The government’s proposals on female candidates, announced by Phil Hogan here, are to be welcomed. They seem practical, clear to understand, and with just enough carrot and stick in them to be viable. Of course,the devil, as always, will be in the detail. Take the European elections, for example. Fianna Fail will surely be tempted just to run a single candidate in each constituency (espc if today’s poll giving them 16% is reflective of where the party is now situated) but that means that, to be not in breech, Fianna Fail will have to run two female candidates. Or will the formula be calculated as an ongoing cumulative figure? If a party runs a female candidate in a byelection (100% female candidates) can this be used to offset a lesser figure in other elections? The 2014 local and European elections will be the key as to whether the parties (and the government, who will be enforcing it) are serious.
Of course, they’ll be subject to the usual anti-quota arguments, that they’re undemocratic and a sledgehammer to deal with a complex problem. What always irks me about the anti-quota argument is that the people who make it never actually have a concrete proposal which will have the same clear result. Under Phil Hogan’s proposals, if a party does not make at least 30% of its candidates female, it will be clobbered in state funding. Show me a non-quota alternative that will give us 30% female candidates for definite. I’m more than willing to listen.
Finally, we are all assuming that low female representation in politics is a bad thing. I think it is, but I’m always surprised by how many young women I meet who do not regard it as an issue at all. I wonder, will it peter out as an issue when the generation of women now in senior political positions leave politics?
Amendment: My apologies, but I read the original article in error. Apparently, the quota is proposed to only apply to general election candidates. If it’s implemented that way, then it’s a far less impressive reform. Apologies.