Wednesday, March 03, 2004
What's Really Wrong With Identity Politics
So the Conservative Party has selected its first 'woman with sensible shoes' candidate. 'scuse me if I appear underwhelmed, but this is practically a case study in everything that's wrong with modern politics. James, so the doctrine goes, will be able to represent lesbians in Parliament in ways that A N Other candidate could not. Even taken on its own terms this is stupid. Given that there are no Lesbian-Only constituencies (though Nu Lab is probably working on it), no matter where James is elected, she - according to the self-same doctrine - won't be able to represent the vast majority of her constituents. Needless to say, Liberals insist that this door only swings one way.
Moving on from the general absurdity, we come to a more specific stupidity. James, it turns out, is a millionaire businesswoman thanks to her previous career as a PR flack. In other words, by virtue of her particular shagology preferences James is supposed to be better able to represent female games teachers than, say, a former geography teacher with a wife and three kids. Like, totally.
Of course, you could believe, as I do, that at least with self-made millionaire candidates you're getting people who are good at something. Equally, you could buy into the Pollard doctrine that MPs are meant to be a superior breed of people to the common herd. But, neither of these things are what James is arguing. Au contrair, James wants us to believe that she, millionaire ex-flack, can reach out to the big-shoed fraternity in ways that no one else can.
No doubt there are lesbian loons who buy into the whole identity politics thing but, how can one put this ? They ain't going to vote Conservative anyway. If Michael Howard wants to appeal to female police officers, then he'd do better to do something about our Not-Resident-On-This-Planet judges than trying to persuade Clare Balding to stand as a Conservative candidate.
That's what's really objectionable about this whole thing - who is Margot James ? What does she believe ? We don't know. The Conservative Party's rush to find transgendered, Asian paraplegics to stand merely emphasises the hollowing out of the Conservative Party. Ideals ? Who needs them ? Potential MPs are selected according to whether they fit the Party's marketing strategy, the business of actually having any aptitude for the job is soooo last century.