Negatively positive on discrimination
I am, as regular visitors to Trust People will know, vehemently opposed to so-called positive discrimination. It amounts to nothing more than discrimination on grounds which, for me, are unacceptable bases for discrimination. As such I have concerns over Cameron's (or should I say Maude's?) proposals for a Goldlist of candidates. Although they say it will be based on merit, the press release I had read told me that 50% of the candidates would be women, 50% men, and at the same time there would be a set proportion of ethnic minorities and disabled people* amongst the top 140.
How can this be on pure merit? How can you predict that amongst the top 140, chosen on merit, that 70 will necessarily be men? You can't - unless you're junking meritocratic principle for presentational gain.
To seem more representative and to seem unprejudiced are the aims of the policy - it will probably achieve that. What they won't do is actually make the party truly more representative, make it truly unprejudiced or make it truly meritocratic. That could be achieved by dropping silly quotas and forcing the party to genuinely work hard to get the best women and ethnic minority candidates, by recruitment, head-hunting and changing its message, and strip away barriers to them which exist by placing responsibility for a representative party on its constituent parts. After all, we're meant to be Conservatives, we believe responsibility for results produces results.
I also know, however, that this is a distasteful medicine which it is vital I dislike for the good of the Tories. It is designed to rock the boat, so I shall squeak and then keep my counsel, whilst hoping this is not an ominous precursor of what will be the new leadership's approach to every question of localism. I appreciate that the message has to be sent out that we are not dogmatic on such issues - in fact I seem to recall (being told!) that when women were first allowed to vote Bonar Law set aside a third of Tory jobs for the girls. I also appreciate that the party does have to feel to the country more as if it is of the country. Sadly, although the road embarked upon will get headlines and help the Tory cause in the media, it will undermine it in the longer-term (as all-women shortlists did for Labour). It will merely act as a smokescreen for the underlying problems and allow us all to avoid facing up to them. Worse, it could even cede the arguments over such discrimination in university admissions and the like to Labour. Gulp...
*Supporting the party sporadically over the last few years has often felt like I've been poking my eyes out, but I never dreamt they actually wanted me to do it!