Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Anne Begg's Week

[Disclaimer]: Aberdeen University and its blog are not connected to Anne Begg MP in an official capacity. The writers of this blog are solely responsible for its contents, and therefore this blog may not reflect the views or positions of Anne Begg MP. For Anne Begg MP's official website please go to www.annebegg.com.

Week beginning 2nd March – Conference Week

Monday was dominated by media interest in the story of the Council's desperation for money that they are now sending in the debt collectors to an 80 year old partially sighted woman. Mrs. Still had come to me complaining she had been charged for a community alarm she didn't want and I was still in correspondence with the Council about her bill for £17.50 when the debt collectors called.

However, the big event of this week was the second public evidence session of the Speaker's Conference about political participation on Tuesday. While I enjoy being in the Chair it does curtail my opportunity to ask questions. We were taking evidence from Unlock Democracy, the TUC and EHRC. Things got lively when Unlock Democracy suggested candidates who didn't have the money to fight for selection to a seat should receive taxpayers’ money. While there is an issue about the cost involved in standing for selection and then election, the suggested solution didn't go down too well.

It was the Chair of the EHRC, Trevor Philips, who inevitably attracted media attention. That is probably why the sketch writer for the Daily Mail, Quentin Letts, turned up. As is his want, he wasn't very flattering in his column on Wednesday. The EHRC has come up with some controversial suggestions of its own such all ethnic minority shortlists and term limits for MPs. The thinking is that if MPs are only allowed to stand for 4 elections there will be a faster turn over which opens the doors for new candidates. However, this won't change anything if the political parties continue to choose white men as candidates.

Wednesday saw Harriet Harman stand in for the Prime Minster again at Question Time where she was quizzed by William Hague. I personally thought that she did quite well.

As Secretary of the All Party BBC group, I also hosted a breakfast on behalf of BBC Scotland for all Scottish MPs on Thursday. To my relief it was very well attended. Responsibility for broadcasting remains at Westminster, but there is definitely a Scottish dimension. That's why I also attended a meeting of the new Scottish Broadcasting All Party Group about the digital switchover.

After breakfast it was straight to the airport to get back to Aberdeen to meet some constituents and to attend a CBI dinner addressed by Jim Murphy, the Secretary of State for Scotland. It did mean that I missed the debate on International Women's Day, but unfortunately I can't do everything.

For a change, this Friday I traveled down to Dundee for Scottish Labour Party Conference. Always a good time to meet up with old friends.

Once again the council stoops to a new low in their desperate attempts to dig themselves out of the massive debt hole they are in.

Also again this week Anne has spent time on issues related to equality which is an area that I think Labour should spend more time. I have mentioned here before the shocking lack of representation in parliament of any group that is not white men. As Anne said the situation will not change until the political parties do select people other than white men.

The problem of the lack of diversity is also more than just an under representation of political groups. People derive impressions of individuals and groups when they see or interact with them. Having such a skewed legislature creates the impression that politics is for white men only. This has the potential to discourage people (especially children) who aren't in this group from becoming involved in politics which exacerbates and continues the problem, and fosters feelings of marginilisation which should be tackled.

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