ON Sunday, Theresa May committed her greatest sin in a career well supplied with moral infamy: she summoned an exclusive phalanx of male, pale and stale Brexiteers to Chequers.
Cast list at Chequers was:
Jacob Rees Mogg
Iain Duncan Smith
— Paul Waugh (@paulwaugh) March 24, 2019
As sure as the sun rising in the East, the meeting raised the ire of the sisterhood and diversity warriors.
Jane Merrick, the journalist and self-publicist who destroyed Michael Fallon’s career because he had the temerity to make a pass at her (The horror! The horror!) was out of the blocks tweeting the kind of gender supremacism that you could never hope to get away with if you were a man:
No offence but stick 14 women around the table and Brexit would be sorted by sunset https://t.co/lMzT7kJIYi
— Jane Merrick (@janemerrick23) March 24, 2019
Having generated the presumably desired effect of yet more self-publicity, she just as predictably rowed back on it, claiming astonishment (yeah, right), and that it was all ‘light-hearted’ – well, sort of.
More than 900 people wasting their time replying to this only half-serious comment designed to make a point about the fact they are all men – I can't see your replies unless I follow you. And if I do follow you and all you can do is quote tweet "bollocks!", then jog on. https://t.co/FDgM3cQs9G
— Jane Merrick (@janemerrick23) March 24, 2019
Usually the hypocrisy of Merrick and her ilk is best ignored. Why keep feeding the monster, after all? However, what is interesting is that it comes at a point in our history when its precepts are demonstrably falsifiable: Parliament’s uselessness in the face of the Brexit challenge has come at a time when the representation of women is at a record high. If functioning government were simply a matter of XX chromosome counts, then Brexit really would have been done and dusted.
Parliament’s fall from grace is multi-faceted and it would be both crude and sexist to blame it on women as a group – we will leave that sort of observation to the likes of Merrick. Mark Wallace, editor of Conservative Home, has written on the infantilisating effect membership of the EU has had: MPs are not used to governing properly and are deeply reluctant do so. There has also been the prolonged feminisation of society and both sexes, which has had the effect of removing masculine qualities such as risk-taking from the public sphere that Brexit demands.
Lastly, there has been the malign advent of identity politics and feminist agitation for greater quotas of women in Parliament, largely enforced via all-women shortlists. Clearly it is better if Parliament is representative of the people, but selection should be made on the basis of individual competence and experience, not gender. The great disaster of all-women shortlists in Parliament is that it has both exacerbated and obscured a far greater and rising inequality – social class.
The notion that simply appointing more women to Parliament would increase the profile of women’s issues is based on the absurd and insulting precept that all women’s experience and life goals are identical. To show just how disastrous and pernicious the policy of quotas and short-lists has been, I did a search of Hansard for speeches in the House of Commons over the past five years on what might be termed ‘women’s issues’. These are the results for each search term:
Child Care: 2,703
Gender Pay Gap: 767
Stay At Home Mother(s): 109(53)
Grooming Gangs: 41
Rape Gangs: 18
Just look at that again. The barbaric horrors of FGM or the serial rape of tens of thousands of young (mainly working-class) girls are accorded a fraction of the attention given to professional middle-class issues and obsessions. The aspirations of the majority of women, whom research shows again and again want to spend less time at work and more with their children, are also vastly under-represented.
If there is a case for positive discrimination, it is surely in getting more working-class people and socially conservative women into Parliament. Socially conservative working-class women are probably the worst affected of all. At least in the past when Labour was a working-class party they had working-class husbands to represent their interests; now they too, are absent from Parliament.
The malign effect of all-women shortlists or gender quotas of any kind doesn’t stop there. It has helped boost an age-old and highly reactionary cultural trend: dynasticism. To an ever greater extent, the upper echelons of politics, corporations or public bodies are governed by people who marry others at similar levels, creating a ruling class defined by interlocking family relationships rather like the old aristocracy. Sons and daughters are groomed to follow them, and often do so. Perhaps this partly explains the horrifying anti-democratic venom of the Remainer super-elite that now govern us. As the Mafia would attest, blood is thicker than water; nothing matters more than family.