Equality or Democracy – STV can deliver both

An article at http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/election-2015-we-should-have-325-women-325-men-21st-century-uk-parliament-1496742 calls for more women in Parliament and few would disagree with that but it shows some very confused thinking.

Although it contains some commonsense and probably uncontroversial remarks like, “Ensuring women have equal access to power is a matter of democratic legitimacy and social justice”, it also contains nonsensical and undemocratic remarks like, “We should have 325 women and 325 men in the 21st century UK Parliament”. Unfortunately, the second of these quotations is the headline.

Lydia Smith wrote the article and apparently based it on an interview with the Electoral Reform Society’s Chief Executive, Katie Ghose, but it is not clear which words are Lydia’s and which are Katie’s.

Even if Katie believes there should be equal numbers of men and women in Parliament, of course it cannot be the ERS’ policy because the ERS believes in democracy. Dictating the number of MPs from any one group would be undemocratic.

Either Lydia or Katie has confused equality of opportunity with equality of outcome. We should create equal opportunity and allow democracy to decide the outcome.

Give men and women – and, indeed, other groups such as those of ethnicity, sexual orientation, religious views and political views – equal opportunities and a fair voting system and let the voters decide how many of each are elected. That would be democracy.

Why should women be picked out above other under-represented groups (e.g. non-white people, UKIP and Lib Dem supporters) for special treatment?

Most Labour women would prefer to have a Labour male MP than a Conservative female MP and the other way round for most Conservative women.

The present voting system is rotten. Among many other advantages of the Single Transferable Vote (STV) system, which is the ERS’s main object, is that it would give voters a genuine choice between male and female candidates of the same party. If enough voters cared, they could elect 325 or even 650 women. Another of STV’s advantages is that it would give fair representation to supporters of minority parties and that includes the Labour Party in the South and the Conservative Party in the North.

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