Category Archives: Equality

Vampires and Blood Banks

Well, the chickens have really come home to roost. In the blood bank, with a vampire as the overseer.

Remember how the ranks of unionist Labour politicians sallied forth to hold back the devolution of further powers to Wales? Well now they, and the rest of us, are going to be on the receiving end of some of the worst excesses of a Conservative ideology.

Let’s take this back to the Silk Commission. This was the Commission established by the Lib Dem-Conservative government to determine the scale of devolution that should be offered to Wales. It was – according to its author – going to bring a stable devolutionary settlement to Wales “for a generation, let’s say… 25 years”. I don’t know why anyone involved in the devolution process bothers making these ridiculous statements, or why they’re taken seriously. After all, I’ve shown that Peter Hain and Owen “end-game” Smith have got it humiliatingly wrong in the past. At any rate, Paul Silk’s ‘generation’ lasted all of 11 months, by which time its devolutionary limits had already been surpassed by the St David’s Day Agreement, which promised yet greater powers over, for example, electoral arrangements and energy.

But the Silk Commission was a work of compromise. The party representatives on the Commission (Part 2 – policy) were as follows:

One can only guess that these political appointees were carrying out the wishes of their respective parties. And given the Plaid aim of full independence, and the Liberal Democrat objective of ‘home rule’, it’s fair to assume that the hopeless policy recommendations of the Silk Commission were made so restrictive by a combination of Labour and Conservative intransigence.

So a combination of factors have conspired to leave Wales at the mercy of Conservative malignance. Firstly, a consistently feeble Assembly – not Parliament – with a devolved – not reserved – model of powers that left it wide open to constant legal challenge. This all put in place by the Labour party. Second, a risible selection of powers devolved. No police, no criminal justice, no taxation, no decent powers over energy, no broadcasting, the list goes on. This all put in place by the Labour party. Third, any chance to radically increase the scope of devolution to approximate Scottish powers consistently thwarted by the Labour and Conservative party. And now, fourth, a Labour party that promised to protect Welsh communities from the onslaught of Conservative policies falling apart in an election it couldn’t lose. Thereby leaving Welsh communities defenceless against that onslaught in all those policy areas that unionist Labour politicians fought tooth and nail to keep the preserve of Westminster.

It’s a classic case of Labour duplicity, incompetence, self-interest and downright malice. I should at this point state that although visiting right-wing policies on the Welsh people is a joint preserve of Labour and Conservative, I don’t blame the latter. They’re totally explicit about their chosen path. People who vote Conservative know what they’re getting.

So what lies ahead?

  • Ripping up the Human Rights Act. Michael Gove (who in 1998 was all for bringing back hanging people) will take sheer delight in making the UK (and Wales as the unhappy corollary) join Belarus as the sole European states unbound by the European Convention on Human Rights. This could have been avoided by the Labour party, if only they’d pushed for the devolution of criminal justice on the Silk Commission.
  • Dismantling the BBC. John Whittingdale, new Culture Secretary, believes the BBC licence fee is “worse than a poll tax”… “we are potentially looking at reducing a proportion of the licence fee”. This happens, of course, with Labour’s blessing. Because the Labour party could have prevented this happening in Wales through full devolution of broadcasting.
  • Caroline Dinenage is the new Equalities Minister. She voted against gay marriage in 2014. Equalities legislation could, of course, be the preserve of the National Assembly for Wales. If only the Labour party had pushed for it to be part of the devolution settlement.
  • The new Disabilities Minister, Justin Tomlinson, voted against protecting benefits for disabled children and cancer patients. He’s now in charge of the Access to Work Fund, which provides money to help people with disabilities get work. Any damage this man will bring to people with disabilities in Wales could have been avoided by the Labour party, if only they’d pushed for the devolution of benefits to Wales.

Which begs the question, who’s the vampire – and whose blood is being drained? Is it Conservative Ministers draining British institutions? Or is it Labour hegemony sucking dry the people of Wales?


Gadael sylw

Filed under Conservatives, Equality, Labour, Welsh Government, Westminster

Coastal Glamorgan

This is my name for a new local authority that encompasses what is currently Neath Port-Talbot, Bridgend and Vale of Glamorgan. And if we don’t adopt it – or something like it – then Penarth can kiss goodbye to the remotest influence in any decisions of significance for the long-term future.

Sounds dramatic?

That’s because the implications of Penarth, and the rest of the Vale, being sucked into Cardiff (that’s what the new authority will be called – let’s not be under any misapprehension of the name of the new Vale plus Cardiff authority) are fairly dire.

Consider, if you will, this new metropolitan mega-authority. On current figures, it will have a population of 475,324 (348,493 +126,831). The Vale’s contribution is a paltry 26.7%.

Cardiff currently maintains 75 councillors. That’s 1 councillor for every 4,650 electors. The Vale has 47, or 1 per 2,700.

Now I’m not going to defend our generous comparative representation. In fact I’m in broad agreement with Electoral Reform Society Cymru, which wants to reduce the number of local authority councillors and increase the number of Assembly Members. But anyone who thinks that Penarth’s needs – or indeed those anywhere in the Vale – are going to be represented to any significant degree in the new super-authority is seriously misguided.

There are also implications for planning and new housing. Cardiff’s councillors will be licking their lips at the prospect of the Vale’s green fields absorbing much larger proportions of Cardiff’s proposed growth in the coming decades. Why should they risk electoral unpopularity in the few remaining undeveloped parts of Cardiff when they can direct new developments to the Vale? Let’s not forget that the Vale’s representation in the new authority is going to be one-quarter of the total.

And poor old Penarth. With our 30,000 population we’re going to become an insignificant part of the new uber-authority, equivalent in size to Ely plus Llanishen.

So how will Coastal Glamorgan solve these ailments?

The population of this authority will be 406,679 (139,740 + 140,108 + 126,831). The Vale’s contribution in population terms would be 31.2% of the total – but will be a shade under one-third of a triple-authority.  Pulling equal weight in this new authority with former neighbours from Bridgend and Neath Port-Talbot would mean no part having an overbearing influence. Equal representation, not becoming smothered by the city slickers.

But the population of Coastal Glamorgan would be greater than Cardiff. And that could be of economic benefit, because according to some economists, the size of an area’s population (agglomeration) is important in generating added productivity. And why shouldn’t Cardiff go it alone? After all, it’s apparently good enough for Swansea, Powys, and Carmarthenshire.

In terms of new housing, the Vale would be partnered with two authorities that are not experiencing rapid population growth. The housing allocation would be fit for the needs of the Vale plus these two other authorities, not made to fit the needs of a fast-growing capital city.

And as for Penarth. Wouldn’t it be better to be Coastal Glamorgan’s eastern gateway town to the capital city, rather than a nameless, faceless suburb of Cardiffshire?

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Filed under Democracy, Equality, Housing, Vale of Glamorgan Council, Welsh Government

Affordable Housing

I happened across this statistic the other day (click on the ‘planning’ tab) – the proportion of affordable housing per local authority in Wales. You’ll be fascinated to learn that in 2010-11 the proportion of affordable housing out of all units completed in Wales varied from 3% to 55%.

That means that one local authority – Newport – is ensuring that there are more affordable housing units being built than non-‘affordable’ units. It’s a staggering achievement, and can only be to the good for the population of Newport.

It also puts into perspective the recommendation I made back in April – that we should insist upon a minimum 50% affordable housing level for Penarth (and the Vale). I’m delighted to say that the Plaid Cornerswell candidates saw the sense in that proposal.  After all, the Vale Council conceded a pathetic 20% affordable tally in Penarth Heights. As I said at the time:

Let’s face it, the only reason that developments such as Penarth Heights shouldn’t be substantially more than 20% affordable is if you feel for the hard-pressed developers (profit in 2009 £47.3M and with headquarters in down-at-heel Surrey) and think that they should be extracting more profit at the expense of people in Penarth.

Newport’s success illustrates that the 50% level is the lower bound of where we should be heading.

So where does the Vale of Glamorgan come in the list of 22 local authorities in Wales, and what proportion of the new units in 2010-11 were affordable?

22nd. And 3%.

Shame on you, councillors and ex-councillors.

I’d be very grateful if anyone can point me in the direction of the elected representative ultimately accountable for fighting the corner for the lower earners in Penarth and the Vale. Whoever it was, from whichever party, deserves all of our opprobrium.

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Filed under Equality, Plaid Cymru, Vale of Glamorgan Council

The Anti-Democratic Local Government Boundary Review

This is one of the most important posts I’ve written. It goes to the heart of local democracy. Because by 2017 the process of undemocratisation of local politics in Penarth will be firmly established.

As I first noted here, the present Penarth wards of Cornerswell, Plymouth, St. Augustine’s and Stanwell will dissolve in 2017. Stanwell and Plymouth will merge to become the 4-member super-ward of Penarth South and St. Augustine’s and Cornerswell will join Llandough to become the 5-member super-ward of Penarth North with Llandough. Sully remains unchanged at 2 members.

This is catastrophic news for those of us who value democracy.

Let’s start off by stating that I have never heard anyone in St. Augustine’s or Plymouth  complaining about their disenfranchisement as a result of having a worse per-capita representation at local authority level. Not once, ever. Just to confirm, the number of electors per councillor for the Penarth/Sully/Llandough wards is as follows:

  • Cornerswell – 2,015
  • Llandough – 1,501
  • Plymouth – 2,293
  • St. Augustine’s – 2,395
  • Stanwell – 1,632
  • Sully – 1,807

In the foreword to their draft proposals for enhancing democracy in the Vale of Glamorgan, the Local Government Boundary Commission states:

An important principle for our work is to aim to achieve a better democratic balance within each council area so that each vote cast in an election is, so far as reasonably practicable, of the same weight as all others in the council area. The achievement of this aim, along with other measures, would be conducive to effective and convenient local government.

It seems to me that the only substantive principle the LGBC uses is to achieve an equal weighting of votes – despite the Commission being required “to provide for there to be a single member for each electoral division” (although the Minister has directed the Commission to “consider the desirability of multi-member electoral divisions”). I’ll be asking the Welsh Government to provide the reasoning for the Minister’s direction to the Commission to find in favour of multi-member wards.

The Penarth ‘problem’ apparently stems entirely from Llandough’s over-representation:

the difference in electoral parity for the existing Llandough electoral division which is 23% below the existing county average of 1,994 electors per councillor and which needs to be addressed in the interests of effective and convenient local government

It appears to be the LGBC’s view that the “interests of effective and convenient local government” are best served by a severe erosion of democracy in Penarth. In attempting to reduce representation in Llandough, and therefore marginally improve representation for the 46 other electoral units in the Vale, their principal effect is to directly worsen democratic opportunity in the 8 Penarth electoral units, and further disenfranchise the electorate from the political process. Let’s examine this further.

The political process already favours established elites – political parties. This is because these are the organisations best placed to put in lots of person-hours walking streets and knocking doors, particularly in the few months before elections. Most candidates will want to publish publicity material as well. And the costs for this? Again, largely borne by the political parties.

But large multi-member wards skew politics even further in favour of established elites. That’s because whereas in a one-member ward with an electorate of, say, 2,395, an independent candidate or a candidate from a party with little in the way of central organisation or funding can realistically hope to canvass a substantial proportion of the electorate over a period of a few months. But in our five-member Penarth North with Llandough? The electorate will be 10,678. The chance of a new entry to politics being able to effectively canvas more than 10,000 electors is nigh on nil. Welcome to the staid land of the big political parties. And let’s not forget the costs of printing 10,000 leaflets instead of 2,000.

It also makes life much easier for the big parties. If you want to canvass 10,000 electors then you can make a decent job of it with 3 or 4 candidates (or even 1 candidate plus plenty of volunteer help), meaning that the candidates themselves have to put less effort in to win. But in seats with individual Members, individual candidates can’t hide behind the efforts of one or two enthusiasts. They have to know, and work, their patch.

But where’s my evidence in support of these contentions? Let’s look at the multiple member wards throughout the Vale to see if a pattern emerges.

  • Baruc: 2 Plaid
  • Buttrills: 1 Labour, 1 Plaid
  • Cadoc: 3 Labour
  • Castleland: 2 Labour
  • Cornerswell: 2 Labour
  • Court: 1 Independent, 1 Labour
  • Cowbridge: 3 Conservative
  • Dinas Powys: 4 Plaid
  • Dyfan: 2 Labour
  • Gibbonsdown: 2 Labour
  • Illtyd: 3 Labour
  • Llantwit Major: 4 Llantwit First Independent
  • Plymouth: 2 Conservative
  • Rhoose: 1 Conservative, 1 Independent
  • St. Augustine’s: 2 Labour
  • Stanwell: 2 Labour
  • Sully: 1 Independent, 1 UKIP

So 41 of our 47 councillors are elected from 17 multi-member wards. And in just four of those wards (all 2-member wards) are there electoral patterns that deviate from a very strongly-established pattern of bloc election for one party. I’m going to call this pattern of bloc election the ‘Penartharbyd Trend’. Is there anything special about these four wards?

Buttrills is a very special case because although its May result went the way of our pattern with two Labour Members, a by-election provided the opportunity for an upset, as you’ll see here.

Court’s Independent is a former Labour councillor who became Independent in 2010 and was re-elected on that basis. He presumably retains a strong support base from former Labour voters, although the results was still rather close and Labour may well recapture this seat next election.

Former council leader Gordon Kemp lost out in Rhoose to the Independent Philip Clarke, presumably on the same anti-leader wave that swept six other authorities in Wales.

And I’ve previously commented on what went on in Sully here.

So the only multi-member wards that didn’t elect en bloc in line with the Penartharbyd Trend were those with special circumstances.

And the situation after the 2008 election? One sole aberration from the Penartharbyd Trend, in Llantwit Major (3 Independents and 1 Conservative). And similarly in 2004, just Llantwit Major and St. Augustine’s differed from the Penartharbyd Trend.

Back in April I naively suggested that St. Augustine’s would be a seat split with one representative each from the Conservative and Labour parties. Looking back I realise that I should never again suggest a split seat in a multi-member ward unless I have prior notice of something extraordinary going on.

By the by, I also have some sympathy with Llandough Community Council’s view that Llandough issues will become marginalised in a new super-ward. There is a realistic chance that over time no Llandough residents are represented in the Vale Council because all five Members would come from the hugely dominant Penarth North side of the new ward. The LGBC, however, felt that Llandough “would still have a powerful voice in the deliberations of the Council”.

There are two obvious ways to right the wrong of multi-member wards. The first is relatively simple, and it is the application of the recommendations of the Sunderland Commission. Ah, yes, the Commission requested and funded by the Welsh Government that was so influential that its conclusions are no longer available on any government website (I have asked the Welsh Government to put it somewhere on their website). The Sunderland Commission recommended that Single Transferable Vote be used to elect local authority representatives in multi-member wards.

The second is to tear up the Local Government Boundary Review and start afresh with the foremost aim of one-member wards. I’m not going to suggest where the boundaries of these should be drawn, but it seems sensible to keep Llandough as one ward given it’s a distinct community with its own Community Council. Even though its electorate is less than the proposed minimum, the LGBR notes: “there may well be factors relating for example to topography or population of the area where it will be considered that an electoral division of fewer than 1,750 electors to be represented by each councillor is appropriate”. Penarth wards can then be equalised very effectively to 2,084 per councillor – or 2% over the 2,037 average proposed by the LGBR.

I fear that neither of these options will be taken, and Penarth will lose a substantial proportion of meaningful local democracy.

Let’s also bear in mind that:

decisions to alter the existing pattern of multi and single member electoral divisions should only be taken where such proposals for alteration are broadly supported by the electorate

So in relation to keeping Llandough as a single-member ward with proportionally higher representation that would enable the rest of Penarth to revert to single-member wards, we should ensure that the electorate does not support the proposed changes to the wards. That way, the existing single-ward Llandough arrangements could be permitted to stand. And let’s remember that Brian Gibbons in his Direction to the LGBC stated “regard should be had to the need to fix boundaries which are easily identifiable and which recognise local community ties”.

Since the LGBC will “continue to welcome active participation in the reviews by those persons or organisations that have an interest”, I’m going to send them a copy of this post. And I’ll keep you posted with their response.

Finally, a note on hypocrisy. Labour and Plaid Cymru were apoplectic at UK Government plans to redraw Westminster boundaries to make the number of electors much more equal. My take on that can be found here. But it’s a Labour Minister, Brian Gibbons, who wanted the identical process to take place for local authorities. In a coalition government with, you guessed it. Plaid Cymru.

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Filed under Conservatives, Democracy, Elections, Equality, Labour, Plaid Cymru, Vale of Glamorgan Council, Welsh Government

A Decade On

I’ve previously mentioned the “quiet, distinctly Welsh revolution” that’s happening in the Vale of Glamorgan. The Welsh Government’s Welsh Medium Education Strategy Annual Report puts some statistical meat on the rhetorical bones of that post. The proportion of children being educated through the medium of Welsh in the Vale rose from 10.9% in 2001 to 13.7% in 2011. That sounds like progress to me. But how does the Vale compare to other authorities in Wales?

I’ve done a quick and dirty statistical analysis of my own here, using the recent Welsh Language Commissioner’s detailed figures on language competence. I’ll obviously need to update this analysis when the stats on bilingual people come through from the 2011 census.

A few figures stand out immediately. Firstly, only four authorities registered a decrease in the proportion of children being educated through the medium of Welsh over the decade: Anglesey, Flintshire, Ceredigion and Neath Port Talbot make the walk of shame. The Vale of Glamorgan’s figure of an increase in 2.8 percentage points puts us in 12th place in the league table, so just under half way. “Not bad, but could do much better” might be the report card. The Cabinet Member for education should be shooting off to stellar performers Caerphilly and Cardiff to pick their brains. Mind you, Conwy, Pembrokeshire, Carmarthenshire and Denbighshire have all recorded increases of more than 4 percentage points, so the ways to success are clearly an open secret.

But there’s another way of looking at these stats. In order to appreciate how well a local authority is meeting possible demand I’ve done another calculation. Now there are all sorts of caveats with this one. For a start, I’m using 2011 figures for children educated in Welsh and 2001 figures for bilingualism, which is another reason that I’ll need to re-calculate in a few months’ time. I’m also making the unreasonably optimistic assumption that all parents who are bilingual would wish their children to receive the benefit of bilingual education. And I’m assuming that the bilingual proportion among parents is the same as the average in the population as a whole – in some authorities the bilinguals might be overly represented in older age groups. But grandparents along with society at large can have a powerful influence on family values. The upshot is that I’m taking any excess in Welsh language education above the incidence in the public to represent extra demand from non-bilingual parents.

First things first, the Vale of Glamorgan is doing better here than on the proportionate increase in Welsh medium education – with a 2.4 percentage increment over bilinguals, we’re in 9th place. But look at our next door neighbours in Rhondda Cynon Taf – 8.3 percent more pupils receiving Welsh medium education than bilinguals in the population! Councillor Egan might look to invest in a Valleys Senior Railcard. Meanwhile, runts of the litter Flintshire, Newport, Blaenau Gwent and Monmouthshire all provide 5 per cent fewer (or worse) Welsh medium places than bilinguals in the population. Go figure.

Is there a political angle to all this? That’ll need another calculation – but this is where the process falls down. I’ve aggregated the relative placing of the local authorities on the two scores (proportion increase and demand responsiveness), and I was going to examine the political leadership of the authorities from 1994 to 2004 (because the figures for Welsh medium education relate to 7-year olds). But it’s not easy to find the composition of Cabinets in Welsh local authorities pre-Wikipedia. If anyone has a link to the information I’d be very grateful. In the meantime, and just for the record, here’s the relative ranking of performance on my two indicators (the number in brackets is the average ranking on both counts):

  • Caerphilly (3)
  • Cardiff (4.5)
  • Carmarthenshire (6.5)
  • Rhondda Cynon Taf/Torfaen (7)
  • Gwynedd/Pembrokeshire (8)
  • Merthyr Tydfil (8.5)
  • Denbighshire (9.5)
  • Conwy/Swansea (10)
  • Vale of Glamorgan (10.5)
  • Anglesey/Ceredigion (12)
  • Monmouthshire (15)
  • Powys/Bridgend (15.5)
  • Wrexham (16)
  • Neath Port Talbot/Newport (17.5)
  • Blaenau Gwent (19)
  • Flintshire (20.5)

Gadael sylw

Filed under Education, Equality, Vale of Glamorgan Council, Welsh Government

Gender Balance

One of my recent posts – and the response it generated from female candidates in this year’s election – got me wondering about the parties’ gender balance. My analysis revealed that

Labour is the only party that comes anywhere near gender parity. Are the other parties really that bereft of decent female candidates? Or are they somehow alienating 50% or so of the population from their politics? That doesn’t sound like good political strategy to me…

It’s time to look at the stats on this.

Firstly, the only way to get elected is to either stand as an independent candidate or be on a party list. So let’s have a look at the candidates each party put forward. There are a few startling statistics to get us going.

Clearly one of the reasons that Labour returned an even number of male and female councillors was that they put up a roughly equal split of candidates: 52% female and 48% male. Top marks to the Labour party in the Vale.

The Conservatives did very poorly; just 28% of their candidates were women, with 72% men. Of their 11 councillors, 9 are men, which gives a percentage rate of 18% women and 82% men.

Plaid came out even worse. Three-quarters of their candidates were male: 76%, leaving just 24% as female candidates. And the councillors? Just one out of six is female, or 17%.

Of the minor parties we see that all four Llantwit First Independent councillors are men, which is unsurprising given they could muster no women to stand under their banner. The three independent candidates are all men – again, an unavoidable 100% male cohort given that 10 out of 10 independent candidates were men. And the only other party to win a seat – UKIP – also returned one man, although in their case it’s forgiveable because with just one candidate it will either be a man or a woman.

So why should we be bothered about gender balance anyway? Surely the important thing is that we have the best people for the job, and if women aren’t standing for election, then they’ve self-selected themselves out of the contest?

Wrong. Gender balance is extremely important.

Now I think that gender balance is important because it feels intrinsically a good thing. I think that women are less prone to make cack-handed decisions as a body politic. Would UK forces have been sent to Iraq if half of MPs had been women? Maybe not. Would the banking ponzi scheme whose collapse has given us the worst economic depression since time began have happened if half of bankers were women? Perhaps not. And lest anyone believe the myth, it’s not necessarily true that women are more risk-averse than men.

But I’m not the expert in gender balance, so I looked here for inspiration. Drude Dahlerup tells us that the three standard arguments still hold true:

  • That women’s participation in elected office should reflect their presence in the general population (the justice argument)
  • That women’s experiences should be integrated into policy-making (the experience argument)
  • That men cannot adequately represent women because of intrinsic conflicts between specific groups of women and men (the interest argument)

But there are deeper reasons for desiring equal participation in public life: Dahlerup suggests that women’s full participation in politics is a prerequisite for genuine democracy.

Can we in Penarth and the Vale take our lead from Westminster? The UK parliament is currently ranked joint 55th in the world (with Malawi) on women’s representation, with 22.3% of MPs. Pretty poor.

But the National Assembly for Wales – not ranked by the Inter-Parliamentary Union – has 25 women out of 60 representatives, or 41.7%. That means that Wales is an enviable 8th place in the world (although it  has fallen back since becoming the first legislature in the world to achieve parity of gender representation). Perhaps Westminster should take some lessons from Cardiff Bay.

So let’s look at some of the barriers that women face which mean they aren’t putting themselves forward as candidates. There are some particularly gender-specific issues such as child care and work/life balance. Ways to improve the accessibility of council meetings to women facing these obstacles might include having council meetings at family-friendly hours. You never know, this might just help engage a bit more of the population at large in local politics.

But there’s clearly something deeper at play. The fact that one political party has succeeded to attain gender balance while the other two have catastrophically failed is all the evidence we need. So for the Plaid and Conservative parties in the Vale, here’s some advice.

Firstly there may be an issue of role models. This is a frequently cited feature of poor representation, whether it be senior ethnic minority and female police officers or local council elections. So tip number one – request that your few women councillors spend time on outreach throughout the Vale with a specific mandate to encourage more female candidates in 2017.

Secondly there’s the issue of culture and inclusiveness within these two parties. Clearly they’re virtual no-go zones for women given that in both cases the proportion of female candidates was less than 30%. Plaid and the Conservatives need to start asking really hard questions of themselves. On an issue such as this, perhaps the Labour party in the Vale might be willing to offer some advice. And because this is such an important subject that crosses way beyond the boundaries of party politics, I’d like to know if Labour refuses to help you out. And Labour, do let me know if you don’t receive requests for help on this from Plaid and Conservative by the end of this year. We’ve got a problem in Vale politics that needs resolution, and a bit of co-operation could go a long way.

Finally (for Plaid and the Conservatives), here’s a practical way to redress the balance in councillor representation, which will, over time, address the ‘role model’ issue. Each time a sitting male councillor retires, replace him with a female candidate in the following election. Preferably a young woman. Repeat until you reach gender parity. And I don’t want to hear any feeble excuses about worthy male no. 1 who’s been waiting for his seat on council for 12 years.

I’d also like to see a minimum 50 percent quota of women on all selection panels and in the party leadership, both locally and nationally. All political parties and groupings should be putting forward between 45 and 60 per cent female candidates. I err on the side of more female candidates as legitimate compensation for centuries of under-representation. And although it might be nice to see female independent candidates, let’s deal with the party issue first. Who knows, by getting equal representation within parties we might find more women interested in politics per se, with a concomitant increase in independent candidates.

None of this is to decry the talented and committed male politicians that exist. But the chances that the successful male candidates were the best that could possibly be elected are nil.

Through the processes of the parties we support and do not, we participate in excluding – or including – women from social and public life. Isn’t that worth thinking about when you’re next in the polling booth?

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Filed under Conservatives, Democracy, Elections, Equality, Labour, Plaid Cymru