Leading article: Lacklustre reform

Share
Related Topics

It's a pity that the inquiry chaired by John Bercow, the new Speaker, should come up with such a tired report on increasing the representation of women, ethnic minorities and disabled people in the House of Commons.

It starts by engaging in the ritual self-flagellation ceremony now familiar to any MP who is not already busy apologising for his or her expenses claims. The Commons continues to be "largely white, male, middle-aged and middle-class", it complains. Well, up to a point. The glass is perhaps one-fifth full, as there are 125 women out of 646. The Chamber, on those rare occasions when it is full, looks very different from the pre-New Labour era, when there were hardly any women at all.

Yesterday's interim report of the Speaker's Conference – a supposedly grand constitutional forum – might have been entitled to repeat the token whinge about the unrepresentativeness of Parliament if it proposed any novel remedies. But it does not. It suggests amending the Equalities Bill to require the political parties to report every six months on the diversity of their selection processes. This is a feeble and bureaucratic response to a deep issue.

Labour's experience has shown that only illiberal action with an element of rough justice – all-women shortlists – has a significant impact in practice. David Cameron has just discovered how hard that is, having being forced to retreat from his plan to impose such lists on his party. And extending that principle of positive discrimination to ethnic minority and disabled representation is fraught with even more difficulty, not just because of the problem of defining terms, but because the view of so many voters is the opposite of the liberal consensus. A recent YouGov survey found that 46 per cent of Conservative voters, for example, feel that it is white people who suffer from "unfair discrimination".

In such circumstances, Mr Bercow's well-meaning inquiry might have been more fruitfully occupied in working on innovative ways of changing the attitudes of voters, rather than in monitoring the complexion of their representatives. Anyone for a positive discrimination Wannabe-MP X Factor?

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

IT Project Manager

Competitive: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Chelmsford a...

Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

IT Manager

£40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Nigel Farage has urged supporters to buy Mike Read's Ukip Calypso song and push it up to the No 1 spot  

Mike Read’s Ukip calypso is mesmerisingly atrocious — but it's not racist

Matthew Norman
Shirley Shackleton, wife of late journalist Gregory Shackleton, sits next to the grave of the 'Balibo Five' in Jakarta, in 2010  

Letter from Asia: The battle for the truth behind five journalists’ deaths in Indonesia

Andrew Buncombe
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Let's talk about loss

We need to talk about loss

Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Women may be better suited to space travel than men are
Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album