Money, Sex and Power Week 9

Money, Sex and Power
Week 9
Remedying the Democratic Deficit:
Blair’s ‘babes’ and the feminisation of UK politics
Lecture outline
 The democratic deficit – what is it?
 Does it matter who represents us?
 What has been done to remedy the democratic
 Have women’s issues and concerns been
integrated into political life? Has politics been
Democratic deficit – what is
Political representatives don’t reflect the social
composition of the electorate
Representation complex concept
 1. Symbolic
 2. Delegate/representative
 3. Demographic
Demographic representation important for idea of
democratic deficit
Demographic concept of representation
 Composition of legislative assembly should reflect
composition of society/community – should
‘describe’ it
 Like a statistically representative sample
 Quantitative concept of representation
 Assumes that members of social group are only
ones who can represent the interests of that group
(women, ethnic minorities)
Female suffrage
 Campaigners argued that once women had vote
they’d be able to bring about change
 Political equality would bring about other forms of
 A change in numerical representation would bring
about change in policies that affected women
 Descriptive representation would lead to substantive
Problems with descriptive
 No necessary link between social background/group
membership and political beliefs
 If taken to extreme get situation where no one can
represent anyone else because don’t have exactly the
same social background
 Despite this, elected assembly that’s unbalanced in
social composition still seen as less than democratic
 Most legislative assemblies extremely undemocratic if
measured in this way
Unrepresentative UK Parliament
 Age: average age of MP = 50 (Hackett and Hunter, 2010);
average age of UK population in 2011 is 39.7 (ONS, 2013)
Gender: women = 50+% of UK population but only 22% of MPs
Occupation: parliament is mainly middle class in terms of jobs
MPs have done. In 2010, only 4% of MPs have ever held a
manual job.
Education: 34% of MPs have had a private education
compared with 7% of UK population. In 2010, 20 MPs went to
Eton and 19 of these are Tories.
Ethnicity: 2011 Census, 14% of the UK population
belonged to non-white ethnic minority groups (ONS
2011). In 2010 parliament, only 4.1% of MPs were from a
non-white ethnic background. There are 15 ethnic
minority MPs in the Labour party, 11 in the Conservative
party and none in the Lib Dems.
Effects of women’s under-representation
1. ‘Unfinished democracy’ (Haavio Manila, 1985),
simply undemocratic
Affects legitimacy of a democratic system, alienates
those who don’t people like see themselves in the
system (young people etc.)
Women and men may have different interests
Scope and form of politics restricted
Inefficient use of human resources
Socially unjust
What is to be done?
1. Do nothing and wait for time to take its course
2. Equality rhetoric
3. Equality promotion
4. Affirmative/positive action
All-women shortlists
 In UK 1st past the post electoral system
 Discriminatory and non-representative
compared with Proportional Representation
 Women candidates often seen as an electoral
liability, given marginal seats
 Gender divide reinforced by media, women’s
contribution trivialised
 With PR more women would be elected
(Scotland and Wales)
Remedying the democratic deficit
 Labour introduced women-only shortlists in 1993
 Challenged in court by two male applicants
 SDA 1975 ambiguous but challenge upheld
 2002 amended SDA (Election Candidates) Act
 Became legally permissible to take positive action
in selection procedures
Increasing the number of women
 2015 - Important as SDA (Election Candidates)
 Result of all-women shortlists used by Labour was
that the number of women MPs increased
 1997 proportion of women MPs went from 9% to
18%, 120 women MPs - ‘Blair’s babes’
 2005 election - Lab 27.5%, Lib Dem 16.1%, Cons
What differences have women made?
 Domestic violence policy developed
 National Childcare strategy
 Other women friendly measures
 Intervening on ‘women’s issues’
 Does this imply a feminisation of politics?
 Two possible interpretations
Feminisation of politics?
1. UK politics still male dominated and masculinised
(See Cowley, 1999 and Childs, 2001)
2. Has been a feminisation of UK politics, women
simply being there makes a difference (Ann
Voter turnout
 UK seen a considerable drop in voter turnout
 2001 general election 59.4% turnout, compared
with 2005 when there was a 61.4% turnout and
2010 with a 65.1% turnout
 Younger people, working-class and ethnic
minorities more disillusioned with conventional
politics than white, middle-class, older people
 Democratic deficit – political representatives don’t
reflect the composition of the population
 This is important for equality and social justice
 For women’s descriptive representation and that
of other minority groups to be translated into
substantive representation
 And on grounds of legitimacy
Is politics feminised?
Little evidence of feminisation of politics
Political institutions are culturally masculinist
Institutionalise a particular form of masculinity
Some evidence that Wales and Scotland more

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