Yasmin Alibhai-Brown: Is there any way that some 'outsiders' might get a look-in?

I thought this year there'd be a breakthrough but it was not to be
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The Independent Online

Excuse me, could I please? May I intrude, sneak into the parties – a ligger, no less – and say something on the political contest? We need to talk about things gone missing. And first among these is that after all the argument and all the promises, access and influence still seem confined to the same old magic circle – white, middle-class, male and top universities.

The most noted and momentous conversations are mostly between David and Nick and Gordon and Alistair and Adam and David and other male politicians and A-List media men called John, James, Jeremy, Andrew, Steve, Simon, etc, etc. Krishnan Guru-Murthy is the only "outsider" among them.

There she goes again, hoary Ms PC going madder ever year that passes. Getting madder, actually. Politicians like Theresa, Harriet, Tessa, and Caroline are elbowing in and I do salute Martha and Caroline and Sarah and Kirsty and Rita and others who dauntlessly carry on doing a fine job. But they didn't get the big TV debates and are unlikely to get the key spots on election night. If I am wrong, correct me and make me a happy woman.

Like millions of others I am turned on by an election which just got sexy. And turned off too. Nick Clegg deserves the praise heaped on him. He has style and substance and though immersed in the bog of politics still smells of integrity. Last year he invited me to write a pamphlet on the need to develop a progressive national British identity. At the launch, Clegg eclipsed all the rest of us. His party has alone stood up for fundamental human rights and liberty, and was steadfastly against the depraved Blair/Bush war in Iraq. Vince Cable shows proper contempt for tax-dodging millionaires and bonus leeches. But though it now has huge support from Britons of colour, the party has failed to select any black or Asian candidates in winnable seats.

I thought this year would be a breakthrough but it was not to be. Grabbing our votes without treating us seriously as equals is an ignominious old Labour trick, now passed down to the Lib Dems. Neither enlightened nor fair, that. Labour has selected candidates of the future – young, female, black, Asian, working class – but more importantly, sharp, educated and ultra-confident. We watch with interest what happens to them next – whether, like their predecessors they will simply become popcorn in the party machine or will ensure real democratic accountability. Most non-white MPs and peers and women who made a grand entrance into the Commons in 1997 surrendered to Blair's will. They backed the war and extreme laws to curb the rights of citizens. Any constitutional reform must ensure that MPs can vote with their consciences when they need to and without penalty. What does New Labour say on that?

The manifesto claims they are "proud" of their record on civil liberties. Are they having a laugh or is this party now dangerously self-delusional? What guarantees are we going to get that NEVER AGAIN will this country go to war on a false prospectus? We need to know the policy ideas on Israel and Palestine too. I really don't trust their watery pledges on the Human Rights Act. This government crushes those sacrosanct rights when it chooses. And is anyone going to dare to speak up for immigrants? Without them the NHS, care services and post-recession business recovery will be in crisis.

The New Tories have brought in diverse candidates of all backgrounds, for which Cameron gets credit. He ignored the grumpy, reactionary old men and women in his party. But the Tories too were enthusiastically pro-war. How will they stop any future megalomaniac from whipping up another conflict? Neo-cons are among Cameron's top team. Have they abandoned that ideology?

The Tories want to shrink the state and big up society and community. They are expediently silent on equality. So what happens when small tribes make policies? Those who don't fit in are out. Local areas could decide that no help will be given to drug addicts or asylum seekers or ex-cons. What happens then? Or neighbourhood schools and social services may opt out of equality and health and safety laws. If we think we are fragmented and divided now, just wait for the emerging people's dystopia.

So much to clarify and so little time. This election is being fought over by (mostly) men obsessed with the recession and MPs' expenses. If politicians want more voters to come out, they need to widen the debates and engage with issues they are ignoring. It's not only the economy, stupid.