispense with its over-representation of lawyers, accountants and career politicians.
And on religion, there is no point having 42 Asian MPs in Parliament if they are all Muslim, for that would offend the Sikhs and Hindus. And what proportion of the Muslim representatives should be Sunni, Shi’a or Sufi? Indeed, are there any Shi’a or Sufi Muslims in Parliament? Why not? They have thousands of adherents in the UK, but only the Sunni perspective presently has a parliamentary platform. Cranmer has given up trying to work out if Roman Catholics outnumber the Anglicans, not least because most Anglicans in Parliament are indistinguishable from the abundance of relativist agnostics: they no longer strongly believe anything anymore. And he shall not delve into how many Jews there might be for fear of provoking the anti-Semitic conspiracy theorists who insist that Jews run the British Government.
There is already one corner of the United Kingdom which insists on quotas of religious observers, and it has noted a fall in Protestant recruitment. The DUP have noted that ‘the proportion of new employees in the public sector from the Protestant community does not reflect the religious makeup of the working age population in Northern Ireland’. They are consequently questioning what plans the Government have to put in place affirmative action plans to ensure that a more equitable distribution of employment takes place in future years.
The answer is none which will be more equitable towards white male Protestants.
If one were to constitute the House of Commons in proportion to the religious make-up of the nation (excluding the agnostics, atheists and undeclared) it ought to contain 17 Muslims, 6 Hindus, 4 Sikhs, 3 Jews, 2 Buddhists, 465 Christians and 6 Jedi Knights.
But why stop there?
Why not select MPs by illness? Let us make the Department of Health more relevant by having a quota of AIDS sufferers and a proportion of cancer sufferers. Let us make the Education Secretary more ‘in touch’ by reducing the proportion of those educated in grammar or private schools in order to increase those from comprehensive and secondary modern schools.
So many groups are under-represented in the House of Commons that their concerns and priorities are chronically ignored. What of those who favour an English Parliament? Does not more than 70% of the electorate favour a referendum on our continuing membership of the EU? What proportion wish to severely curtail immigration? How many favour the reintroduction of capital punishment?
These people presently have no proportionate representation in Parliament.
But there is a further consideration.
In 2005, Labour secured 356 seats with just 35.3% of the vote.
It would seem wise to abolish political parties altogether and appoint a parliament solely in proportion to the multiple, diverse and disparate groups that make up our fractured society.
This would result in a majority white, female and Christian House of Commons. And since the majority of white Christian females really do prefer to focus on being good mothers, wives and home-makers whilst juggling a flexible career path, this would leave a House of Commons which would be predominantly white, male and Christian, which favours severely limiting immigration, establishing a Parliament for England and granting a referendum on the UK’s membership of the EU.
But such a parliament would be racist, sexist and xenophobic.
And we can’t be having that, can we?