Saturday , March 2 2024

Scrap patronising diversity shortlists and talent will rise to the top

With no shortlist in sight, no holders of our four great offices of state are male, pale and stale. Given this has happened organically, with no quotas involved, all political parties should scrap their adherence to patronising diversity quotas and realise talent rises to the top. 

While the two remaining candidates spent the summer buttering up Conservative party members, from mid-July the country was assured that their next Prime Minister would make history. The choice was between the UK third female PM — at what number does this stop being news? — or the first non-white PM. The results are now in and No 10 has welcomed its third female (and third female Conservative) inhabitant through its doors and she got there on merit alone. 

The Conservative Party must continue to push back on a concerning segment of members within its ranks who believe that shortlisting people based on immutable characteristics will somehow improve the quality of our political representatives. Caroline Nokes MP, chair of the Women’s and Equalities Committee, expressed her view that all candidates shortlisted to fight the by-election of Tiverton and Honiton should be women — as if a woman’s sex could somehow improve her ability to represent the needs of the good people of that corner of Devon. This leadership race should put an end to that notion once and for all. Labour, still to elect its first female leader despite its desperate attempts to engineer diversity, should take note. 

Quotas are patronising. Those who make positions through shortlists will never be able to reassure their inner critic that they were the very best person for the job. Those who advocate all female shortlists are admitting that unless men are removed from the competition, women have no hope of winning. How’s that for equality?

Yes, we need people from all walks of life sitting on the green benches, bringing together a variety of backgrounds, education, careers, and experience. The Commons is poorer for the loss of the Beast of Bolsover and serial heckler, Dennis Skinner, one of the last remaining Members to have been a miner. His experience crouching down a dark mine shaft represented something of the history of our country and an understanding of the danger and graft of dangerous manual jobs. This is the diversity that matters, not an engineered diversity of melanin or gender. 

Former leadership candidate and now Home Secretary Suella Braverman, who was eliminated in the second round of voting, asked colleagues not to vote for her because she was brown. Her skin colour neither qualified nor disqualified her. She knew her melanin count was the least interesting thing about her — it was her ideas, vision, and competence she was hoping would win her the top job. 

True breadth of experience is not funnelled into Parliament through quotas. Take a look at the 2019 Conservative Manifesto and you will see candidates from a range of careers and backgrounds from teachers and farmers to ex-military personnel and charity workers. This was a result of a concerted effort to expand the variety of backgrounds on the approved candidate list, and it paid off. To further remove barriers, parties should provide parliamentary candidates with a stipend to level the playing field and reduce the personal cost. 

For true diversity, we should be creating an environment where talent can rise to the top. Parties should expand the pool from which candidates are drawn, prune the need for nepotism and networks, and encourage aspiration. Diversity quotas will make mediocre politicians; equality of opportunity will naturally yield diverse Prime Ministers. 

About Sophia Worringer

Sophia Worringer is a senior parliamentary assistant and a political commentator with Young Voices UK. Follow her on Twitter @SophiaWorringer

Check Also

The Peace Proposal: Shadows of Versailles

A change of seasons brings a change of perspective. With St Martin appearing on a …