LETTER: Who is truly representative?

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The Independent Online
Sir: According to Barbara Follett, to be truly democratic and representative of women, MPs must have a male/female ratio equivalent to that of the population at large; this justifies all-women parliamentary candidate shortlists - and men who object are manifesting self-interested concern for their jobs ("Women's place is in the House", 30 May). If so, then when Mrs Follett notes that the middle class may benefit disproportionately, she should argue that all-working-class shortlists are required; if she finds herself objecting, this too shows self-concern for her job.

If, in order to represent, representers must belong to the same categories as the represented, then MPs require right proportions of oyster-lovers, self-lovers, credit card debtors, alcoholics, fiddlers, those economical with the truth, lovers of bits on the side and size nine shoe-wearers. Maybe that's easy; but there are problems with securing right proportions of the meek, the poor and the down-trodden - to say nothing of the unwaged, the teenager, the non-MP and the comatose,

Reflecting further, if representers must be the same as the represented, then we should falsely conclude that signs can represent solely signs, thoughts must be about thoughts, actors can play only actors - and MPs represent only themselves. Ooops! - in some recent cases, it looks as if some MPs really believe this last one.

Yours faithfully,

PETER CAVE

London, NW3

22 April

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