The election campaigns of the three main parties have been sharply focused on the party leaders – largely due to the live televised debates and the dispute over who would become PM in a hung parliament scenario. This has been at the expense of other aspects that usually make up a campaign. There’s been little mention of the politicians who are likely to be cabinet ministers, should their party win, nor has there been much buzz about the new prospective parliamentary candidates (PPCs). Also distinctly lacking from the campaign trail are women.
The obsession with Clegg has obscured the fact that the vast majority of people couldn’t name more than three or four Lib Dem MPs if their lives depended on it. Who else from the party would feature in a coalition government is an issue that should be given more attention. Similarly, although Gordon Brown isn’t the most inspiring leader figure, he’s supported by a political team who have considerable experience of governing and who many may find preferable to the Lib Dem or Tory equivalents.
It’s a terrible shame that the media has failed to give airtime or column inches to the new PPCs. Around 140 MPs have announced they are retiring, which means that the make-up of parliament will dramatically change after 6th May. This is a hugely positive and exciting development that has been largely overlooked. More ethnic-minority candidates have been selected, as well as more women; roughly 60% of Labour’s new PPCs are female. All three main parties are guilty of under-selling their new talent – a grave mistake, considering that new faces will shake up the demographics of parliament and make it more relevant and relatable to the modern-day British public.
Where have these new women been during the campaign?! Whenever a camera lens was in his vicinity, Blair never missed an opportunity to brandish his babes. Sadly, it’s only the party leaders’ wives who’ve made much of an appearance in recent weeks, as this Guardian article points out. One of my previous blogs was critical of the way politicians have tried to appeal to women voters in this campaign, offering up family-friendly policies with little regard for what woman-without-child might want from her government. Having no female politicians featuring significantly in the election campaign is symptomatic of how male-dominated our politics remains today.
I think it needs to be pointed out both to the press and to the public that this is not a presidential election. On 6th May we’ll be voting for our respective constituency parliamentary candidates in order to elect a new parliament, from which a government can be formed. If only the campaigns could reflect this and broaden their narrow focus, instead of giving centre stage to the three leading roles and keeping everyone else behind the scenes.