Is Labour backing down over changing sexist rules?

So – at last – a question on the Order Paper in Parliament about the Single Equalities Act. I have, since becoming Equalities Spokesperson, been waiting to be able to raise the issue of how our rules about who gets to be monarch gives boys the advantage over girls.

As readers of this blog will know, have been having some success with raising and pushing this issue. The Sunday Times – who covered it on their front page a couple of weeks ago – helped up the ante as when Marie Woolf (journalist) rang Vera Baird (Solicitor General) – and the minister said of course these rules should be abolished – and threw in abolishing discrimination against Catholics too. You go girl.

It’s obviously working as lots of members from all sides of the House raised the issue (for which the technical term is the dry as dust phrase ‘male preference primogeniture’). But since the article the Government has been trying to back peddle on what Vera Baird said – and whilst the Tory front bench spokesperson seemed to be in favour of change – he tried to talk up problems – because any change has to be worked through the Commonwealth – suggesting that it was all so difficult that we might wish not to bother to pursue it.

This sidetracked me a bit. Faced with the usual Tory attitude that somehow it doesn’t matter enough to be dealt with – I momentarily forgot that it is the Government that has to really push this. Reminded of my task my Mr Speaker – I then did pursue Labour – to try and get them to commit to actually walking the walk rather than just their usual talking the talk.

I am worried that this will be kicked into the long grass of too difficult and too much bother and the opportunity presented by the Single Equality Act going through Parliament to kill off this anachronism will be missed.

But it was very heartening to see so many members from all sides in favour of this long overdue change. So we’ll see!

0 thoughts on “Is Labour backing down over changing sexist rules?

  1. “he tried to talk up problems – because any change has to be worked through the Commonwealth – suggesting that it was all so difficult that we might wish not to bother to pursue it.”That’s not actually quite so trivial a point. We share a crown with 15 other countries:“A Commonwealth realm is any one of 16 sovereign states within the Commonwealth of Nations that each have Elizabeth II as their respective monarch.These countries … are independent kingdoms in personal union, with the one sovereign being separately and equally monarch of each state.As a consequence of this relationship, as per the preamble to the Statute of Westminster, any alterations to the line of succession to the throne must be approved by the parliaments of all the realms in order to guarantee continuity of a single monarch.”If we simply changed the rules ourselves, it wouldn’t actually take effect because of the Statute of Westminister. (I guess we could ignore/break that, but then it all gets very messy – it would be like we were saying we wanted to take our ball back).“And whereas it is meet and proper to set out by way of preamble to this Act that, inasmuch as the Crown is the symbol of the free association of the members of the British Commonwealth of Nations, and as they are united by a common allegiance to the Crown, it would be in accord with the established constitutional position of all the members of the Commonwealth in relation to one another that any alteration in the law touching the Succession to the Throne or the Royal Style and Titles shall hereafter require the assent as well of the Parliaments of all the Dominions as of the Parliament of the United Kingdom:”So it isn’t something that can be decided at a Commonwealth conference. 16 parliaments would have to pass legislation. I agree we should try, but we might have to wait a while for our legislation to take effect if some of them decide they’re too busy.

  2. We should challenge the idea that we have to share our head of state with other countries. Does the Queen back both sides in the Ashes? In the extremely unlikely event that we went to war with Canada, would the Queen have to remain neutral?

  3. ” Does the Queen back both sides in the Ashes?”Yes. As Queen of the United Kingdom she backs England. As Queen of Australia she backs Australia. I guess if she was in one specific role at the time, then she would back that country.For example, it’s a commonly and incorrectly held belief that the King of the United Kingdom toured the United States in 1938. This is not true. It was the King of Canada who toured the United States. We know it was the King of Canada, because he was accompanied not by the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, but by the Prime Minister of Canada. (i.e. Same person, but different role).

  4. Thanks for helpful comments. I wasn’t saying that the Commonwealth issue wasn’t difficult – my objection to Dominic Grieve’s point was his last sentence in which he said something like ‘all in all – perhaps we better leave well alone’. The Queen is apparently OK about it (well I gather from previous attempts she is) so the way is not blocked by that avenue. I am hopeful that the Government will be opening that consultation with the Commonwealth countries and although it has many to go through – hard to imagine that they won’t all agree. Ever the optimist!

  5. Pingback: Kate, William And Male-Preference Primogeniture… Writes Lynne Featherstone