Natalie Solent

Politics, news, libertarianism, Science Fiction, religion, sewing. You got a problem, bud? I like sewing.

E-mail: nataliesolent-at-aol-dot-com (I assume it's OK to quote senders by name.)

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( 'Nother Solent is this blog's good twin. Same words, searchable archives, RSS feed. Provided by a benefactor, to whom thanks.
I also sometimes write for Samizdata and Biased BBC.)

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Tuesday, December 14, 2004
Representation. Tim Worstall called his post on this article by would-be MP Hannah Pool "Gi's a job." Fair enough. Most of the article consists of her plaints about the reluctance of Labour selection committees to select her. She is cross that she, a black woman, doesn't score double on the shortlist.

My opinion of Labour selection committees has just gone up. Unless and until Ms Pool stops talking like an eighteenth century Tory oligarch in a rotten borough, the committee would be ill-advised to pick her as a candidate. She speaks of "stealing each other's seats" as if the seats concerned had been assigned to black female representatives of the Labour Party by God and the only problem lay in unseemly squabbles between His representatives on Earth, Operation Black Vote and the Fawcett Society. Hey, lady, these seats we're talking about are not mere property like Jasper Conran dining chairs! The voters have some role in this, remember?

Tim Worstall quotes her as saying:

There are just two black women MPs, both Labour (Diane Abbott and Oona King), of 13 black MPs, 119 women and 659 MPs in total. That's right, two. Given that there are well over 2 million ethnic-minority women in this country, that's an awful lot of representation left to Abbott and King.

He comments:
MPs represent their constituents, not some class, race or sex. That’s why we have constituencies, see, instead of national voting lists and such. Sheesh.

I have it on good authority that Ian Paisley, who once scornfully called the Catholic Sacrament "a biscuit", faithfully works to solve the daily problems of his Catholic constituents. From her words here, can you imagine a future Hannah Pool MP doing as much for her white, Asian or male (including black male) constituents? Selection committees know that these are the people she must appeal to. There aren't enough black females to elect an MP on their own in any seat in the UK, especially given that some of them may fail to agree with Ms Pool's advanced views on the nature of representation and vote for someone else on political grounds.

Her logic takes us to some ugly places. By Hannah Pool's arguments we can never have a black Prime Minister in the UK. Or ever again have a Prime Minister of a minority race or religion. (Tough luck, Michael Howard. And we'll have to airbrush out Benjamin Disraeli.) We cannot even have any more black MPs once the number equal to their proportion in the population has been reached. By Hannah Pool's arguments the existing black female MPs, Diane Abbott and Oona King, do not represent their white, brown or male constituents. I know little about Oona King (other than that she'll be fighting George Galloway in the next election, best of luck to her) but I bet that wasn't what she said on her election leaflets to the citizens of Bethnal Green & Bow. As for Ms Abbott, I am no admirer of hers politically but I can testify she knows her duties better than that. I once spent a morning sitting a few feet from her in a Parliamentary Committee. The questions she put, while sometimes based on wrong assumptions, flowed from her role as an overseer of the UK's public spending, not from her role as a black woman. She talks about that role a lot but is not limited to it.

It's a bit rich, Hannah Pool complaining about how horrible it is to have everyone pre-judging your responses because of your race or gender

If the debate is about women's equality, we are expected to agree with white women because they are women; if the debate is about race, we are expected to agree with black men.
and then demanding to go to the front of the queue because of her race and gender.

As I have said elsewhere, I take "democracy is the least worst form of government" literally. I am a democrat faute de mieux. I would like to see a world where people put serious matters to the vote rather in the way that they now sue a neighbour: reluctantly, embarrassed that it has come to this bitter juncture, and that not merely because the law is expensive and uncertain, but from a perception that fundamentally, this is not how relations between people should be. Force should be a last resort.

Thus it makes me smile in a sardonic way when Ms Pool writes:

What I resent most about the current debate is that, once again, someone is making decisions on my behalf: Labour women are assuming I'd rather be represented by a woman, OBV is assuming I'd rather be represented by a black man.
And you, Ms Pool, are assuming that the voters would rather be represented by you. Perhaps they would, perhaps they wouldn't. But if you so object to people making decisions on others' behalf then how do you justify your desire to stand as a elected representative? Isn't that what they do?