Andrew Geddes, "The 'Logic' of
Positive Action?: Ethnic Minority Representation in Britain
After the 1992 General Election," Party
Politics , 1 (April, 1995), 275-285.
A good starting point in the analysis of ethnic minority
under-representation in Britain is a consideration of the
selection methods employed by the parties when they choose
their candidates for local and national elections. The
paradigmatic prism through which these selection processes
have tended to be viewed can broadly be characterized as
liberal pluralist, in that it is supposed to be open to
individuals of ability regardless of, for example, their
ethnic origin or gender. In this article we see that this
approach has been challenged by Labour's use of positive
action to promote women's parliamentary candidacy.
Figures and Tables:
Table 1: Ethnic minority candidates and MPs 1970-92.
Table 2: Attitudes of Conservative and Labour party members
toward the electoral appeal of candidates.
The argument contained in this Report is clear.
Underrepresentation of Britain's ethnic minorities is
apparent at both local and national level. The existing
electoral paradigm seems to have failed to tackle some of
the structural causes of political inequality noted in the
supply and demand model. Labour has decided to embark on a
programme of positive action to promote women's
parliamentary candidacy. This decision, though, does seem to
have important implications. To put it simply: if one
glaring example of inequality merits positive action to
secure redress, then do not others? So, leaving aside
arguments about the efficacy of positive action, there does
seem to be a strong case for Labour taking positive steps to
tackle ethnic minority under-representation. Not to do so
could lead to the complaint that Labour's motives are
clouded by the pragmatic electoral consideration that,
whilst women are seen as vote winners and it is important
for the party to be perceived as 'women friendly', the
electoral dividend to be reaped from increased ethnic
minority candidacy is seen as rather more uncertain and that
Labour takes its support from the ethnic minorities for