Positive Discrimination

A few months ago, I happened to be reading a post about some internal elections by a group called DIEM25. They are. broadly speaking, a left-of-centre pressure group with a particular focus on the democracy in Europe. This is a subject very close to my own heart, except I’m happy just to walk away, so a group I used to follow. The subject of their post was positive discrimination.

Their post talked about some internal elections, which would then be subject to a positive discrimination rule so as to ensure a 50:50 gender split. I couldn’t resist commenting that I’d hate to be one of the people who was elected, but who then lost my place because of this rule. I mean, that’s what I believe anyway, but I hadn’t really intended my comment to be anything other than a throwaway remark. But it unleashed a rather aggressive response, including “Welcome to the world of women”.

Now, at this point I will break off and say that, yes, society has been biased against women in the past, but the “fair” approach is to have a totally flat playing field, not to install a system which is equally biased towards men. I mean, you could maybe justify this approach based on a “yes, but society is so bad”, but I think that this argument also has to come with some kind of desire to fix society, plus the word “temporary”. I heard no such argument from DIEM25.

Anyway, I decided to continue, asking whether two wrongs make a right. I mean, this is my fundamental argument – that they don’t. And as part of the resulting conversation, I was told I was a sexist for believing that the opportunity to stand in an election should be unbiased. I have to say, I was very unimpressed with the person/people behind the group’s internet profile – it seemed very “brownshirt-ish”, by which I mean nothing to do with the Nazis, but somebody with sufficient intellect only to obey orders, and to bully people into submission.

I must admit, I know nothing about the Labour Party, but I hear similar stories about Momentum’s infiltration. I have no idea how true these stories are in this case, but I certainly know that it can happen.

So anyway, I ended the conversation with this guy a lot less sympathetic than when I started it. It’s particularly disappointing when this guy’s beliefs were probably 80% the same as my own. But I felt such hostility from them that I decided it would probably be better not to follow the group any more. I had a similar experience with some people who claimed to be Labour Party supporters about Europe. The intolerance was remarkable, let alone that I was echoing the same arguments that were made by Labour stalwarts like Michael Foot and Tony Benn. I wonder if these people would have been so quick to condemn me had I been one or other of them?

Allegiances

A couple of posts ago, I posted about how we could reform the House of Lords. I suggested that people, including ex-politicians, could “qualify” for membership. The reason I suggested this is because it removes the party-political aspect which we’d have with elections, plus it avoids the patronage aspect, whereby someone (or someone’s ancestor) curries favour with some Prime Minister. But exactly how would one qualify?

Well, I think you’d want to have a mechanism which didn’t work along party lines. So, for example, an ex-Leader of the Opposition would have as much right to be there as an ex-Prime Minister. Nominally, I’d suggest that anybody who was a Privy Counsellor might qualify, except that Privy Counsellors have to swear an oath to the queen.

In this day and age, I think it is perfectly reasonable for somebody to be a supporter of the monarchy, just as I think it’s perfectly reasonable for somebody to be a republican. So personally, I wouldn’t get too hung up on whether somebody swears allegiance to the monarch or not – it shouldn’t be a pre-requisite. If anything, for anybody intending working for the state, then perhaps they should be swearing allegiance to the state?

So whilst I think elevating e.g. a privy counsellor isn’t a bad starting point, I do think that this oath of allegiance to the monarch is something which needs to be sorted first. In much the same way, by the way, I think it is ridiculous that Sinn Fein MPs refuse to take their seats in the Commons – when somebody is elected by their constituents, there really shouldn’t be any pre-conditions to them taking their seat.

I mean, I’m all for the existence of a monarch, but to ask people to swear allegiance to them – aren’t we a bit old for that?