Thursday, February 09, 2017

Why is basic equality so hard for Labour?

Vernon Small has a piece in Stuff this morning about Labour's efforts to get a more representative caucus, and how they're finding it "too hard":

It may come as a surprise to some that Labour is still committed to its aim of achieving a a gender-balanced caucus after the next election.

Because in light of recent events – not least leader Andrew Little's shoulder-tapping of Willie Jackson, the recruitment of former police union boss Greg O'Connor and Paul Eagle's unopposed selection in Rongotai – you might be forgiven for thinking it is being honoured and breached at the same time.

In fact, it is also being not-so-subtly redefined. The aim when the policy was announced in 2013 was to target balance at certain key polling points, since anything more nuanced would be impossible without knowing a vast number of variables in advance –who won what seats, for instance.

But there is an acknowledgment now that it simply cannot be achieved at 25 per cent (without sacking a whole lot of male MPs), is near impossible at 30 per cent and could be in view at 35 per cent, though by no means assured even then.

Why is Labour finding this so hard? The Greens don't - they simply alternate genders along their list, woman, man, woman, man. They're imbalanced if they get an odd number of MP's, or if there's a mid-term replacement, but its a clear commitment. Electorate seats complicate this somewhat, but an equal list would be a great first step - and its not as if Labour has a problem selecting great woman candidates for winnable seats.

The problem comes down to the issue Small highlights: the reluctance to "sack" (or rather, give lower list priority to) those underperforming, stale male MPs. People like Trevor Mallard and Clayton Cosgrove, who are simply being a parliamentary waste of space. These are not people who are earning high list placements - hell, last election they campaigned on winning their electorates rather than the all-important party vote, effectively shafting their party (and now Mallard can't even be bothered doing that). So why are they being rewarded? Labour is not short of talented women, and they shouldn't be excluded just for fear of offending dead white incumbent males.