Tag Archives: Edinburgh council elections

Male, Pale, and Stale

James Brinning, a 19-year-old student at Cardiff University, had only one obvious qualification for being a Labour candidate in the council elections: he’s male.

That apparently was good enough for the selection committee, who do not appear to have bothered to even look at his Facebook profile.

This came to my attention when a friend apostrophised this young man’s attitudes to women, ethnic minorities, and other “banter” as “Labour candidate suspended by being a 19 year old on Facebook”.

Young white men “banter”. That is, they engage in amusing-to-them abuse of others who are funny because they are not white, young, or men. This behaviour is widely regarded as perfectly normal and not deserving of any negative consequence. I’d agree that what a teenager said and did shouldn’t necessarily be held against them in their adult years… but this teenager was actually standing for election.

Meantime in the Scottish council elections:

Labour, the Liberal Democrats and Tories admitted on Thursday that action was needed after two Edinburgh university academics disclosed – not for the first time – that fewer than one candidate in four on 3 May will be a woman.

It’s an issue raised forcibly too for Holyrood, and Scottish Labour – a party often seen as packing its benches with the male, pale and stale – has told the Guardian it has a target to make sure a full 50% of all its council candidates are female within the decade.

Despite Scotland’s first PR elections in 2007, using the single transferable vote, less than 22% of Scotland’s 1223 councillors in the last administrations were woman. That will not improve next month: the number of women councillors has flatlined at 22% ever since Scotland’s 32 unitary authorities came into being nearly 20 years ago, in 1995.

Of Scotland’s 32 local councils, only three are led by women: one Labour – Rhondda Geekie in East Dunbartonshire, two by Lib Dems, Jenny Dawe in Edinburgh and Anne Robertson in Aberdeenshire.

As Doctor Meryl Kenny (UNSW) and Dr. Fiona Mackay (Edinburgh) point out:

Change can happen when there’s a shake up of the system. Reformers had high hopes that the introduction of a PR-STV electoral system in local government in the run-up to the 2007 elections would rejuvenate local politics and provide new opportunities for women to be selected and elected. However, progress did not materialize, instead depressingly, it was more of the same. In fact, there was a marked drop in the number of women candidates selected and a small decrease in the number of women councillors elected.

As I asked on 13th April:

Why shouldn’t all five of the main Scottish parties have policies against excluding women from the candidates lists? It’s too easy for parties not to – to tell themselves they select on merit, and it’s just that women are less interested in politics than men.

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Why I’m backing Gordon Murdie

I don’t often agree with Alan Cochrane of the Telegraph, but the state of Edinburgh these days is one of those cross-party cross-politics cross residents things:

Given the state of things nowadays there’s very little possibility of many councillors being elected, certainly in Edinburgh, without the backing of the four major parties.

Gordon Murdie is standing as an independent in Southside/Newington. I haven’t lived within what are now the Southside/Newington ward boundaries since 1986: I’ve been a Leither ever since.

I have a personal interest in securing equal representation and influence of women – and I would very much like to see a 50-50 council after 3rd May.

I’m not that impressed with any of the candidates in my own ward of Leith, though I will of course be heading down to the polling station on 3rd May to vote.
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Hustings for an equal council

Tomorrow (18th April) is your very last day to get registered to vote in the council elections on 3rd May. You’ve got till 5pm.

There were two hustings tomorrow. But the Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce “Business Hustings” with all the party leaders on 18th April has been cancelled. (Contact them for information.) The other hustings, hosted by the Federation of Small Businesses and the Evening News, has all male candidates the panellists are: Jeremy Balfour (Conservative), Tom Buchanan (SNP), Andrew Burns (Labour), Tim McKay (Lib. Dem), and Chas Booth (Scottish Green Party). It’s in Bread Street from 6pm and may require a ticket for admission.

On Thursday 19th April there are four hustings:
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An equal council for Edinburgh

On Thursday 3rd May, Edinburgh goes to the polls to elect a new council for the first time since 2007.

In 2007 we had the guddle of the ballots, and in the five years since the last set of councillors took office, we’ve had an economic crash, LibDems propping up a Tory government, the tenement statutory repairs scam come to light, a serious effort by the Tory, LibDem, and SNP groups on Edinburgh council to privatise our city parks and services (foiled when the SNP group switched sides to vote with Labour and the Greens), and of course… the trams.

Normally you can look at the previous elections and have a fair idea how things are going to go this time. But no one should take the 2007 election results as a guide. All we can be really sure of is that this time as last time, most of the councillors on 4th May will be men.
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Gordon Murdie and the Edinburgh Tenement Council Tax

The scam run by council employees on the owners of Edinburgh tenement flats is still spiralling. (Part I, January.) A fifth council employee was sacked at the end of March and the Scotsman quoted an anonymous “inside source” a few days ago claiming that people aren’t paying their statutory notice bills because they didn’t know if they’d been scammed by them.

Gordon Murdie appeared as the Quantity Surveyor expert on a BBC programme in September last year, “Scotland’s Property Scandal”. (Quantity surveyors manage all costs relating to building and civil engineering projects, from the initial calculations to the final figures.) He also gave a presentation on statutory notices at the Minto Hotel, which is available online here. Murdie is the managing director of Quantus QS, a quantity surveying firm in Edinburgh. He is standing for election in Southside/Newington as an Independent, specifically on the statutory notice scandal.
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Why do almost all political parties select men?

No political party today would argue that they ought to be allowed to discriminate against women.

But they all do.

We know they do, because we can look at the results:

Gender balance UK Parliament

That high point in the Labour graph was from 1997, when half of all constituencies with winnable seats were required to have women-only shortlists.

Of course men complained about this, and men’s reasons for complaining are obvious: this system meant that party activists who had earned and deserved a chance of winning a seat, would, in 50% of constituencies likely to go Labour, not stand a chance of being selected. That is to say, in just 50% of constituencies between 1997 and 2003 (when legal challenges from disgruntled men forced Labour to drop the policy) the men were in exactly the same position as women – and they didn’t like it.
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