Webinar Sarah Childs
Woensdag 25 november 2020 organiseerde het ministerie van BZK een webinar over het rapport van de Engelse professor Sarah Childs: The Good Parliament. Hierin geeft zij aanbevelingen om het Engelse House of Commons representatiever en inclusiever te maken, waarbij zij zich richt op de politieke cultuur van het parlement. In dit webinar reflecteerden we op het rapport: hoe kunnen we het Engelse voorbeeld gebruiken om het lokale bestuur in Nederland inclusiever en representatiever te maken?
Webinar Sarah Childs
Hella van der Velde (moderator): A warm welcome to our speaker from the UK: professor Sarah Childs. She is professor of Politics and Gender at the Royal Holloway University of London. She will inspire us with her research ‘The Good Parliament’, which resulted in recommendations on how to improve the diversity and diversity culture of the House of Commons in Great Britain. We hope to learn from that, for measures for the Dutch practice, especially at the local level.
A welcome also to two Dutch experts who will reflect on Sarah’s explanation. First Liza Mügge, political scientist and also expert on Gender and Politics at the University of Amsterdam, and secondly Manja van der Weit, city counsellor in Purmerend and initiator of a multi-party women’s network in her municipality.
We can imagine that during the talk you have questions which you want to raise later on or remarks that you want to make, and we invite you to submit those questions and remarks in the chat. And you can do that both in English or in Dutch. There are people closely watching the chat, so we can come back to your points later on this evening. So use the chat for that.
Before we start to listen to Sarah Childs and the other experts, we will have some introductory remarks by Ellen van Doorne, director Democracy and Governance at the ministry of the Interior. Ellen, to you the floor.
Ellen van Doorne: Thank you Hella, and thank you for introducing me. I would like to extend a very warm welcome to all of you. It’s great to see you at this event we have tonight on inclusiveness and representation of local government. It’s very great to see you. We have a very mixed group participating. There are politicians, I heard, and people aspiring to become politicians. That’s good news. People holding public office already, and representatives from diversity and inclusiveness platforms. I also would like to extend a very warm welcome to Sarah Childs. Thanks so much for joining us tonight and it’s interesting that you are from the UK and based in London. When I think of the UK these days, I can only think of one thing. You can’t answer me, because you’re microphones are all locked. But when I think of the UK, I think about The Crown season four. I’m in the middle of that episode where Margaret Thatcher is in the midst of a dramatic reshuffling of her cabinet. I’m not sure if you’ve watched it. It’s really interesting to see. One by one the ministers are let into her office and then send away in five minutes time in their cars. Very dramatic. She is getting rid of some of the men in her cabinet, not so much because they are men. Actually she thinks women are quite unfit for politics: they are too emotional. She sends them away because they are men of privilege. They are too old, too content, they’re not in touch with society. I, as a teenager, was very inspired by Margaret Thatcher. Not so much fan of her politics, I would say, especially with hindsight and watching The Crown again. But maybe for her courage and her work ethic. And the role she played in paving the way for women in politics.
It is important that we are here today, I think, to speak about this together: an inclusive government. It increases the quality of our decision making and it reduces the gap between government and citizens. Citizens can identify themselves more easily with political office holders and it contributes, all of it, to the legitimacy of our government. All of that is in Sarah Childs’s report I saw today. Maybe if you will allow me a few words on the Dutch situation and on the policy that we are extending in this field. We’ve made some progress in the past years. After the municipal elections of 2018, the percentage of female municipal councillors has exceeded the thirty percent threshold for the first time. But there is a lot to be done, because our minister Kasja Ollongren, she set the goal at forty till sixty percent. So that’s a gap to close. There are more issues that need our attention. People with a migration background still have a hard time entering the political arena. The same goes for other minority groups, such as people with a disability. I have read in a report this week that the percentage is very very low and this is a problem. At our ministry of the Interior, we try to address them through a set of actions that are coherent. We have three priorities. First, working on an inclusive selection and inclusive selection procedures. We have set up a course that is called ‘Selecting without prejudices’. We developed this together with the Dutch Institute for Human Rights. The second priority is to actively invite talented aspirant-politicians from underrepresented groups. We have developed some orientation programs together with ProDemos, such as ‘Politically Active’. The objective of this program is to inform and encourage people who are interested in entering the local political arena and may not do so without it. The third priority, and that is what we are talking about today, is working on an inclusive political culture and work environment. And equipping in that sense the political office holders to do that. So the third priority is creating an inclusive and welcoming political culture. This will require change. Political customs and every day practice, such as for instance council meetings always taking place on Wednesday afternoons, this excludes certain groups. It would exclude myself, because I take care of children on Wednesday afternoon, and many people do. These customs need to be changed and this will take time and perseverance. It is challenging to change the customs, and therefore I think it is time to get inspired and to search the help that we can get. We are very lucky that Sarah Childs paved the way in England, and the report she made is very impressive. It includes recommendations to improve the inclusiveness and diversity of the English parliament, and it has already brought a lot of change in the parliament itself. So in this webinar, to conclude, we will explore the opportunities for Dutch local government, together with Dutch experts from the academic field and also from the practical field, the political field. Our aim tonight is to inspire. At the end of the session, I hope we can ask ourselves: What can I do to increase the inclusiveness and representativeness of Dutch local government? Thank you, and the floor is back to Hella.
Hella van de Velde: Thanks a lot Ellen for your remarks. So we can conclude that diversity and politics is on the Dutch policy agenda, and that we are eager to learn more for that this evening. We continue with Sarah Childs. So Sarah, you can start.
Sarah Childs: I’m just going to wait for the PowerPoint to come up, if that’s okay?
Hella van de Velde: Sharon, we will have the PowerPoint here?
Sarah Childs: While were are waiting for that to come up, can I just thank you very much for inviting me to be here tonight. It is rather lovely. I spent quite some time in Amserdam. My brother lived there for a while. And also to be and share a platform with professor Liza Mügge, who I’ve worked with very closely over the last few years. So, it’s rather nice to be presenting amongst friends. I can at least imagine where some of u might be in the Netherlands. So, The Good Parliament Report was a product of a rather intense period of time where I Inhabited the UK parliament. I just want to take a moment to think about the image that I chose and in fact even the title of the report. What I needed to do was to make sure that I produced a report that would be read by politicians, but also by the officials in the House. Therefore, it really mattered, the extent to which this report looked like the kind of report that politicians read. So the title needed to be framed in such a way that itself was inclusive. And also shouldn’t perhaps reproduce stereotypes of attitudes towards the kind of authors who might write such a report. One of the things I think I learned, and I really did learn this through the process of being in parliament and talking to different members of parliament, but also the officials and the clerks, was actually how to produce a report that perhaps academics don’t always produce. We have a tendency to write very long pieces in a very particular language, and we don’t often think about the design of the product we put in front of people. So I thought it was really important.
This picture actually came from the House of Commons’ art collection. In fact the deputy art curator helped me choose an image. What this picture encapsulates or depicts is the newer building of the British Westminster parliament. It is called [inaudible]. It has this glazed atrium. In the background, you probably can’t make it up, but it is the older buildings of the actual palace of Westminster and the Big Ben is there, but slightly hidden by the title. But also we wanted an image, as I was talking with the art curator, that really depicted the parliament as a workplace. So actually, this everyday scene inside the parliament. It is not a stereotypical image of the British parliament that you might normally expect. So it was trying to signal even from that very first image the kind of participatory, more open, more every day way in which politics is practiced, rather than something that is much more traditional in a way that we often see the British politics depicted. So, the claim that I really make for the Good Parliament report, as I sort of handed it officially over to members, but also to Mister Speaker, who took the official receipt of this report, was that the Good Parliament report as a product, as an output, had the potential to change, transform who sits in the British parliament, to make the people who participate at a national level more diverse, but also to make some [members] more effective, as members of the parliament individually, so ensuring that individual members can understand how their parliament works. We have rather antiquated in many ways, some would argue archaic and in desperate need of reform, practices that we need to think about changing. But also collectively. So actually parliament itself as a collective institution would produce better laws, better policy, better regulations. To improve if you like the quality of parliamentary deliberation and decisions. And in so doing, to really hope to raise the public’s regard for both the House and the members. And I think increasingly, if we think across Europe about the perhaps troubled times that representative democracy and our parliamentarians and our representative institutions are facing, that is itself a very important aim. So change who sits in the House. Make sure that all members who are present can participate more effectively. Improve the product of our parliamentary practices and make the people feel that their political institutions better represent them and better respond to their needs and interests. Can we have the next slide please?
Somewhat unusually, I rather invited myself into the British parliament. So, I had a secondment, but I initiated it. And I want to say a little bit about that, because I think it is quite important. So, the report itself is the product of my presence in the institution from about September 2015 through to the spring, and ultimately in July when the report itself was published. The report got delayed by Brexit politics, and in fact that tells you something about needing to be very conscious of the context within which you are operating as you try to change institutions. Because the timing and the other relationships, between government and opposition, within parties, so the broader political context, can really affect the extent to which a particular recommendation, or even a collection of recommendations will be received by those who have power currently and may not wish to give it up, or at least give it up without receiving something in return. So the trigger for inviting myself in came from my experience previously of trying and working with people inside the House, to establish the women’s inequality selection committee. We didn’t have a body that held the minister that was responsible for women and equality to account, and that was a, if you like, an institutional deficit. But in the process of trying to set up that committee, I was called by a clerk, who said: ‘I really need you to do me a favour. I need you to ring a member of parliament and ask them to put a particular statement in front of a particular other committee, and I can’t do that’, she said to me. ‘Because I am apolitical, impartial, and to ring up an MP and ask them to do something like that, would transgress what I am allowed to do. But could you do it?’ And I had longstanding relationships with women MP’s going back to the 1990s. And I put on this slide some of the previous work I have done with parliament to show how over time I have developed a relationship with members from all of the parties. I had been an adviser previously, both to the speakers’ conference, which just very crudely is another kind of committee. It’s a special committee that is set up periodically in the UK to investigate constitutional issues. So I had had a very formal relationship with the Speaker back from 2010. I then advised women in, if you like, it’s not a women’s corpus, but it’s a body to try to increase the numbers of women in parliament. Then I had that more informal [relationship]. And I just thought… And this was enhanced by the fact that I rang the women MP on that.. It was a Friday night. I was in an art gallery, which sounds rather glamourous, and I had had a glass of wine. So I think in part, the combination of having a glass of alcohol took down my barriers, and I thought: Gosh. I put the phone down, and I thought if they’d just let me into parliament. I know we can change it. That’s what I managed to convince my University to fund, and that’s why I put that award at the bottom of this slide. Because actually that enabled me to, if you like, relinquish my teaching responsibilities for three months and spent that, full time, three months, in parliament and then thereafter another three months part-time. And I stress that because to me it shows you how intensive and how necessary getting to know how an institution really works matters. I think academics can learn lots from books and interviews, but you really need to inhabit a place to understand what needs to be done. So I was very clear that I knew what needed to change, but how to change it would require me to speak to members, and to speak to officials and clerks, to get the institution and the specific insider views, and to begin to negotiate those relationships. Because, in order to persuade people of the validity, the necessity, the importance, the timeliness of reforms, I had to produce a report that was not a phantasy report. That was what I really wanted. It is actually: this is how you change this. To produce a set of recommendations that I’m sure those of you who are politicians, who work with politicians, will understand, I had to make sure that none of the politicians were going to say that I got the wrong kind of solution. That it wasn’t technically accurate. So I needed to be technically accurate, but also political astute. I needed to be able to read the institution, read the politics between different parties, the politics between the government and those who oppose the government, or the executives. So all of those things had to be acquired. We can have the next slide please.
It’s very easy for me to say that looking back with hindsight I managed to persuade my University to provide me with the ability to be seconded. I got myself over the years to a place where once I tried to invite myself in, parliament was very happy to let me in, but I didn’t really know what that meant on the ground. So, as I was just suggesting, it was about working with MP’s and officials to try and really crystallize very very specific workable, implementable recommendations. So, as an academic I knew what the problems were, but it was much more about how do you implement those. So you can see on this slide what I was really trying to do, was to really capture the diversity insensitivities that characterize the British parliament. Identify how to resolve those with particular reforms, and sometimes a problem might need two or three possible recommendations. If the first person doesn’t take responsibility, is there another way to achieve the same outcomes? I absolutely wanted to try to determine who would be responsible. Who could have, would have, the authority to act. And I think in lots of ways that really opens up the question of who has power within a political institution. Political institutions are not always like other institutions. There is not a CEO, or there may not be a clear division of labour or line of accountability or responsibility. Because political institutions are characterised by people competing over who has power. And that’s really important. I’ll say later on some of the lessons I’ve learned about how to be perhaps more successful at bringing about change. So I was trying to devise appropriate recommendations that people within the house would consider to be implementable. They had to work with the House, technically accurate for sure, but easy to implement. I’m increasingly using the term… For me it had to be about the feminist art of the possible. We think about politics as the art of the possible, and this had to be for me the feminist art of the possible. I’ve already made this following statement, but it wasn’t about a fantastical report. One that I would write from the ivory tower. I needed to get that access, in order for it to not be something that was just me sitting in a quiet room fantasizing about the perfect parliament. It needed to the Good parliament, not necessarily the perfect one. To recognize that you can’t always do everything.
So on the advice of some of my pre-existing parliamentary friends, I established a cross-party panel of MP’s, and these were members either I had already worked with, who I knew, or who had themselves been active. And they were going to be my champions. They were going to protect me. They were going to give me access to the political reading of the House, to try to enable me to understand what are the kind of relationships, what are the kind of pressures, I might need to be aware of as I went about my work and as I put forward my report. I would also have an advisory board of clerks and officials. This group of individuals were brought together by the Speaker, and I think this was also really important. The Speaker, by chairing this group, I think, really symbolized an institutional commitment to the project. It meant that those advisory board members took what I was doing and saying seriously and that they took their attendance and participation of the meetings seriously. That was critical to creating a sense that as a group they were again my sounding board. So the Speaker was really what I would like to call a ‘critical friend’, or I call him the ‘midwife’ of my report. He is very happy with me to use that term about him. I also had some other critical friends, particularly senior clerks that I had known since about 2003, when I became a member of a rather strange and historic group of academics and parliamentary officials who meet a few times a year, and particularly in the new year in Oxford, to have a conference about what happened in parliament in that year. And in lots of ways these were very traditional men, older men. And yet in lots of ways their professionalism, their clerkly impartial perspective, their sense of service to members, I benefited from that. They might have thought I was a slightly strange person, that I was their feminist, if you like. So they might not have necessarily agreed to what I was doing, but their clerkly professionalism made them help me. And they spent a good number of hours, taking me through all the rules and regulations. Particularly what is called ‘the standing orders’, ‘the parliamentary Bible’ it’s called. So I had lots of support from those senior clerks. They were all male, which tells you something about the very senior, at the time, clerk system in the UK, but it’s also interesting that some of the more senior women did not necessarily share some of the consciousness that I would argue that perhaps the middle and lower hierarchal positions of women clerks had. But together the MP’s panel, the advisory board and the critical friends were giving me access to the kind of information, the readings of the House, that I couldn’t access as an academic. And then I also had my feministic residents. Chloe Challender which I also have written with subsequently, who had been chair of the workplace equality network [inaudible], and she and I had worked together on the women’s equality committee. And she was somebody who provided me with the kind of feminist energy. When I began to feel like I wasn’t making much progress, or when there was a lot of hostility, or perhaps some of the recommendations I didn’t think were that radical were contested, she would fire me up and say we should get going.
So we had lots of meetings. I also worked with the Inter Parliamentary Union (IPU). We had an international conference. Colleagues came; academics and members came from Finland and Sweden. I also visited the Scottish parliament and the National Assembly for Wales, and undertook a rather crude, but nonetheless quite useful, comparative parliamentary survey. Could we move on please to the next slide?
So I worked with the IPU gender sensitive parliaments framework. I don’t know if any of you read that literature, but I would thoroughly recommend it to you. The IPU framework has seven dimensions but I, again being guided by my feminist resident and another former clerk, who now works outside of parliament, reduced it to three dimensions. I was told that British MP’s like three, because they can kind of manage three foci. So that is what I did. I reduced them. There was also some overlap I think in the IPU seven dimensions. I was looking at participation, infrastructure and culture. One of the things I think is really important about these three dimensions is that they are in all sorts of ways mutually conducive. So actually change in one, can affect others. So, what I wanted to say here, to speak more particularly to your concerns about local government, is that this report, my report, is very much about the British parliament. It was a report on parliament, for parliament. It wasn’t going to the government and it wasn’t going to political parties. In the UK, political parties are very poorly regulated relatively speaking, and because the report wasn’t looking at what political parties could do, nor was it really looking at what government could do, that really constrained the content of my report. There was no point writing lots of recommendations that would require government action or political parties, because this was a report for parliament. So, what I’m trying to achieve tonight, is to show to you how this process can travel. And some of the recommendations can travel very easily. But I think it’s much more about the process of identifying for the particular institution or representative process that you’re looking at, that actually, hopefully, I can talk about a bit today. So I want to take you through that slide, but hopefully you have had time to have a look at that. But just to really try and stress to you, that it was a report for the British parliament, and it was therefore very specific in what it was trying to do. But I think the process I undertook can speak to other institutions. Could we have the next slide please?
A gender sensitive parliament following the IPU framework is one that is inclusionary, representative and effective. It responds to the needs and interests of women and men. In its structures, operations, methods and work. I like to think of a gender sensitive parliament as having become quite quickly in many ways an international democratic norm. This year the IPU has produced another document on gender sensitive parliaments in an era of Covid; the Commonwealth parliamentarian’s association about their 2001 gender sensitizing parliaments’ guidelines; The United Nations Women have again produced a document, a primer, a questionnaire on gender sensitive parliaments. So there are plenty of international NGO’s getting involved with the gender sensitive parliament framework. They might take slightly different approaches, a slightly different focus, but nonetheless it is an international norm now, that parliaments need to do better and need to be gender sensitive.
I’m slipping very easily between gender sensitive and diversity sensitive, and I’ll talk about that more specifically in a moment. But what I have done here. And again, this red, amber, green analysis of the House of Commons was an approach to take suggested by a colleague and now friend who previously worked in the House, and now works for a think-tank. And she said I needed to capture really explicitly and easily for members and for people who work in parliament a sort of snapshot of where we were. So I looked at some of the ways in which you can have measures of the, in this instance diversity of participation, infrastructure and culture, and produce this very, very simple chart. Because I wasn’t trying, and I mustn’t, couldn’t, have had the time simply to try to convince people that there was a problem. So this chart was designed to pre-empt countercriticism that there wasn’t a problem. To me this kind of analysis can very easily be done at different levels in different institutions. So for a local government or a local council. Actually, if you ask similar questions, and all of this follows from that IPU gender sensitive parliaments framework, be it condensed from seven dimensions to three, you can produce this kind of snapshot, and then use that as a sort of jumping off, to inform the kind of recommendations that you needed. So as I said, I shifted from a gender sensitive parliaments framework to a diversity sensitive framework. I did that very quickly and arguably without sufficient consideration, and I did it in the context of having presented very early on what I was going to do to some senior members of parliament and senior officials. And a number of the MP’s, male MP’s I’m afraid to say, were rather concerned that I didn’t quite understand that gender sensitive also meant family friendly, as one of them sort of said to me: ‘You do realise that men have families too?’ So obviously being diplomatically, I sat sweetly and smiled at him. But I’ve come to reflect on this contestation about gender sensitive parliaments. And so shifting to diversity was a strategic intervention to try to protect the political, the feminist politics of what I was doing in the faith of what I call: ‘Hearing gender, seeing women, and thinking discrimination against men, and therefore special treatment for women.’ And in the context of the British parliament, gender sensitive parliaments created the potential for a backlash. So diversity sensitivity, over and above the value of being diverse on other characteristics, because other groups are not fully represented in the British parliament, was also important to counter some very traditional views amongst some of the senior men, that it was just about making things better for women and therefore worse for men. Considerations about how you frame you intervention can really matter. Now there are questions and I will return to them towards the end of the presentation about whether in so doing, in shifting from gender sensitive to diversity sensitive, some things about gender get lost. So you make some decisions and that has implications. I’ll talk about that in a moment. Could we have the next slide please?
One of the recommendations that actually didn’t need to be a numbered formal recommendation in the report, was the creation of the Commons’ reference group on representation and inclusion. What’s interesting about that, is precisely the point I was just eluding too. Having shifted from gender sensitive to diversity sensitive, one couldn’t then advocate for a women’s corpus. Because diversity sensitivity would require an institution to lead on that agenda, that was itself diverse beyond sex and gender. Now again some people may want to explore the problematics of that, the advantages of that. But nonetheless, we decided we would have a group of men and women. From different parties. We would have sympathetic MP’s. And the Speaker once again chaired this group. And for me this speaks yet again to the importance of having political leadership. And also political leadership that comes with resources. You can produce a very nice report, you can get people to read it, but who will take ownership of that report? And who will create an internal group, committee, commission, here a reference group, to take that forward? Who is prepared to spend that political capital taking this forward? Will this group be a political group, as is the case in this UK example, or will it be more at the official’s level? We were very much taken with the example from Sweden, where there had initially been a gender reference group, and over time that became an equalities group. So, I was clear that in order to have an impact, in order for that report and the recommendations not to just get dusty on a shelf, the House needed to accept that it had an institutional deficit. And recognising that to create a body, because the British parliament did not have any such body, could take the report forward. Now that might speak to questions of the women’s and equality committee in the UK, which is by its standing orders designed to hold the minister, the government, to account. That’s quite different from holding the parliament to account. So we had to create the body that would really champion this agenda. As I said, again, the Speaker was critical. We couldn’t work out, and when I say: ‘We couldn’t work out’, I mean talking to very very senior clerks and politicians… It became clear that we had to create a new institution and the easiest way to do that was for the Speaker to do that. So thinking again about your example , your case... It’s about institutional capacity and institutional will. These questions have to be considered, as your undertaking the preparatory work for the report writing, drafting stage. So who on the political and who on the administrative side will take the responsibility? Who will be resourced to talk about this? Could we have the next slide please?
The Good Parliament report makes 43 numbered recommendations. There are actually 45 if you read it kind of carefully. There is one about breastfeeding that I hid. I had it because the media were very keen to write a very critical comment on this. And because it was very problematic, there was lots of hostility to the question of breastfeeding. Whether that’s peculiarly British? It’s quite possible, so it might be much less of a problem in the Netherlands. But nonetheless I took it out as a numbered recommendation, because I knew, because I had a journalist colleague who was telling me that basically the journalists were ready to Google the report or word search the report and would then go to run, and I did not want to risk the report being misrepresented as being all about breastfeeding. At the same time I was clear in my mind that babies can be fed wherever and whenever they need to be. And therefore it had to be included, and I would be letting, if you like, a feminist argument down if I excluded it. The other recommendation is about job share for MP’s. In fact I think my exclusion of that recommendation is addressed in a footnote, which I like to say is an elegant way of removing a recommendation that was just too toxic. It deserves its own pamphlet, and in fact I did produce another pamphlet with a colleague. It’s edited with professor Rosy Campbell. We got a women’s civil society group to publish it. Had a big launch. But nonetheless there’s something disingenuine in that footnote. Because ultimately, all of that could have happened at the same time as I was producing this report. But I didn’t do it. It happened after the Good Parliament, in order to protect the Good Parliament. Job share as an idea was too problematic even for many of the MP’s who were very supportive of everything else I was doing. I could not afford to risk… So I suppose the point I really want to stress, having spent little bit of time talking about the two recommendations that were sort of elegantly hidden or inelegantly excluded, was that you have to decide where your red lines are. What recommendations are so important that you hold onto them come what may? And which ones are you prepared to negotiate away? That is a very political decision. So, I produced 43 recommendations. I think of them as a shopping bag that I was handing over to parliament. Parliament had to decide. I didn’t prioritize. A very senior clerk said to me: ‘Couldn’t you just think of the top 3?’ And I said: ‘No. Gender and diversity saturate the British parliament. I’m not going to give you just 3. I’m going to give you a lot.’ Now there is a debate about whether that’s the right approach. But I’d like to suggest that actually it stops the institutions from thinking: We ticked of those 3, or we have done one of those 3, we’ve sorted it. I did have another clerk say to me, a year or so from now: ‘When will your work be done?’ And I thought: Oh dear, I haven’t quite convinced or haven’t managed to persuade him to recognise that these are ongoing debates. Some of the successful recommendations are here: 18 of the 43 recommendations have been implemented in some form or other. The women’s inequality committee was made permanent. The significant review of the gender sensitivity of both the House of Commons and the House of Lords. The dead rule for art work. Let me explain that for some of you may be looking at that, thinking: What on earth is that? Basically, if you wanted a painting of an MP to be hung in the palace of Westminster, that person had to be dead for ten years. If you are trying to diversify your artwork, you’re going to waiting quite a long time before portraits of diverse MP’s, given most of them have been made present in recent years. In fact that rule was introduced many decades ago, when there was a portrait of one of the first women MP’s to take her seat, and they didn’t want it in the House. So they created what I like to think of as their ‘misogynous rule’, to prevent a portrait being accepted. So I will be very happy to talk about more of the recommendations in the Q&A, or of those kind of come up, or if people want to e-mail me. But what I tried to do was to say: ‘Here’s a whole series of recommendations. I’ve linked them to the individuals or institutions within the House who should take responsibility for them. As I said before I had backup ones. So if the minister didn’t do X, then perhaps one other person might do Y to address it. So there’s lots more that clearly needs to be done. But I want to really talk about proxy-voting for baby-leave. The success story. Because of what it might show you about institutional change. Could we have the next slide please?
What you’ve got here is a timeline of the change that very recently in September 2020 created a permanent change to the standing orders of the British parliament. So an MP who is on baby leave is now entitled to ask for a proxy. So they can be at home, caring for their child, and some other MP will vote for them. That may feel like a small change, but it’s absolutely huge in the context of the British parliament. I had a very senior labour MP man tell me that I was risking a scandal by asking for maternity leave. What I should add here is in fact that the leave for women was 6 months. It is only 2 months for men, which of course is an inequality between men and women. That was accepted. We recognized that that created a new inequality, but it was the only way to get this through. We had to at all times try to ensure that this voting for baby leave.. to enable a proxy.. was limited through lots of other.. In fact, the House of Commons was debating it yesterday and it is still ongoing. In the context of Covid, MP’s are not present in parliament because they are shielding, or vulnerable, or caring for people who are vulnerable for Covid, or who live in Scotland, and can’t travel down without risking extensive exposure. To what extent should they have a proxy vote? We have to keep our demand, our ask, very narrow. What was really important was that we worked together on this. Across parties. The mother of the House, so that’s the longest sitting women MP; the leader of the House, who was also a women; the reference group that I talked about; one of our committees that deals with procedure wrote a report; and the Speaker . There was a series of debates. There was delay. We tried to involve external actors to create a groundswell of demands from outside. We worked with our friends in the media. And I think there is something called ‘the embarrassment theory of political change’. Liza might have to say something about this. The republic triggers.. or a few triggers.. the worse… We haven’t even formed an arrangement in the British parliament. That if you are unable to attend for some reason, and your parliamentary manager agrees, you can have what’s called a pair, so neither of you vote. So if I have to go to a hospital appointment, I can say to my parliamentary manager: ‘I can’t come and vote that evening.’ They’ll go to another party and say: ‘Do you have somebody who wants to be off?’ So that they cancel each other’s votes out. There was a very high profile failure of that informal system. That’s the Jo Swinson incident on this slide in July. A very heavily pregnant woman MP was paired, and the man she was paired with made an error and voted. We then saw in January 2018 an even more heavily pregnant woman, Tulip Sadiq, who delayed a caesarean birth in order to vote in one of the Brexit votes. So yet again, we’ve got 2 cases where it looks as though very pregnant women are being treated very badly by the institutions and the practices of the British parliament. And then we have the naming of the conservative [inaudible] and the person delaying the adoption, the implementation. So I wonder if there is something interesting there about pregnant women embarrassing governing parties, that might enable them to bring about change. As I said, this is an example where we can really look at which of the actors were critical at particular moments and how they’ve worked together. So I’ve got one more slide on this idea of trying to understand what we might think of as regendering change or creating diversity sensitive change. If we could go to the next slide please? And I’m aware of time, so I haven’t got very much I’m going to say.
So, how do we explain what has been and is widely recognized as rather a lot of change in rather a short period of time for an institution that in many ways is very traditional? Some of this is about there being more women MP’s. And I think more gender conscious women MP’s. A generation that is too strong. But also clearly male colleagues who are prepared to support women, and to raise issues and to extend their political capital on this kind of issues. We were able to create the Commons’ reference group and an agenda. So not all of the 43 recommendations could have been worked all at once, but we were able in that group to take that shopping bag that I described and say: ‘What do we really want to work on?’ And clearly, baby leave was the most significant, but I would also stress that very formal IPU gender sensitive parliaments audit, which also worked. I also want to bring in this idea of gendered parliamentarianism. I often think of British politics as being highly adversarial, divided by parties, but what actually we did see was examples of women working together. There was also, I indicated before as well, particularly amongst the middle and younger women in the administration, a shared consciousness that this institution was really quite problematic in terms of diversity. And that in lots of ways.. There was also a sexual harassment scandal in the last year of writing my report that helped create that desire for change. And I talked about some of those relationships and I used the term with Mister Speaker being ‘the midwife’, but I quite clearly identified critical allies who were prepared to get involved. And as I said: ‘If this is about institutional regendering, we might want to think about, if we’re looking for diversity sensitive reform, how we might broaden those actors out to understand change.’ Let me move to my final slide.
So a new definition of gender sensitive parliament or diversity sensitive parliament. I have being working with [inaudible] who was the author of those early IPU-reports. So, I’m just going to put that up there for the moment. So I have talked about the reason why, in my institution, the British parliament, I shifted from gender sensitivity to diversity sensitivity. This year I have been working with the [inaudible] parliamentarian association and with [inaudible] and the UN Women and I slipped back if you like to gender sensitive parliaments. So I think that requires some questions about whether we can just slip between them. As if that makes it all acceptable. Or it doesn’t really matter if you do gender sensitive or diversity sensitive. That is something we might want to talk about in the future. I hope that I have been able to give you some of the flavour of the content, but also that what I think might be more useful: the process that gave rise to the Good Parliament report. And how such a report can be taken up by an institution, and the importance of thinking about the different actors. And the ways you can try to bring about change. In that context I want to stress that this new definition brings in a fourth dimension, that I had to exclude from my report, that was about the extent to which the parliament engages in gendered analysis and to policymaking. And that goes back to the qualification I made early on, that I was not submitting a report to government, about how government could do better policy for women or other marginalized and underrepresented groups. As I’ve said, I think that shift from gender sensitive to diversity sensitive works for me. It provided me with political cover if you like, but actually in so doing, I hoped that it would protect the political content, the feminist content of the Good Parliament report. But questions I think do remain. And I would flank these for you, if you are thinking about doing such thing. One of the strategic red lines were the recommendations that I decided to include, water down, exclude. Where those defensible? Was it right to do that? And who am I accountable to? This was a very individualized project in lots of ways. I hadn’t created, and this is the question I’m grappling with now, looking back, is why didn’t I create an extra institutional feminist or diversity panel, who might also fit into what I was doing? I had an MP’s group, I had an official’s group. But I didn’t have a group made up of those people whose as my reformers were trying to do good by. And I think that is quite an important question. So now let me bring you just to the appendix slide just to close. The one with the picture. I want to also say that some of this is risky. This is a clipping from a top-selling midrange newspaper, The Daily Mail, 2 days after the report. It’s about transgender loo’s, breastfeeding, and it tries to rubbish me as an academic. It talks about the fact that I want to ban pink. Because once many many years ago at the end of a session somebody said: ‘What’s the one thing you would do?’, and I said: ‘Ban pink.’ And they found that. My point really is here, that media reception has to be very much part of what you are doing. There is a risk for people who do this kind of work. That also, looking back now, informs how I would do such work again. It made me think about how I present my work and how to write those recommendations up. Finally, I think this is something the people who are not typical of those who historically inhabited our political institutions, have to put up with. And there is a lot more work that needs to be done. About the abuse or misrepresentation of those participating in politics, and also those who are trying to bring about change. The easiest way to rubbish the report, was to suggest that I was some kind of ultra-radical feminist who wouldn’t even let a girl wear a pink shirt. One thing Liza Mügge can now say, that I, in fact, have worn a pink skirt once at a party. Thank you very much and I hope I have given you a little bit of a flavour of my report and my activities. Thank you
Hella van de Velde: Thank you very much Sarah Childs for your very interesting explanation and talk. We in the Netherlands are very positive about British humour, but I think when you showed the newspaper in your last slide, this will not be shared by all of you also. We saw in the chat little questions until now. We just saw one remark made, and I think that will be a point for discussion later on. The relation between gender politics and diversity politics in a broader sense. And not only diversity as a framing issue, as you referred to it in your talk, but also in the content of measures. To what extent are some recommendations also applicable to other unrepresented groups? But maybe we come to that later on.
We will start the discussion now with two reflections of Dutch experts. And we start with Liza Mügge. A political scientist and expert on gender and politics of the University of Amsterdam. Liza, here you are.
Liza Mugge: Thank you! So can you hear me all right? Thanks so much Sarah, you are such an inspiration. When the report came out in 2016, I was like: ‘Oh My Gosh a dream come true’, because for us academics it is difficult to translate all those series, and all that research and data into very practical solutions. And to me this is a very inspirational example of how academics can really use their work for the better, to make an actual change. To change politics. Not only studying politics, but really change it. I’m also very thankful that you shared today the background, the political stories, the politics, behind the whole project, that you have been going through. And all the strategic alliances, and what happens at receptions. Because we all know that this is part of such a big project. You have to work the institution and the institution consists of people. So I love those stories.
A lot of take aways for the Netherlands. I think there are many for us, to create a good province or municipality. First, of course, the British system is very different from the Dutch system, but there are also many similarities when it comes to gender inequality. There are some mechanisms that particularly in western democracies are extremely alike. So some of your concrete practical recommendations would definitely also be applicable to the Netherlands on a national level, or a local level, and even in other male-dominated institutions like academia for instance as well. Secondly, and maybe even more important: your work is an inspiration how to do a gender analysis. So in some respects the Dutch system is really different and the Dutch political culture is very different from the British one, but you show us a model how you can do such an analysis and how you can built on the academic work, but still transform it in a very practical to-do list. Some specific lessons are that numbers are important. We need the percentages: What is the percentage of women in the provinces and in the municipality? But we should also really move beyond those numbers and ask ourselves.. When those women are in parliament or the municipality or the province, we want to keep them. I think much of the debate in academia, but also in policy circles, is very much focussed on access of women. Increasing the numbers. And not so much: if they are there, how do we make sure that they’re staying, because we don’t want to lose all that talent. And in the Netherlands the influx of women is lower than men, but the outflux of women is also higher than men. So we have to fight both. And I think in order to keep those talented women we have to improve the working conditions. So this is one thing, and another lesson I take from your work, is that we need to pay serious attention to the deep formal, but also some informal structures, that include some, but exclude others. The people who are typically excluded are those non-prototypical politicians. So, anyone but white, abled, men. So not only women, but also people of colour. Politics is not made for them, it’s not designed for them. It’s designed for white, abled men. We need awareness raising and we need to improve the system. So this is really clear. And one of the tools that you mention and which I think is very important and powerful is involve men in this. You show practical advice to invite them to become allies. So, we don’t want all male committees anymore. Male parliamentarians, politicians, can do something about it. They’ll say: ‘I don’t want to be part of this male panel or male committee. We need some more gender diversity here.’ I also like that you take a broader approach, that the media is also part of this whole entourage. So they are really part of politics and how politics works.
I have 3 additional reflections. They were not part of your report maybe, but more hidden. The first addition is an intersectional analysis. So there’s so many differences between women. Shouldn’t we think about specific recommendations to make it easier for some women for whom the barriers are just a little higher than for white women? Who are actually those women who get to speak or get to obtain those very few positions of power? Who are we missing? What are we missing? Is it ability, race, gender identity? So we need to go a step further there. And the other thing has to do with our current situation, that everything has moved online. Are there new inequalities or maybe advantages or opportunities? And finally, I was wondering about.. You mentioned this harassment and gender-based violence. We know that women, and especially young women and women of colour, politicians, but also journalists, are more vulnerable and get so much trash. They’re experiencing harassment, jokes, physical violence, and so on. So what is the system doing, and what is the system in place to prevent such behaviour? To protect those women and to support those women. So, those are my first comments. And now I’m moving on to Manja.
Hella van de Velde: Thank you. Manja, from the local practice in Purmerend.
Manja van der Weit: Thank you. First of all I really want to thank you for inviting me and giving me the possibility to reflect on what is said tonight. I thought the webinar was very inspirational. This is an issue close to my heart and listening to people who also are passionate about this issue is for me very inspirational. So my name as already said, is Manja van der Weit. I’m a member of the city council of Purmerend, for now over 8 years. Besides that I’m the founder of VIPPS. VIPPS is an initiative to get more women politically active in our city council. And the unique thing about VIPPS is that its cross-party and completely politically neutral. I started it early in 2017 and saw that if I wanted to make it a success and wanted to reach as many women as possible, I needed also the other women, from the other political parties. And not only the women, because we also have a few parties that have no women. So I needed the complete city council to back me in this idea. And they did. The complete city council embraced the idea. And now this is an initiative of the complete city council. I’m very proud of that. And with that background I have read the report and also listened to the presentation. All the time with in the back of my mind the question: How can I, or how can we, implement those recommendations in the Dutch local government, or more specifically in my own city council? Two things to me really stood out. The first was the remark on one of the first pages of the report, that it’s for the House of Commons as an institution. It was just a small sentence, but to me that is really what it’s all about. I find that really important, because if I translate that to the local government, to a city council, that means if you make the city council as an institution, so as a whole, responsible for the importance of diversity, then I think you can make a change. If they are as a whole responsible to discuss this issue on a regular basis, and if they, as an institution, start with the actions that in the report and also in the presentation were told. So how to identify the diversity insensitivities, and create reforms. If you do that as the total city council, and not just as one political party, you get more of a team feeling. And I think that is really important, because that improves the intrinsic motivation of people. If they really feel, all individual councillors, and really see, the importance of diversity in the local government. Only then, in my opinion, it will really change. Because still unfortunately I hear a lot of people, mostly elderly white men, say that it’s really important to create diversity, but then if I ask them: ‘What did you do about it? And how are we going to reach that?’, they say: ‘Well, it’s important. But it’s not really a problem, because if anybody really wants, it’s possible.’ So they downsize the problem and I think we need to change that. And I think that by making the city council as a whole, maybe in legislation, I don’t know, but if you make the city council as a whole responsible, and they talk about it a lot, it will turn around over time. So, that’s the first thing that I took from the report. The second issue, something I a bit missed in the report, it was also what Liza told just now: everything in the report has the primary focus on what the House of Commons can do, or should do. And that’s just a part of the solution. We need to make the change from both sides. Besides creating a much warmer welcome in city councils, we also need to increase the women, the interested people, young people. Besides VIPPS, I was busy with JIPPS. I like the abbreviation. JIPPS is younger people in the Purmerend politics. And I really do not know how to reach those young people. People of ethnic minorities, I don’t know how to reach them. But that is the great question here: How can we reach them and get them interested? For that, I really hope, everybody else has interesting ideas. So I had a very interesting evening and for me these are the two most interesting points. Thank you.
Hella van de Velde: Thank you both very much. We had some things in the discussion [chat], but maybe it’s good to invite Sarah for one minute to react on Liza and Manja. If she wants.
Sarah Childs: Thank you! They were very [inaudible] comments in all sorts of ways. I’m going to start with Liza’s points about gender sensitivity. Sorry I dropped my paper with my notes on the floor, excuse me. About gender sensitivity, diversity sensitivity. I’ve actually gone back and looked. I’m currently writing a book based on this report, called ‘Building feminist institutions’, were I really want to take seriously that accusation about gender and diversity. And I think it’s about reflecting on: Had I really worked with the diversity sensitive parliaments framework from the beginning, rather than sort of using it as a strategic defence mechanism against opposition, then I think the report would have looked different. There are some very specific recommendations that are for example focussed on disability or ethnicity or on money, but I think you are absolutely right that it is primarily a gender sensitive parliaments report. I will explore that in academic terms, but I think in one word responding to Liza… Is to recognize that at the time… the politics of being in the institution… having a short period of time and a report… was that I was working with what I could at the time, and with what I thought would be the most effective. Which isn’t necessarily an academic response, but I think it is a situated response, if that makes sense. I’m not sure that had I devised a diversity sensitive approach from the beginning, whether there would have been the same institutional buying. Which of course begs questions about why is that the case? But I think you’re absolutely right. We all work with notions of multiple identities and we recognize that. In the UK the abuse that one women MP receives, a black women MP, is heart of all the abuse. It’s so skewed, it’s unbelievable. I know you want me to talk only for one minute.
So yes on the diversity… The institution to own, Manja, you’re absolutely right, that was precisely put, upfront. Because as I began to learn about how the place worked, I realised it: institutionalisation to try and create a process, that forces the institution over time to follow up on this report, was the only way it was going to work. So, for example the 2018 IPU gender sensitive audit of both parliaments, which was just focussed on women, which I was only indirectly involved in, was part of saying I wanted something in place that 2 years on, the institution will look back at at least some of what it had achieved and what still needed to be done. And finally, I would like to say something about how to make councils take some of that institutional responsibility. I think there is… I talked about gender sensitive parliaments being a framework, and becoming an international norm. I’m also seeing a competition between parliaments. Effectively, my parliament is better than your parliament. And that’s also a dynamic that can bring about change. So if you feel that you and your municipality can achieve X, and you create a dynamic that others will respond to with good sort of PR of what you’ve achieved, it forces others. So for example, I’ve presented this work in Jersey and one of the members of the Jersey parliament then created a diversity forum that’s gone on to do things. So I think you begin to see how as a dynamic change.. comparison: which parliament, which council is doing the best in the Netherlands? And I think using media, journalists, academics, to create those kind of dynamics… A narrative can really help. There’s lots more I could say, but I don’t want to foreclose more questions.
Hella van de Velde: Thank you. Well there were some questions raised and maybe Liza and Manja also want to reflect on that. About the underlying values. Is it still necessary to stress the underlying values of a diverse representation? And is that still discussed, and was that discussed during the process? Or isn’t it necessary to address that anymore? If I understood the question of Zahra rightly.
Sarah Childs: Do you want me to say something very quickly before the others?
Hella van de Velde: Maybe you can start and then Liza.
Sarah Childs: I’m afraid so, is what I would say. There is still a tendency amongst certain MP’s to rely on the idea that the best man for the job should have the job, as opposed to problematizing institutions that discourage and make it very hard for those who are different, to participate. So there are still comments about the fact that women should not be benefited by quotas, or there shouldn’t be special treatment. But actually… if you can’t… this can also help me answer a question that Liza put about opportunities with Covid and online parliaments… What we’re experiencing in the UK at the moment is a leader of the House, so the government manager if you like, or the parliamentary [inaudible], not wishing to encourage remote participation, online participation. Because he, and this is my words, not his, he thinks, and in fact this draws on Chloe Challender’s work, the good parliamentarian is the one who is physically present. And therefore you should not be working from home. You should be there. And I think that creates lots of assumptions about what kind of people can be in parliament. You can’t be home educating your children and do your parliamentary work. You can’t be subject to a condition that makes you vulnerable and be a good parliamentarian. You can’t be not prepared to risk your health or your community’s health by travelling for 8 hours on a train. I think that’s a really big issue. So whilst communication should be increased through online participation, and the UK is proving very resisting at the moment to that, and that’s about the government and its government power.
Hella van de Velde: Maybe Manja, do you recognize those kinds of difficulties while addressing the issue in your municipality?
Manja van der Weit: I do. If you address the issue they try to downsize it or they’ll say: ‘Well, we want to go for quality, not necessarily for gender.’ That’s always difficult. What I also see a lot is that people say that it’s very important, but they don’t do anything about it. So they say only that it’s important, but still end up with a list with no women on it. And if they are not from your own political party, I can’t hold them accountable for that. So, it’s very difficult to make a change if they don’t really feel or see the problem.
Hella van de Velde: Thank you. Now Liza maybe wants to say something about this?
Liza Mügge: I totally second what Sarah and Manja were saying. On top, the stereotypical image of a politician is still so masculine, and also the image they have themselves about what a politician is. So I remember very vividly that Rutte called himself a boy on one of these corona press conferences, that is our prime minister Sarah, and he said something like: ‘ Well, if the boys’, and he was referring to himself, another minister, and the head of this virological institute, I don’t know what it’s called in English. Anyway, the point is, they were referring to themselves as boys. But they’re not boys , they’re grown up men. This whole idea like it’s a game, they’re boys, they’re out playing. That’s so exclusive, and they don’t even realize it. It’s so exclusive. And I think that’s why unfortunately we have to keep explaining, and keep pointing to these very subtle mechanisms of exclusion. Not only gender based, but also intersectional, and how other groups are permanently excluded. Maybe because people don’t even realize. And that’s why we have to keep, with our bright faces on, we have to keep explaining with facts and percentages and so on, because that’s what they want. They want hard numbers. We can give them some hard numbers and then we explain them examples of how it works. Unfortunately that’s very necessary.
Hella van de Velde: We have some questions about the practical side of the matter. One is on diversity in the process of recruitment and selection. And how you can give way to that and what is necessary to guarantee a more diverse selection. Maybe we take some in one time. Another question is: do women’s organizations still have a role in the process and how did that work in the UK? In relation to the project. And then the ultimate remidium: do we need quota instead of a long-lasting change processes? Maybe Sarah first.
Sarah Childs: So I’ll start with quota and work back. In the UK we have permissive legislation that permits political parties to use quota for elections to Westminster and the Scottish and Welsh parliaments. But that legislation originally had what’s called a ‘sunset clause’. It only lasted for a period of time, and it now lasts till 2030. So, a time scale issue. So what we don’t have is statutory legislative quotas for all parties, which means, as you might expect, only the left adopted them, but not parties of the right… our main conservative party… the party of our government. So we have 32% women in the British parliament, but the Labor Party is more 50% female, and the Conservative party in the earlies twenties [percent]. So we have a big gap between the two main parties and in all sorts of ways that’s about the use of quota by the Labor party and the non-use by the Conservative party. So I’m completely in favor of quota, don’t have a problem with it at all. I think it’s wonderful and as I tell people from the UK, I don’t care whether you don’t like them, they work. The global evidence is there. It’s rather funny that evidence-based policymaking is all right until its quota, and people don’t want to follow the evidence. But that’s a quick one.
Women’s organizations in terms of supporting. All the political parties have women’s campaigning organizations to kind of recruit women and train women. There’s also civil society groups. We have one group [inaudible] of society who provides administrative support and political input into that informal women’s corpus. Which isn’t really a corpus, the APPG that I mentioned . But also there has been a campaign. We’ve just 2 years ago had a hundred years of women’s suffrage, So there was an umbrella grouping that has brought lots of different kinds of women’s groups together to try to campaign on issues around gender equality. And that also had a political project. Not terribly successful in terms of a particular piece of legislation, but nonetheless, yes, they do.
In terms of diversity and recruitment. In the report I singled out some of the provisions around disability. There was a particular funding. An amount of money that disabled candidates could apply for. But that was then time-limited by the government… sort of re-constituted, but I’m not convinced it really works. What I think I would stress was this principal of job share. That recommendation that I didn’t include in the report. Although that had started out as an argument around enabling women to participate whilst caring, it actually increasingly became to me to feel like the means for some individuals to actually be able to realize that very basic right to participate, because actually for some people working full time will never be a possibility. Particularly in a kind of 24/7 political role. And actually job share, may be precisely the kind of radical intervention that you need to have, in order for some people to be able to be elected representatives. Because they can’t work full time. We defined the role as something that you have to do as a singular person in the UK. But actually I don’t see the reason. So, I feel very strongly that job share really has the potential to diversity who can participate. Because it doesn’t presume that one can do the job all of the time. So I think that for me was really fundamental to what we need to do to change things.
And then finally I would say, and this goes back to all sorts of… We have to change how parliament is perceived by the public. That is about outreach, that is about offering internships, mentoring, enabling people who don’t see parliament as a place for them, to acquire knowledge and experience of it. So although I didn’t talk about those kinds of recommendations tonight, there’s a whole lot of plans within the report and it goes back to that point about institutional responsibility. One thing parliaments can do, is do non-party political work that makes parliament more connected with people. I always use this quote. We often think about hard to reach groups, and I heard a representative from one of those groups in the Scottish parliament, who said: ‘Actually, we’re just easy to ignore.’ And that’s what’s got to change. Politics has got to be what everyday people do everyday, and not what just elite people do. And I think that’s the big question.
Hella van de Velde: It seems to me that your last recommendation could also be applicable to local councils for instance. People can reach their councillor and maybe mentorships and internships.
Sarah Childs: Yes
Hella van de Velde: Can be interesting! One of other experts who wants to reflect on the practical measures? Manja or Liza? Manja and then Liza.
Manja van der Weit: Well, what I wanted to say in reaction to one of the earlier questions, is that I think it’s really about role models. We need to have more role models, and the one thing to get them fast is the quota. So, politically, my party is not pro-quota, but me personally. I’m pro-quota. Because we need role models. So many times when I get my kids from school, the other mothers, talk, not really badly, but they were a bit surprised that I worked so much. ‘You have three jobs, why do you do that? Your husband earns enough money, why would you do that?’ So, we need to change that view. We need role models who find it normal to work full time. Or who really want to be politically active. If we get that kind of people faster by quota, I would be totally for that.
Hella van de Velde: Thank you. Liza?
Liza Mügge: I’m also definitely pro-quota, but in combination with a set of other measures, because we know from examples from other countries that if you only implement a quota with no other measures then it’s not going to work. And it will be used as an excuse, and then nothing will happen. And we need to do something about his masculine, exclusive political culture. And finally I wanted to stress the importance of social movements and women networks. Like Manja, you have this network in Purmerend on the local level, but there have been so many women’s networks of political parties. They have done enormous things, and they do their efforts. One of the parties, the social democratic party, has target numbers, and we know also from research from others countries that these groups are fundamental for change. We definitely need them on board as well.
Hella van de Velde: Thank you. And maybe to close with a last issue that was submitted in the chat. The issue of intersectionality. To go a little bit more in depth of that. And the question is: Did you have also specific recommendations for women of color, or disabled women? Or did you take it all as a whole?
Sarah Childs: What I got… Can I share my screen with you? Is that possible very quickly?
Hella van de Velde: I don’t know… maybe…
Sarah Childs: Okay. So yes, there are absolutely… And so the recommendations often either explicitly recognize different groups who would benefit from them, so sometimes they are very explicitly about women, sometimes other underrepresented groups, sometimes diversity in the round. There are specific recommendations for disability, LBTGQ-clerks and parents… But it’s one of those tensions isn’t it, between intersectionality that doesn’t want to disaggregate people into particular identities, and then recommendations that sometimes need to be much more specific. To particular exclusionary practices or norms. So for example, some of the work or recommendations trying to transform the language. The parliamentary rules in Westminster are really complicated. They use very old-fashioned language. For lots and lots of different kinds of people that is going to feel like you cannot understand how to do things. I went through the parliamentary Bible and I couldn’t make head or tails of it, and I’m a professor of politics. So changing to more everyday language would be a way of being much more inclusive. Making sure that people could actually understand what particular word-use.... We use really old-fashioned words in the British parliament, or we use them in different ways. This is crazy. It’s unnecessary. So the traditions that exclusionary… Talking about The Crown, I mean you see some of these ridiculous things. The clothing. The procedures. And lots of people hold onto them, because they are traditions. But actually we need to start from a different perspective, which is: any tradition that is exclusionary needs to stop. It’s as simple as that to me. But it’s not as simple as that, right. Because you’ve got to mobilize the numbers to support the reform. So for example one of the things that I would love to have changed is the hours of the British parliament. It still sets through the night, and it still sits very late. There is no way I have the political capital, the academic capital to change that. If I would’ve put that in my report, my report would’ve gone nowhere. So some things I kicked into the medium or the long draft.
So, you have to be very careful if you’re trying to write the good parliament, not the perfect fantasy parliament. You have to compromise. And that is something I’m increasingly exploring in my kind of academic analysis of what I did. And it’s hard to admit where you’ve conceded… because all other things being equal… you’d been more radical... We’re trying to change institutions with resistors, and that makes it very very hard, so.. This time next year, I’ll have a lot more to say about that I think. I’ll have thought about it a lot more systemically. I’m just giving you the kind of first [inaudible] kind of response. I hope that rings through. I think a lot of these recommendations are not pure enough. But they couldn’t be pure if they were going to work. And for that, I won’t apologize. If that makes sense.
Hella van de Velde: That’s a cliffhanger to invite you next year once more. To tell us about the results of all kinds of measures. That would be very nice. It’s 9 o’ clock, so that means that we have gotten to the end of the webinar. And by far not the end of the discussion, or the work at the issue. So that will go on. To inspire everyone, you will also receive a report of this evening, and it’s highly recommended to read Sarah’s research report, because I think there will be many more practical recommendations, measures, which might be applicable in your own context. Thank you all for spending your evening with us. Especially of course our guests and speakers. Very interesting and many thanks for your contributions.