Monday, 9 March 2009

Enough Punch and Judy

First, I want to thank Jess Asato for setting up this blogging space: I hope it will provide a useful means for us to share ideas and debate topics which are both specific to women in politics and broader issues as well.

Let me kick off with Punch and Judy - puppets locked in endless wrangles and frequent bouts of pointless bashing that ultimately lead nowhere. Much was made by Cameron when he assumed the Tory leadership of his desire to move away from 'Punch and Judy' politics. He claimed to recognise that the inherently adversarial style of debate - often referred to by female commentators as Ya Boo Politics - led many to feel disengaged from the political process and was, in any event, a deeply unattractive spectacle.

Interestingly, Cameron stated that women in particular find the Punch and Judy-style politics off-putting, in that it is needlessly aggressive, counter-productive to informed debate and, frankly, intimidating.

Yet within a few weeks, Cameron was punching with the 'best' of them and little, if anything, seems to have changed.

My question is, was Cameron right to draw a distinction between male and female attitudes to this style of political debate?

The superficial question is whether women crave (and feel more at ease with) measured discussion rather than point-scoring rhetoric. The deeper question is whether there is a discernable difference between the way that women and men in general perceive our political system.

Does our current Parliamentary style of debate turn women off formal politics?

And is a key barrier to women entering politics our perception of PMQs and other speaker events as pointless games which have little to do with real lives?

Or is there no discernable pattern as to how men and women react to the style of political interaction in Westminster?

Either way, what changes should be made (and recommended by the ongoing Speakers' Conference) to better encourage women to seek active roles in the Parliamentary process?

Answers / thoughts / views below, rather than on a postcard...

1 comment:

  1. I have found this post rather late, and am amazed that there are no comments. That may be because the answer is so obvious to many of us. Women of my age who were rigidly taught to be polite at all times (and even to apologise whether or not we were at fault) do find the House of Commons style off-putting. Maybe the younger women we have brought up to expect more from the world find it less intimidating, and think the answer is obvious in the other direction?

    I think our political process currently selects for women who are far more outspoken than I am, and perhaps, possibly, less caring?

    A related aspect not mentioned above is the general male love of rules as opposed to the female love of justice. We think "fair" means a just outcome, they think "fair" means according to the rules even if the result is plainly unjust. So common behaviour in the House may be fair to them, but unfair in our eyes.