Political

Parliamentary committee calls for public funding to be linked to political party diversity

The House of Commons Women and Equalities Committee has published a report including a call for state funding of political parties to be linked to their progress in improving their own diversity.

As the Unlock Democracy blog [now offline] on the report explains:

The committee recognises the crucial responsibility that political parties have in delivering greater gender balance in parliament. It is political parties, not voters, that determine who stands for elections. Increasing the number of women candidates is therefore an essential first step. Until parties both take seriously and act on their responsibility to increase the representation of women, and diversity more broadly, we are unlikely to see progress.

To incentivise parties to select more women candidates, the committee proposes linking increased representation in candidate selection to state funding for parties. This model has been implemented in Ireland and shows great promise. Under proposals, parties would field women in 45 per cent of seats they are standing in, or else risk having their state funding cut, or be met with deposit losses or fines.

In Ireland parties have to field women in 30 per cent of their seats, or have their state funding halved. This will rise to 40 per cent in the next election. This measure has been a resounding success, with the proportion of female members of the Dáil doubling from 16 per cent before the legislation was introduced in 2012, to 32 per cent in the February 2016 election when it was first tested.

Although the report makes reference to linking funding to gender equality improvements, the logical step would be to link it a wider range of diversity characteristics, such as those laid down in equalities legislation (and so for which questions such as ‘how do you define who meets the criteria?’ have already had to be answered in law).

As to why a political party should be keen to take action to improve its diversity, see my post The impact of all-women shortlists on the quality of candidates.

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