Most focus has been on Labour’s proposed man ban, but their proposed gender quota is equally worthy of focus. Few people disagree that we should have more women in Parliament, and a gender quota would of course achieve that. But quotas are inflexible and they mean that gender is regarded as more important than all other factors.
To illustrate why this is a pretty stupid idea, I’ve analysed what changes would have occurred to Labour’s caucus in the six MMP elections to date if they had a 50% female quota. Of course you can argue they may have done things differently, but we can only act on the info we have. Also for several of those elections Labour would have had no male list MPs at all, so it doesn’t matter how you argue it – they would have lost every male List MP if they were required to have a 50% quota.
I think illustrates the inflexibility and dangers of quotas. In 1996, 1999 and 2002 Labour would not have been able to give any male MPs a winnable list place. That means they would have lost Michael Cullen. Ironically, one of the MPs who would have been elected in his place is Lesley Soper. Soper is the only pro-life woman in the Labour Party, and quite hated by most Labour women. The thought that replacing Michael Cullen with Lesley Soper is a triumph for women’s rights is absurd.
Labour would also have lost David Parker, Shane Jones, Kelvin Davis and Andrew Little if they had to apply a 50% quota for previous list rankings.
Yes quotas will achieve 50% female representation. But at what cost?