Paucity of women candidates amongst Unionist parties…

Suzanne Breen’s been adding up the figures on the gender cuts in the four main parties. Tthe SDLP is ahead of Sinn Fein on the selection of women candidates. The two Unionist party’s trail badly, with four (though three are actually sitting MLAs). The UUs come bottom of the league, where, in North Down, one older woman candidate (early blogger, Marion Smith) replaces the previous, younger one (Diane Peacock):

…the gender deficit remains, particularly in unionist politics. The UUP has one woman, Marion Smith, out of 37 Assembly candidates so far selected. Only four of 42 DUP candidates picked at this stage are women. Sinn Féin is running 11 women out of 37 candidates and the SDLP 13 out of 36.

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  • John East Belfast

    Does this not say more about Irish Catholic men and their over bearing bolshi women ?

  • Glensman

    ^———^

    Nice sectarian jibe. I think it says more about the fact that there is more equality within the nationalist tradition. With women being furthered in sport and education at every opportunity, unlike the boy’s clubs on unionism- the Orange Order anyone?

  • BonarLaw

    “in North Down, one older woman candidate (early blogger, Marion Smith) replaces the previous, younger one (Diane Peacock)”

    Now there’s a story 😉

  • the sparrow

    Why don’t you ring up Diane Peacock and ask her why she wasn’t selected to run?

    There is a lot more to this story than meets the eye!!

  • Digging in to the detail of Suzanne’s predictions, there’s a definite green tinge here; she continually underestimates the DUP, for example.

  • The Clockwoman

    Should a candidate not be selected do to his or her merit and not on age, sex, gender etc?

  • Percival

    The Clockwoman

    Exactly. Similarly, if the electorate decide to elect a local MP as their Assembly member, or councillor, it is entirely their perogative to do so.

  • Mick Fealty

    TC,

    Up to a point, that’s true. But come on, one woman candidate in 37? Whilst I hope that’s not the final figure, it looks like little effort has been made to find and promote female talent.

  • Percival

    The Sparrow

    Why was the fragrant Diana not selected again?

    Too Holywood centric? Served red wine with fish at a dinner party? What reason could there be for the UU’s dropping a female candidate under forty who was runner-up last time out?

  • Percival

    Mick

    It is the final figure. Look at Cllr. Smith’s blog – one of her qualifications is that she is the sole UUP woman selected to go forward for Stormont. Shocking.

    At least the four DUP women selected are in clearly winnable seats. Marion will be lucky to come through in North Down, with Cree and McFarland on the ticket and only 2 UU seats.

  • The Clockwoman

    I was trying to figure out who TC was Mick lol. What do you suggest Mick a weighted vote / positive discrimination? Maybe women feel frustrated due to the merry-go-round of what-a-bout bigotry, lack of real politicking, old school tie network, etc etc. Maybe there is more to life!

  • BonarLaw

    Percival

    “Why was the fragrant Diana not selected again?”

    Indeed.

    “What reason could there be for the UU’s dropping a female candidate under forty who was runner-up last time out?”

    I suspect that is a post watershed discussion.

  • Percival

    TC

    Ahh, you had me agreeing with you until you start spouting this WC-style cr*p.

  • fair_deal

    1 Unionist parties have a smaller number of activists to draw upon so are dipping in a smaller pool.
    2 The general demonisation of Unionism as nothing but sectarianism has succeeded in putting off the middle classes and professionals especially – a key source for candidates in particular women.
    3 They don’t have the resources to invest in the development programmes or promotional campaigns needed to address this glaring under-representation. The UUP is financially dodgy and the DUP while not as bad is far from rosy either.
    4. They do not have as positive a relationship with the community sector and hence attract less candidates from it. SF has found this a good pool to draw candidates from.

    On this and other issues the Unionist community has to start expecting more from its parties. The general attitude seems to be as long as NI is still in the UK they don’t really care what condition the parties are in or who the representatives are. However, showing concern should go beyond starting to complain about the deficiences but offering the time and money modern political parties need.

  • Percival

    Bonar Law

    I always thought she came across as a bit light-weight, but I can’t think of anything she has done to merit not be given another shot at it. My only thinking could be that Lady S has withdrawn her support. Why?

    Is there a time-bomb ticking?

  • The Clockwoman

    I see from the BBC Web that the DUP are considering water tight contracts for their MLAs if they stray of message.

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/northern_ireland/6332169.stm

    Looks like Ulster is not the only entity at a crossroads….

  • Succinct

    Hermon has backed Smith, Peacock did not run for selection.

  • BonarLaw

    Percival

    I suppose the workings of a selection meeting are akin to those of a jury room- a mystery to all outside the door.

    But looking at the UUPs’ shallow pool of talent in North Down one would have thought that all bar a major potential embarassmnet would have allowed Ms P to go through.

    That said, maybe she’s saving herself for the super council.

  • Inspector Clouseau

    Clockwoman,
    Sounds like a good idea to me if they want to avoid doing a “Trimble” (or a Turdle as Karl might say)

  • The Clockwoman

    Yep agreed. I think we have all concluded it is not a question of if but when the implosion happens. It may be a drip drip affair or something more spectacular but when you consider most grassroots of the DUP are country FPs who follow the old ideology and the city DUP now follow the new DUP then a new contract is the least of their worries.

  • interested

    Whilst unionists in general aren’t running as many female candidates as they should at least when they do win a seat they generally hang around for a while.

    SF do seem to get a fair share of female candidates – but how many of them survive for more than one term? What’s the point of bringing forward women if they just get dropped in 4 years.

  • Although the selection of talented female candidates is clearly essential is the pursuit of representative and diverse democracy, that in itself is only part of the story. It’s one thing for a woman to run for election, but its quite another to find herself in a position of actual decison-making power within a party.

    Regardless of the amount of female candidates selected (whether large in number or small), it is a sad fact that women are practically absent from the key strategic and directional decision-mkaing organs within the main parties. It seems that while parties may ‘pounce’ on any woman that comes within 20 yard radius of a local meeting to convince them to run, there is a much greater reticence to ‘allow’ women into more managerial or directorial roles within parties. As such, females, and indeed others such as young people (and don’t even mention ethnic minorities) have to do a lot more to ‘prove themselves’ in contrast to the omnipotent middle-aged, grey-haired males that dominate such power structures. Until this much larger issue is addressed, having women standing for election will only do so much in redressing the balance.

    (Likewise, parties and commentators note the lack of interest expressed by the general public at politics, yet don’t seem to realise that this may be in part because those who define the direction and modus operandi of said parties are drawn from a very narrow segment of society- after all, you ain’t gonna attract women and young people if you come across like a grumpy old man!)

  • If women have to be selected because they’re wimmin, and not because they’re any good, then you’ll end up with not very good politicians, who on top of that happen to be women. What, exactly, is the gain in that?

    Apropos the DUP ‘resignation letter’ – utterly unenforcable (the only person who can resign from stormont is the elected MLA – nobody else can resign [sic] him on his behalf, whatever scrap of extorted paper they might later try to wave at Bell). Control freak dickishness: a stupid move.

  • NornIron

    What happened to the Women’s Coalition and what does that tell us about what the NI electorate want?

    Pity for the wee lassies, but it just goes to show need to field their best players to get a result at the end of the day

  • David

    Dawn Purvis.
    PUP leader and Assembly candidate.
    Not everyone lives in the 19th century.

  • fair_deal

    Out of curiousity how many women sought selection by the various parties?

  • darth rumsfeld

    as part of the heave to get rid of Rev Bob Coulter I hear that it was suggested by Cunningplan House that the fragrant Lady Di could be sent to S Antrim. Her name was also mentioned in F & ST, given her connections there. Seems the UUP weemen are less up for a bloody nose than the menfolk

  • páid

    Dear me Darth,

    still favouring substance over style, asking relevant questions.

    You have women candidates, you are a modern party keeping up with the times.

    End of story.

  • BonarLaw

    Darth

    Cunningplan House suggested that said lady be kept of any ballot anywhere.

  • graduate

    Got to agree with many comments, but at least when DUP bring on a woman it’s ’cause she’s a good politician not just to bump up PC numbers!!
    PS women usually have better things to do than get into the chaos of politics, we’re just too busy getting on with life

  • John East Belfast

    glensman

    I was only messing about with my opening shot – I wasnt out to offend.

    However I was trying to hint at the differences in nationalist and unionist women.

    ie you read a headline like this and you automatically think SF are doing something right and the unionists are doing something wrong.

    However another way to look at this is not to automatically assume it is the Party’s fault – indeed anyone’s.

    Somebody put a funny but perceptive link to Harry Enfield’s William Ulsterman on another thread.

    One cannot generalize and there are always exceptions but as a unionist I can say that my community is a bit more tight arsed and dour than the nationalists – to me that is a fair comment.

    Who say’s our women arent any different ?

    My wife works as a Sub teacher in both Catholic and Protestant schools. She would say, once again generally, that the Catholic staff rooms are more crack and the Protestant ones (especially in the girls schools) are a bit more Presbyterian.

    In addition Nationalist politics – especially SF – are on the radical fringe and thus providing an opportunity for radical women. Unionist politics are more conservative and conservative unionist women have little interest in politics. The radical ones have nowhere to go.
    Interesting that the PUP leader is now a women.

    I can assure you that if women of calibre wanted to be UUP candidates nobody would be standing in their way. I cant speak for the DUP but I suspect it would be similar.

    Therefore I think this has more to do with Unionist women and the nature of unionist politics than it has to do with unionist parties.

  • I thin Fair Deal and John EB have come up with some credible reasons for the lack of women.

  • páid

    JEB,

    this Nationalist has been reading your comments for long enough to know you’re not a biggy.

    As regards Mary Lou; let’s stick to her politics.

    Really [:-0

  • German-American

    The Watchman: “I [think] Fair Deal and John EB have come up with some credible reasons for the lack of women.” Well, perhaps, but I have a few bones to pick with their and others’ arguments.

    FD: “The general demonisation of Unionism as nothing but sectarianism has succeeded in putting off the middle classes and professionals especially – a key source for candidates in particular women.” The statement seemingly absolves unionist parties of responsibility for their own images; presumably it’s someone else’s fault that middle class professionals think of unionism as “nothing but sectarianism”. Perhaps unionist parties themselves might have a part to play in combating this perception, and attracting more middle-class support?

    “They don’t have the resources to invest in the development programmes or promotional campaigns needed to address this glaring under-representation.” Aren’t the UUP and DUP supposed to be relatively business-friendly parties, at least compared to the SDLP and SF? If so, aren’t there any unionist businessmen or women willing to invest seriously in unionist parties, in the same way that the US corporate class supports the GOP? Or are they all looking south to Dublin?

    JEB: “I think this has more to do with Unionist women…” The Republican party in the US would presumably have similar issues, given its conservative nature and evangelical base. It currently has about 10% women office holders (i.e., elected, not just candidates) in both the US House and Senate. The DUP is within at least striking distance of this (assuming all its women candidates win), but as for the UUP (your party, I believe) I think Mick put it best: “come on, one woman candidate in 37?”

    (Incidentally, by way of comparison the Democratic Party in the US consistently does about twice as well as the Republican party in terms of electing women, both at the national level and at the state level.)

    The Clockwoman: “Should a candidate not be selected do to his or her merit and not on age, sex, gender etc?” I think there are two good responses to this: The first is from a story on the NFL’s attempts to increase the number of black head coaches; as the assistant general counsel of the NFL put it:

    If you ask me to search for the best candidates to fill a position and I bring you a batch of résumés where everybody’s name is Smith, you’re bound to ask me why I think only people named Smith can do the job. You’re going to wonder, ‘Aren’t there any Joneses out there?’

    Second, what exactly is wrong with selecting candidates at least partially on the basis of gender? In elections parties and their candidates are in effect trying to sell themselves and their policies to the electorate, and it’s a key principle of sales (and persuasion in general) that people are more likely to buy from people like themselves. It makes perfect sense for a party’s candidates to reflect the composition of the electorate to which it’s appealing.

    P.S. One good source for information on women in US politics is the Center for American Women and Politics, from which the above statistics come.

  • The Clockwoman

    OK basically if the selection meeting has 100 W.A.S.P. Hetrosexual Males then i guess the chances are the candidate will be of the same class as the selectors. Maybe there should be D’Hondt for selection lol

  • fair_deal

    German American

    “The statement seemingly absolves unionist parties of responsibility for their own images”

    1. They are not the only players on the pitch. If the words sectarian and big ot were not available many nationalists reps would be bereft of argument
    2. The demonisation has proved more successful than the counter-demonisation especially when you don’t have enough people or money to counter it. It becomes a self-feeding phenomenon.

    “Aren’t the UUP and DUP supposed to be relatively business-friendly parties, at least compared to the SDLP and SF?”

    1. The private/professional sectors have been cosying up to the NIO not the Unionist parties since Stormont was prorogued in 1972 e.g. in 1971 one Belfast UU association had over 20 soliciotrs on its books the year later after Stormont was abolished it had 2.
    2. There is a generally more limited culture to corporate giving in NI compared with elsewhere.
    3. How business friendly they are or not the parties haven’t been in a position to implement them.
    4. Go to the Electoral Commission’s website and read the UUP and DUP’s accounts if you don’t believe me about their dodgy financial conditions. Read in particular the Auditor’s notes on the UUP accounts.
    5. The general disinterest in politics is common throughout the Unionist community including the business sector.
    6. There is a strong historical record of this even during the Third Home Rule Crisis Unionism couldn’t raise enough money despite strong establishment and business support.

  • German-American

    FD: “The private/professional sectors have been cosying up to the NIO not the Unionist parties since Stormont was prorogued in 1972 e.g. in 1971 one Belfast UU association had over 20 soliciotrs on its books the year later after Stormont was abolished it had 2.”

    Ah, the free market in action… I guess we’ll see if devolution (assuming it takes place) will make elected politicians (as opposed to unelected bureaucrats) relevant to NI business once more.

  • I Wonder

    I find it interesting that very few women become involved in politics or political blogging.

    At least one of the male contributors here joined in the harassment of a NI female political blogger (now departed from the blogosphere.) The best advice they could provide, when she let it be known that she felt harassed, was that she should stop her blogging. Very enlightened.

    Anonymity would appear to be the best option for women commentators. As a social experiment, readers may be interested to learn that views posted by a recognisably male commentator were received here on Slugger – and elsewhere – in an entirely different manner from the same views when expressed by someone who was perceived as female.

  • Dread Cthulhu

    G-A: “what exactly is wrong with selecting candidates at least partially on the basis of gender? In elections parties and their candidates are in effect trying to sell themselves and their policies to the electorate, and it’s a key principle of sales (and persuasion in general) that people are more likely to buy from people like themselves. It makes perfect sense for a party’s candidates to reflect the composition of the electorate to which it’s appealing. ”

    Because then you risk falling into the trap that if there are not enough women, you need to get some, regardless of the talent you’re passing over to get them. It is akin to the UC system, where less qualified ethnic applicants were accepted rather than more qualified Asian and Caucasian applicants. Your end-result is a lesser “product” — increased drop-outs, lower achievement, etc. The same happens when you start drafting politicians on what they are rather than who they are and what they can do.

  • Dread Cthulhu

    FD: “They are not the only players on the pitch. If the words sectarian and big ot were not available many nationalists reps would be bereft of argument”

    As some political philospher once put it, politics ain’t beanbag. Now, it doesn’t hurt that there are no shortage of Unionists willing to live down to the stereotype. Likswise, its not as if Unionism has been all sweetness and light to Nationalist politicials.

    FD: “The demonisation has proved more successful than the counter-demonisation especially when you don’t have enough people or money to counter it. It becomes a self-feeding phenomenon. ”

    In other words, their marketing is better than your marketing.

    FD: “The private/professional sectors have been cosying up to the NIO not the Unionist parties since Stormont was prorogued in 1972 e.g. in 1971 one Belfast UU association had over 20 soliciotrs on its books the year later after Stormont was abolished it had 2. ”

    But isn’t this what Unionism wanted, or at least said it wanted — to be ruled by Mother England?

    Hang ’em with a new rope and still they complain… yeesh.

  • fair_deal

    DC

    There are never any shortage of people wanting to play to stereotype.

    “In other words, their marketing is better than your marketing.”

    Yes.

    “But isn’t this what Unionism wanted, or at least said it wanted—to be ruled by Mother England?”

    At that time no. The decision was generally opposed by Unionists. The desire to be part of the UK state does not mean you blindly support every decision of government.

  • lib2016

    “The demonisation has proved more successful than the counter-demonisation especially when you don’t have enough people or money to counter it.”

    The classic case was quoted by Gerry Adams in one of his books where he mentioned that in Washington Sinn Fein successfully put their case through an undefunded office staffed by one woman against a British government staff of thousands.

    Sometime it might be a good idea for unionists to consider the old story about ‘everybody’s out of step except our Billy’. It might just be that Irish unionists really are out of step with the 21st Century.

  • fair_deal

    lib

    The government and Unionism are not the same thing.

  • Dread Cthulhu

    FD: “There are never any shortage of people wanting to play to stereotype. ”

    Ah, but it works so much better when you have a real live example actually living down to the stereotype.

    Besides, the main reason people hate stereotypes is that, at the core, its got an ugly kernel of truth that no one really wants to address.

    FD: “At that time no. The decision was generally opposed by Unionists. The desire to be part of the UK state does not mean you blindly support every decision of government. ”

    In for a penny, in for a pound. Besides, iirc, there aren’t enough MPs out of NI to make a speed-bump to Parliment, assuming arguendo you could get all of them seated and cooperating.

  • fair_deal

    “In for a penny, in for a pound.”

    Yep and hence why we still vote to be part of the state.

  • lib2016

    “The (British) government and Unionism are not the same thing”

    Agreed – and even when they played on the same side as they did in Washington they lost the PR battle. Now it’s more a case of “Sauve qui peut” and the knives are really flashing. Always sad when allies fall out. 😉

  • fair_deal

    Lib

    BTW Before you get all misty eyed about the power of the lone revolutionary Adams was talking complete bollox.
    1. He ignores the work and funding of the long-standing Irish-American groups.
    2. He omits to mention the Irish government’s role and its part in encouraged America to be nice to SF.
    3. He misrepresents what British diplomatic staff’s role is. Even if there are 1000’s of diplomatic staff in the US, the task of lobbying about Northern Ireland is not their full-time job.

    Also Unionism didn’t have a presence in America until the last 10 years and even then it was a part-time presence. Partially based on ideologically grounds, believed it wasn’t any of the USA’s business and the other one is it didn’t have the resources.

  • fair_deal

    “they played on the same side as they did in Washington they lost the PR battle”

    We aren’t necessarily on the same side. Our interests often diverge.

  • The same happens when you start drafting politicians on what they are rather than who they are and what they can do.

    Yup – Martina McIlkenny, Kathy Stanton and Caral ni Chuilin. What a triumverate of talent.

  • lib2016

    “We aren’t necessarily on the same side. Our interests often diverge.”

    The British are taking their leave while the unionists are staying and having difficulty in making the necessary compromises. Guess that counts as different interests, alright.

    BTW A very important part of strategy is to pick your allies. As you point out neither the British nor the unionists have been very wise about that. Isolated in Brussels and awaiting the incoming Democrats in Washington = bad time for a gallant last stand.

  • German-American

    DC on using gender as a basis for selecting candidates: “… you risk falling into the trap that if there are not enough women, you need to get some, regardless of the talent you’re passing over to get them”

    I agree, which is why I suggested gender be a factor but not the only one. In practice I think the NFL’s approach is preferable: It doesn’t establish a quota for black head coaches, it simply mandates that teams make good-faith efforts to interview black candidates (from the growing pool of black assistant coaches) for open head coaching positions. It seems to have been a reasonably effective strategy.

    In the context of Northern Ireland I think an analogous strategy would be to focus on recruiting women as party members and then as candidates for local councils, and make good-faith efforts to find women who’ve been successful at council level and consider them for assembly candidates.

    As for the supposed conflict between selecting candidates based “what they can do” versus “what they are”, political parties routinely make decisions on candidates based on their relatives (“he comes from a famous republican family”), geographical balance (“we need a local man, not someone parachuting in”), ethnic background (“she’ll bring in some votes from the XYZ community”), and other factors unrelated to strict merit. Gender is just another factor to add to the mix.

  • Dread Cthulhu

    GA: “I agree, which is why I suggested gender be a factor but not the only one. In practice I think the NFL’s approach is preferable: It doesn’t establish a quota for black head coaches, it simply mandates that teams make good-faith efforts to interview black candidates (from the growing pool of black assistant coaches) for open head coaching positions. It seems to have been a reasonably effective strategy. ”

    Except, of course, whenever a black coach *isn’t* hired, the same talking heads repeat the same speech about racism in NFL and why arent there more black coaches. Coaching should and, with one or two really notable exceptions, is a meritocracy. Part of the reason there aren’t more comes clear when they dig up a few of yesterday’s great players and interview them. Similarly, you’re talking the top tier of a profession that does not suffer also-rans, at least as a rule. The success is measured in victories, not how many black or white noses were on staff.

    GA: “In the context of Northern Ireland I think an analogous strategy would be to focus on recruiting women as party members and then as candidates for local councils, and make good-faith efforts to find women who’ve been successful at council level and consider them for assembly candidates. ”

    As a rule, the folks who are driven to be candidates do not have to be sought out. It is the nature of the beast. It is only when the seat in question is a long shot that one has to flail about looking for a candidate.

    GA: “As for the supposed conflict between selecting candidates based “what they can do” versus “what they are”, political parties routinely make decisions on candidates based on their relatives (“he comes from a famous republican family”), geographical balance (“we need a local man, not someone parachuting in”), ethnic background (“she’ll bring in some votes from the XYZ community”), and other factors unrelated to strict merit. Gender is just another factor to add to the mix. ”

    And I can think of examples where that kind of thinking has landed on its arse, simple because it looks at something about the candidate and not the candidate — a subtle distinction. That sort of thinking only works if you have a deep pool of talent to begin with — its a luxury for those who can afford it. To listen to Fair-deal and others, the Unionist pool is fairly shallow to begin with.

  • German-American

    DC: “Except, of course, whenever a black coach *isn’t* hired, the same talking heads repeat the same speech about racism in NFL and why arent there more black coaches.”

    Some people are always going to be whiners; that doesn’t necessarily mean that the goal and process of encouraging diversity is not justified and useful. What the NFL has now is at least better than the days when apparently qualified candidates weren’t considered because they just weren’t “our kind of person”.

    “That sort of thinking only works if you have a deep pool of talent to begin with—its a luxury for those who can afford it. To listen to Fair-deal and others, the Unionist pool is fairly shallow to begin with.”

    I do agree that the unionist parties, especially the UUP, would be better off building up their party organizations (not to mention their fundraising efforts) and looking to their own policies and their attractiveness (or unattractiveness) to prospective party members, including women in particular, as opposed to engaging in mere tokenism.

    Also, as I’ve previously commented at some point, NI seems to have a severe oversupply of elected positions relative to its size, and hence apparently a shortage of competent politicians to fill them. (I mean, in the US there are individual counties that are bigger than all of NI, and are run by 5-10 person councils plus a county executive.)

  • BonarLaw

    lib2016

    “Sinn Fein successfully put their case through an undefunded office staffed by one woman against a British government staff of thousands”

    Why so coy about the identity of that one woman, her criminal antecedants and why she was in DC not in Belfast? I would have thought that her brand of murderous zeal should be celebrated.