Martin Hannan: Numbers game does not add up

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When is a woman not a woman? For that matter, when is a man not a man? When both genders are reduced to mere numbers, that’s when.

As a good member of the SNP, I have to accept the party’s decision to impose all-women shortlists on some constituencies as they select their candidates for the Scottish parliamentary elections next year.

It is just plain wrong that there are only 17 SNP women MSPs out of 64 members of the party holding seats in Holyrood, especially with female membership of the party running at 40 per cent. It is surely only common sense that there should be more women candidates to try to iron out this gender inequality.

Yet why am I more than a little discomfited by all-women shortlists? If we need more women in the Scottish Parliament then surely that aim is only achievable by positive discrimination in favour of women – isn’t that the case?

The fact is that the SNP is simply following the lead of other parties – the Greens and Labour – in having all-women shortlists, and I’m never too happy when we play follow the leader.

It is the word discrimination which bothers me, however. For instance, the SNP will only impose all-women shortlists on constituencies where the sitting MSP is standing down – the decisions by Marco Biagi in Edinburgh Central and Kenny McAskill in my old stomping ground of Edinburgh Eastern to give up their seats means those two constituency parties will both have all-women shortlists, though it is still to be confirmed for the latter constituency.

Yet if we really believed in all-women shortlists, the party should not discriminate. More male MSPs should be made to stand down, with their constituency parties being forced to select new candidates from all-women shortlists. Instead we have a half-hearted option which doesn’t have a logical basis – why is there no discrimination in favour of Asians or gay people, for instance?

I know that many feminists do not like all-women shortlists, not least because they have not worked in all the countries that have tried them.

The trouble with all-women shortlists is that they actually preserve and prolong the real nature of the gender problem, namely the sexist culture that permeates politics in this country. Merely increasing the number of women MSPs won’t change that culture – it’s entrenched in the system.

All-women shortlists may even be damaging to women. I have no idea which woman will be nominated in the two Edinburgh seats I have named, but I have absolutely no doubt that however talented and worthy that person might be, and no matter how deserving of selection, there will be plenty of people – some of them in the party and some of them women – who will say “you only got selected because you are a woman”.

Proportionally speaking, the SNP had the second highest number of women candidates in Scotland at the general election, with 36 per cent compared to Labour’s 27 per cent and only the Scottish Greens with a higher proportion at 43 per cent.

That proportion figure indicates to me that the SNP was changing its gender balance anyway, and that all-women shortlists were not entirely necessary.

That’s why I say that the SNP should declare this scheme to be a one-off for the next Holyrood elections only, then we should have a moratorium.

The dustbin of history is where Starkey belongs

As an SNP member I suppose I should be upset by historian David Starkey’s comparison of my party’s members and supporters being akin to Nazis.

It’s nothing new from this unctuous creep of a man, who three years ago called Alex Salmond a Caledonian Hitler.

Starkey is nothing more than a monarchy-obsessed crashing snob and a wittering bore, the sort of horrible little man who will say anything to gain an audience.

All he has done with his latest outburst is comprehensively prove what a lot of people have been saying for years – that he is not even a good historian.

We should all give Starkey the treatment he deserves, one which will pain his monstrous ego. Ignore him.

Wait for smelly plant reeks of panda anticipation

So we are all now waiting on the Titan Arum, aka the Corpse Flower, to open up its blossoms and release its pungent odours at the Royal Botanical Gardens.

I predict a mad rush of visitors to the Botanics when it does bloom, so let’s hope the smelly giant plant doesn’t do a panda on us and keep us all on tenterhooks for ages.#

Hamish a real showstopper

HAMISH our Jack Russell terrier is a lovable scamp, as regular readers may recall. But this time he has excelled himself. Taking part in the local dog show, he never really stood a chance against a display of top-class terriers – and since Jack Russells are not recognised as an official breed by the Kennel Club, he was never going to win.

Yet the official judge insisted on examining Hamish properly, which involved a look at his teeth – which Hamish doesn’t like at all, as he proved by trying to bite the poor fellow. No rosette for Hamish, then.