I can only speak for myself, but when I look at government, and see that cronie-circle of old school associates and Etonians, it feels like a gentleman’s club. Yes, members from more diverse backgrounds are there, and yes, women are more represented now. But in an environment that is such a distortion of the actual make-up of society, this is not just a problem of ‘under-representation’. Under-representation suggests that there is a temporary imbalance concerning just one feature of government, its ’representation’.
It is this, tidy, little technical sounding word that creates the whole environment, the whole character and make-up of decision making procedures. Do you want the decisions concerning the people, not only of this country, but of several other countries as well, to have even the air of a gentleman’s club? Do you want the decisions that affect the food on your table, the jobs and housing available to your children, and who we will go to war with to be made by people who will always be sheltered from these decision by a wall of privilege and money?
This isn’t just under-representation, this is dominance. And the dominance of this group reflects not only their larger numerical presence, but the meaning of the word dominance itself: ‘power and influence over others’. This ‘over-representation’ of one group of society doesn’t just affect parliament’s numbers. It directs and controls the conversations that parliament is having. So what seems like just an inequality, actually reflects a real, deal-breaking problem in an institution that claims to be of and for the people.
And this is different to any other seat of the elite, this is a different manifestation of the pre-eminence and dominant part that the rich, and the fortunate of birth have always taken in this society. This is because it hides behind a lie, an illusion and a game in which we take an unwitting part. Until 1884, parliament was an institution that only took the votes and the interests of the rich and only in 1918 were all men of sound mind allowed to vote. The elitism then was at least visible – the inequality clear, and the problem to attack evident. If the very makeup of government grossly over-represents a private-school attending, trust-fund maintaining fraction of society, how can that institution rightly be said to be in the interests of us, the whole? Do we believe these to be the best of men, who are moral, and will make choices that are good for us anyway? No, as the expenses scandal, and countless other deceptions and lies have shown us. Why do we allow men whose lives are practically unaffected by these decisions, to make these choices for us?
Our whole society is in uproar over the ceasing of racial, sexual strife and the idea that we are all equal obliterates the elite. But until we have physical, material representation of these ideals, specifically of the idea that no amount of money makes you better than someone else, aren’t these just words?
Even if they are just words, they still matter. They matter because they are your words, they are our words, and they matter if they mean something to you. But words mean different things to different people, and words expressing an ideology of equality and fairness can be used by governments to conceal a grim and unequal reality. Endless words and nit picking discussions about equality does not reflect true equality; material realities, like a truly representative governing body, would.