Absolutely loving the social media response to the offensive, personal comments made about Nicola Sturgeon at the one day Scottish Labour conference in Edinburgh last Saturday. Our women, men and children dug out the colanders and tin pots from the kitchen cupboards, took pictures and posted them all over the social media sites. I even saw one by a new facebook friend where she made a tin hat for her cat from tin foil. This is what the unionists are missing. HUMOUR!
The type of comments made about Scotland, SNP members and voters, and our politicians are perhaps one of the reasons why many people (men as well as women) veer away from high level politics. Women do get involved in politics at a local level, often on community issues. Holding down a job as well as all the other tasks people have is difficult enough without laying yourself open to abusive behaviour that would be disciplined in any other job.
Once candidates have worked their socks off to get elected, the pressures increase. If in a rural area like my part of the country, daily commuting is out no matter which parliament you have been elected to. So that means a second accommodation and days away from family. Now I know many people do this in other jobs and many like this lifestyle. Many don’t though. When not at the parliament there is constituency work to be done. Not always in ‘office’ hours either. That weekend you were thinking of taking the kids away? Just hang on there…… some constituents require your presence at an event (yeah, they could have given you more warning but hey! You are their elected member). Do you cancel the weekend away or send them on and you catch up later? At least MPs and MSPs have offices and staff to field phone calls and letters and constituents who, mostly, expect to only contact them during office hours.
What about the councillor who is given a laptop and a phone and expected to work from home where there are always some constituents who expect their councillor to be available round the clock. If you are smart enough to turn the council phone off or put it in the drawer in the evening, they know where you live! Some Councillors I know are never at home in the evenings or Saturday as they are at community events and meetings.
Not everyone has the stamina for this kind of lifestyle. Not everyone wants to put themselves in the firing line. This is why we cannot set targets for how many women versus men should be our candidates. Even if we did manage to balance the gender of our candidates, how do you ensure the electorate vote them in, in the correct gender balance? Is it not better to continue to engineer a more family friendly and respective atmosphere in politics which will encourage those with the ability, to put themselves forward in good faith? Perhaps this can begin to happen when we get rid of the traditional type of MP………. the ones who were either bred for the ‘their rightful place’, or the ones who picked the ‘right’ friends in their trade unions.
Having had said all I have above, I would like to thank all our hard working elected representatives. I know there are many up and down the country who work hard and take their privileged positions seriously . To those who still see it as your rightful meal ticket, you better start looking around for another hand to feed you as the electorate are finding you out.