Sunday, June 24, 2007


While it was no surprise to learn that Gordon Brown will be running the country for the next few years, our new Deputy Prime Minister was a little more unexpected. Harriet Harman won the race by an approximately 0.6% lead, finally pulling ahead of Alan Johnson in the final round of voting.

Ms. Harman has been described as 'Labour's in-house feminist', and in her acceptance speech said that she would work for equality of women as well as men, among many other things. However, some of her comments were a little confusing. She said that she realised the need for more women in power in order to have a truly representative and fair government, but then went on to say that, as women need more opportunities, she would be 'championing the family'. Now, does that mean she'll work for childcare, to allow more women to pursue a career? Is she somehow assuming, because or despite her own position as a professional working mother, that all women want families if they don't already have them? Why were 'women's rights' equated so flippantly with 'family rights'? They may be closely connected, but they are by no means one and the same. What, exactly, did she mean? Mwezzi doesn't know. Hopefully her intentions in this area will become clearer.
Despite these initial musings, I'm not going to dismiss her out of hand. After all, she has campaigned for more female MPs, paid parental leave and has been critical of the party's stance on women's rights - definitely a good thing to keep in mind when mulling her speech over. Her other policies, including improving youth work and apologising for the war, and her focus and willingness to go against the grain if she opposes something are all promising. The only thing left to do now? Wait and see how she performs in her new role. Good luck to her, I say.


  1. personally, I'm not a fan of getting people into jobs/positions simply because they represent a minority, it sounds too much like affirmative action to me, but so long as the MPs are actually represntative of the peoples wants and wills, then I'm all for it.
    (Yes, I did have to hold back the temptation to say "Well, we had a woman as prime minister, and look how that turned out" :p)

  2. The point of recruiting more women is that it would mean that women's issues are more likely to be addressed alongside those of men. I'd say that recruiting able women politicians to at least make the government more representative of the general population would be a good thing - likewise, it will not hurt to recruit people from other minorities. I'm not saying 'hire X because they are Asian/female/gay etc.' - obviously they'd need t be both competent and able to represent their constituencies as well as their minorities. But when you look at bodies like the American Congress, which is composed largely of white, middle class, older men, and compare them to the people they govern - more younger people, large groups of black or Hispanic people, majority females, many from poorer backgrounds etc. - you begin to wonder how on earth they could even pretend to actually represent their country.

    In other words, we aren't asking fr an all-female Cabinet or an opposition party composed entirely of women. But while their numbers in government remain s low, it's harder for their issues to be properly recognised, understood and addressed - and considering that women make up half the population, that is a bit of an oversight.

  3. Sadly she didn't even get to be deputy prime minister - she's just deputy head of the party.

  4. I don't think you need women in the houses to bring up womens issues.

  5. Men can bring up women's issues, that much is true. But a) they are more likely to be brought up, and given the importance they deserve, if there is more than a mere token presence by women themselves, and b) this is a democracy, and it is supposed to represent us. How does a predominantly middle-aged, white, male parliament even come close to representing the public of Great Britain? They cannot. It's like asking a white man, brought up in an affluent, conservative white neighbourhood to talk about the plight of poverty-stricken black single mothers in a fair way - chances are, even if they made a decent stab at bringing the issue to light, they won't actually understand what they're talking about - and are likely to miss out some things that others would deem important.

  6. And you hit the nail on the head, it IS a democracy, so if there aren't enough women as MPs then surely its because not enough people have voted for them in their constituencies?
    (talking specifically about national elections here)

    And I disagree about needing to be of a certain demographic to successfully raise the topic in parliament.
    Tony Blair, for instance, has never lived in a council estate, but the transformation that council estate housing has went through under his reign is no less than astounding.

  7. Perhaps I should have made the point clearer in the original post, that campaigning for more women MPs also involve getting more women to step up as candidates in the first place. Fewer women at one end of the scale means there are even fewer at the other end. I never said 'vote for women... BECAUSE THEY'RE WOMEN!' but that more women and minorities in government would be a more positive thing, as it would certainly help their views get across MORE. Furthermore, not all women in parliament are huge voices for women's issues, but their presence speaking for a wide range of things does actually give women more.. credibility? I'm not sure how to phrase it correctly, but it sends subliminal messages, if a huge population of many different people is governed almost exclusively by people from a single demographic, that those people are just intrinsically better than the others, and those who are 'other' - non white or non male, for example - are somehow 'other' and also exceptions to the rule of their demographic.