Job-sharing MPs? Yes please.

(Just a note – I love my RebelRaising identity, but have lots to say about things other than parenting, so I’ve decided to revive this blog for all of those things. Parenting, (green, feminist, radical) politics, and possibly some knitting.)

This post started as a comment to Stephen Glenn on this post, entitled “Is Job Sharing MPs Idea Sexist?”. Green Party of England and Wales leader Caroline Lucas has proposed that MPs be able to jobshare. Stephen argues that it’s retrograde to suggest that “offering women part-time jobs” is the best way to retain/ get talented women into Parliament(s). So here’s what started as a comment to that.

What a load of nonsense. Other people with caseloads job-share all the time – doctors, nurses, therapists, teachers. And MPs already have constituency workers who form part of the team on constituency cases; ministers likewise have civil servants in their teams (some of whom might be job-sharing). If it would be completely impossible for someone else to take over your job if you fell under a bus, you’re doing your job wrong.

As for “demeaning to women”, what’s demeaning to women is saying that, because we have the Equal Pay Act, we should just pull ourselves together and participate in the all-hours, all-consuming job world, when the reality is that it is still women who do most of the household and childcare work. It might be nice if this were not the case (though in my two-female-adults household, I’m not sure what the other options are, apart from maybehiring a houseboy), but I don’t see why we should be willing to wait for utopia before women can have tolerable lives as parliamentarians. And what is demeaning to both men and women who want a life alongside work is to suggest that this doesn’t have the potential to make them people with richer experience, and hence better representatives of their constituents.

Two problems: parliaments demand unreasonable things from their members; and women are, on average, dispropotioantely unable to meet those unreasonable demands.

Personally, I think that even if job-sharing were only a part-time stop-gap to get women able to meet the demands of an M(S)P job until we reach that glorious utopia where everything is equal, it would be worth doing. Saying “but there shouldn’t be sexism, so we won’t do anything to address its real effects here and now” is just nonsense.

But more importantly, I think, why should it be the business of women and others who are unwilling to give up their lives to this all-consuming job to “get over it” and do so? Isn’t there a problem with Parliament(s) if standing for them is something ordinary folks with family commitments and hobbies cannot consider? Doesn’t it lead to a Parliament full of weirdos and anoraks? Now, I’m both a weirdo and an anorak myself at times, but even if I could get and afford someone else to mind my kids all day every day, evenings and weekends as well, I would actually not want to do that. But I think I’d be a pretty good representative, both in Parliament and as a caseworker and in all those other things M(S)Ps do. You might disagree (and indeed, the people of Edinburgh North and Leith did disagree this May, placing me a (fairly respectable) 5th. Love y’all anyway.) but surely you can think of someone who would?

Let’s release the Parliamentary potential of a much wider part of society – disproportionately but not exclusively women. Support Caroline Lucas’s proposals.

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9 Responses to Job-sharing MPs? Yes please.

  1. mark says:

    I am a male and work full time and I do most of the housework, and most of the cooking, and my partner is female. So I don’t know why people keep banging on about these mythical women who spend all their time doing housework; if you find one can you send her round to our place on Saturday and she can give it a once over.

  2. mark says:

    Oh puhleez, study based on ten-year-old suvery figures about MOTHERS and FATHERS (not all women are mothers in case you didn’t notice) and the opining of a trash mag citing the Telegraph can hardly be described as “facts”.

  3. Kate says:

    Best I could come up with in a 5-minute Google, sorry. I’m at work right now.

    And the gender/ in-the-home work divide is definitely more pronounced with children in the home, but IIRC, it’s still there for mixed-sex couples without children.

  4. Anna says:

    How about we forget about division of labour in individual households and focus on the fact that caring responsibilities exclude many people with much to offer from number of careers. And that regardlessof gender it is important to find ways to combine being the primary carer of a child with different types of work and that parliament should represent people who want to care for their children as well as work better than it currently does.

  5. Andy Inglis says:

    I was a founder member of the Highlands and Islands Alliance. As I remember it, all our candidates for the 1999 Scottish Parliament election stood on a job-share basis.
    To do so we had had to get the law changed (via a European court) – I thought for all of UK, not just Scotland.
    So is Lucas sure it is actually not legally possible?

    • Kate says:

      I remember you guys! I was so impressed that you went for it, and tried to create a difference at Holyrood right from the start. Let me know if you find out what the legal situation is as a result of your efforts.

  6. There’s a short outline of what happened with the Highlands and Islands candidates in this parliamentary briefing, PDF, on page 29:
    http://www.parliament.uk/documents/commons/lib/research/rp2001/rp01-075.pdf.

  7. Deborah King says:

    An e-petition has been started which supports a change in the law to allow MPs to job share:
    http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/17076
    Please contact your MP and ask him or her to support a bill on job sharing for MPs.

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