Jumbled thoughts on all-female shortlists

The SNP have introduced all-female shortlists, and everyone has to have their tuppence… so here’s mine. 2000px-Igualtat_de_sexes.svg

  1. As a moral imperative, something has to happen to move us sharply towards 50% female representation in parliament. The long-standing under-representation of women in parliament is a moral outrage. If you disagree, there’s not much I can say to you – we simply have different values.
  2. All-female shortlists are a way of getting there. We have to crack open the boy’s club by force. Our daughters must grow up believing that politics is for them, too. They do have some serious flaws: they are a restriction on democracy, they can be used by the leadership to crack down on dissent (Tony Blair famously used them this way). But in the absence of an alternative that will reach the goal in (1), we have to back them.
  3. The onus is on those who oppose all-female shortlists to propose credible alternatives to reach the goal in (1).
  4. While some people who oppose all-female shortlists do hate women (hating women is sadly pretty common), there are also plenty of people who oppose all-female shortlists who do not hate women, and it is unfair and counterproductive to call them misogynists simply on the basis of their opposition – especially given that quite a few are women themselves.
  5. In 21 of 44 seats where the shortlist was mixed, a woman was selected. That’s 47%. While there is sexism in the SNP membership as in any part of society, the membership’s sexism is not the biggest barrier: all-male shortlists are.
  6. More important in the long run than all-female shortlists will be the commitment to a gender-balanced party list at Holyrood. This seems to be the key mechanism in Sweden’s success in equalising representation.
  7. Proactive leadership and confidence-building programmes are vital. Almost nobody enjoys public speaking. People only learn confidence by being pushed into it.
  8. We must teach our children that politics is for women. Meetings of left-wing fringe parties in Glasgow are often 75% male. I was often told (including by well-meaning women) that this was because they were too theoretical and argumentative and boring. That sounded plausible until I attended a meeting about art and economics at the CCA. It was majority-female and mostly consisted of exactly the same kind of high-minded and irritating arguments about Marx and surplus value and so on as happen in left wing party meetings. I can only conclude that a sense of permission is a key factor: (some/many) women are taught that they are allowed strident opinions about art but not politics.
  9. We are going to need a more complete picture of the factors restricting women’s political involvement. I’ve suggested a couple: leadership skills, permission, membership sexism, the existence of old boy’s clubs. Other factors include the abuse directed at prominent women on social media (men receive abuse too but it’s clear that women receive more, and of a worse nature), and probably plenty of other things I’m not thinking of. It would be better to have hard peer-reviewed evidence than rely on our intuitions.
  10. This problem runs way beyond gender. Any measures only targeted at gender will benefit upper and middle class women more than working class women. That is not an argument against the measures – but it is a major limitation.
  11. Last but not least: fellow men, you can have opinions about this stuff, but for god’s sake have some humility and listen to the full range of views and experiences from women. They have a really hard deal, and a lot of stuff happens to them that most men just don’t see. Whenever I speak to the women in my life about sexism they face, I am taken aback. There is a minority of highly misogynist men who subject women to massive amounts of abuse – but like all cowards they do the worst of it when we’re not watching. Listen to women.

BBC tries to stoke racial tensions in Scotland

My letter of complaint:


Dear Sir / Madam,

On Tuesday 10th of March the BBC website reported on an opinion poll commissioned by the BBC into attitudes to immigration in Scotland. The article, entitled “BBC poll suggests 64% of Scots want immigration reduced”, can be found here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-31800374

The BBC guidelines on opinion polls clearly state “We should not headline the results of an opinion poll unless it has prompted a story which itself deserves a headline and reference to the poll’s findings is necessary to make sense of it”.

The guideline exists for an excellent reason, which is that it is not the BBC’s role to determine the political questions of the day, but rather to report on them.

This is especially egregious behaviour in a tense pre-election context. I find it hard to imagine what the BBC hoped to achieve by commissioning this poll in the first place.

Alistair Davidson

[UPDATE: Scotland 2015, the BBC’s flagship current affairs show, is following up on this story by inviting UKIP on to debate the main Scottish parties, except the Greens.]

[UPDATE 2: And “the debate will continue” on Morning Call tomorrow. Joy!]

The Thirled Way

Scotland, Class and Nation

A Fate Worse than Debt

Everything you know about the council tax freeze is wrong

Labour continually claim that the Council Tax freeze is regressive (bad for the poor), and that it is the cause of cuts to council services. I’m not sure if they are lying or just stupid.

It should be remembered that the council tax is only a slight variation on the poll tax. The owner of giant mansion pays just three times as much tax as the owner of a one bedroom council flat. Wings Over Scotland reported last year on an academic finding that “raising Council Taxes actually raises inequality.” Council Tax is regressive, and freezing it helps the poor.

Of course, taxation is only one half of the equation. The poor access more public services than the rich, and so suffer greater harm from cuts. Has the council tax freeze harmed council budgets? I had a look at the figures.

Scottish Local Government Revenue Sources

Screen Shot 2014-11-02 at 12.33.38

The first thing to notice is that Council Tax makes up just 10.8% of Council income. Changes in Council Tax revenue are 14.7% of the total change in the budget, £149m of the cuts. This figure includes losses from Council Tax cuts, such as the cut by Stirling’s Labour / Tory coalition in 2012.

Meanwhile, business rates have gone up by £108m! The net effect of tax changes is £41m of the £1,015m cut to Scottish council budgets since 2009. Even by Scottish Labour standards it’s one hell of a bending of the truth to blame cuts in council services on the Council Tax freeze.

Screen Shot 2014-11-02 at 12.51.13The fall in sales, rents and fees, presumably a result of the recession, is around the same size as the council tax changes. Both are dwarfed by the £371m fall in General Revenue Funding and a £448m fall in “Other Income.” I couldn’t find a clear definition of Other Income, but cross-referencing with the Scottish Budget suggests that it is mostly miscellaneous central government funding. Around £1bn of cuts have been made to Holyrood spending on local government since 2009.

Screen Shot 2014-11-02 at 12.39.37The cuts to council funding from central government are severe, but must be seen in the context of Westminster’s £3,737m per year cut to the Scottish departmental expenditure limit since 2009. Local government cuts are caused by Westminster block grant cuts, not by the council tax freeze.

In fact, that SNP have reduced a regressive tax on homes and increased a tax on businesses. Tartan Tories, my arse.

Labour’s Class Problem

If I learned one thing from the independence referendum, it is that Scottish identity is deeply entwined with class. In the final delirious days of the campaign a panic gripped upper-middle class Scotland – finance workers and the gentry would shout at Yes campaigners in the street, while on spontaneous demonstrations (labelled “fascistic” by one Herald journalist) people sang football songs.

There was a genuine terror among Scotland’s privileged that they would be subject to a democracy, while a matching sense of hope and possibility propelled Scotland’s least privileged onto the streets.

So it is little wonder that Labour finds itself in terrible, terrible trouble. In fact it is fair to say the the SNP, not Labour, is now the party of the Scottish working class.

A new Ipsos Mori poll (apparently conducted twice, because they didn’t believe their results the first time) has the SNP on an incredible 52% to Labour’s 23%. Breaking the details down by class paints a dramatic picture.

Screen Shot 2014-10-30 at 23.28.02

Screen Shot 2014-10-30 at 23.28.19Screen Shot 2014-10-30 at 23.28.23 Screen Shot 2014-10-30 at 23.28.09  Screen Shot 2014-10-30 at 23.28.13

Screen Shot 2014-10-31 at 22.09.05

Screen Shot 2014-10-31 at 22.09.10


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 33 other followers

%d bloggers like this: