Opinion: Gender is no cure to mistrust

The Press Association reports a claim in the Interim Report of the Speaker’s Conference that more women MPs would “boost trust”.

This is an irrational assertion. For every male mortage-flipper or questionable expense-claimer – like Geoge Osborne, Elliot Morley or David Chaytor – there are plenty of female examples – Jacqui Smith, Hazel Blears, or Margaret Moran.

It seems to me that trust depends more on how MPs behave than what gender they happen to be.

Liberals should argue for people to be appraised as individuals not simply reduced to groups in which we happen to be classifiable. As Jo Grimond wrote, in his book The Liberal Future,

Liberalism is a personal matter. It is about personal conduct and individual freedom.”

If I wrote down all the women and all the men whom I know, I could not say that either set was more trustworthy than the other. There would be ‘trusted’ and a few ‘mistrusted’ people in both lists.

Membership, whether by nature or choice, of various groups affects all our lives postively or negatively. But individuality should come first. I should be judged, punished, rewarded, loved or hated beacuse of my actions, my choices, my words; not those of others who, by accident of birth, happen to share my gender, nationality, generation or other group feature.

If we are denied our individuality, we are denied our humanity.

* Antony Hook is a member of the Council of the European Liberal Democrats (ELDR).

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • Douglas Thomson 16th Jul '09 - 7:46pm

    “* Antony Hook is a member of the Council of the European Liberal Democrats (ELDR).”

    Yes he certainly is. But what has it to do with an article by Stephen Tall?

  • Douglas Thomson 16th Jul '09 - 7:48pm

    Ah. It’s not longer by Stephen Tall. I stand corrected.

  • Antony Hook Antony Hook 16th Jul '09 - 8:45pm


    Gender issues have long been one issue where you and I are 180 degrees apart.

    I think it is fair to put it this way:

    You want a better group chracteristics.

    I want to chuck out group characteristics and recognise individuals.

  • I think it’s reasonable to say that without a representative group, it’s hard for individual characteristics to be equally and fairly recognised.

  • Absolutely agree with James, and you’ll not be surpised that I completely disagree with your argument. You have taken the line about the need for more gender equality to bring more trust out of context from the Speakers conference report, and distilled it into almost a Daily Mail type headline.
    It talks about far more diversity in Parliament – that means people from all walks of life, men and women, some of them from BME backgrounds, some who live with a disability, who the public and the electorate can identify with. I’m sorry but the argument that because Jacqui Smith and Hazel Blears aren’t deemed trustworthy, we shouldn’t be supportive of their recommendation that all political parties should work positively to ensure that 50% of their MPs, and Parliament should be women.
    Its says:
    “Increasing the diversity of MPs would make it a more just, legitimate and effective legislature.. and more credble in in the public’s eyes”
    It merely points out that with a significant number of MPs standing down in the fall out over the expenses scandel, there is a real opportunity to change the face of the House of Commons.
    You cannot surely be arguing that more of the same – middle everything white men is going to bring trust and confidence to Parliament?
    There are thousands of women out there who would make great MPs – really time to end this tired argument that we don’t want more equality – just “the best!” as if there are no good women and ethnic minorities worthy of representing us.

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