Melanie McDonagh Melanie McDonagh

Is sexism really stopping more women from becoming MPs?

The reliably irritating Women and Equalities Select Committee under its unfailingly irritating chair, Maria Miller, has come up trumps again, with a proposal for increasing the number of women MPs. The committee initiated an inquiry in the summer of 2016 into gender representation in the Commons and it has now concluded that all political parties should set out how they intend to increase the proportion of women in Parliament by 2020. If they don’t, it says the Government should set a domestic target of 45 per cent of all representatives in Parliament and local government by 2030. The goal, it says, should be backed by law setting a statutory minimum proportion of female parliamentary candidates in general elections for each political party, with fines or other sanctions for those who fail to comply.

You can see how this would work, can’t you: a version of David Cameron’s A-list, combined with the unlovely Labour approach of imposing all-women shortlists on reluctant constituencies – you already have a version of this imposed by the EU in Ireland, which is as patronising to well-qualified women as it is unjust to men displaced by less qualified women candidates.

It’s a blanket pink-and-blue approach to politics; at odds with all the stuff we’re hearing about the real inequalities in Britain, whereby white working-class boys are at the bottom of every pile, social and academic. I’d have thought myself, that if there’s a deficit in the representation of any one group, it would be the working class, especially those who haven’t been to university – the Labour party isn’t representing them; perhaps Ukip will. We don’t really need more privately educated lawyers in either house, of either gender.

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