Friday, October 08, 2010

Labour get off (almost) Scot free

So the new Shadow Cabinet, as Toby Young points out, is full of white, well-educated, straight and slightly privileged MPs, most of them men. Of the 22 who will now set Labour policy, ten went to private schools and three to grammar schools. Nine went to Oxbridge, six of whom read PPE at Oxford. How very Tory.

There is one member from an ethnic minority background, Sadiq Khan, but other people of colour miss out: Diane Abbott, who is black, and Peter Hain, who is orange, were overlooked. There is one lesbian, Angela Eagle, but the two prominent gay men on the candidates' list, Chris Bryant and Ben Bradshaw, did not get enough votes. There is no one from Wales.

The real controversy is that there are only three members from Scotland, down from the seven who attended Tony Blair's final Cabinet and the eight who were in his first.

Outrageous? Of course not. In modern tolerant Britain, ability - rather than race, sexuality or background - should be the only criterion used for getting ahead. That is unless the Labour Party disapproves of you, in which case selecting the best candidates is elitist.

I'm surprised how many Telegraph readers have missed the point of Young's piece. The commenters seem to think that Young (a white, privileged, hetero, Oxford PPE-er) disapproves of how unrepresentative the Shadow Cabinet is. I suspect his unspoken aim was to make us consider that if this had been a Tory Shadow Cabinet or a school governing body or a local council or anyone else, there would have been uproar because minorities were under-represented.

One assumes that the Labour MPs voted for these people because they thought they would do the best job. Some may prove to be not up to it and other more capable people may have missed out, but in the main this list has been selected because they are the best ones for the job.

More should be done to ensure that people from underprivileged, under-represented backgrounds have a chance in life, but when it comes to selecting a putative Government, ability must be the only requirement.

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