By nature I am a Libertarian. Unless there are compelling reasons to do otherwise, my default position on matters of personal choice and lifestyle is one shared with Frédéric Bastiat (and, sadly, Theresa Gorman) who said, 'The only moral law is mind your own business.'
I was therefore taken aback when someone, whose judgement I trust and friendship I value, referred to me today as a "reactionary"! The reasoning behind this comment was a supportive email I had sent to a group of Party Members who wanted to form a Conservative Womens' Group. Another group is opposed to such a move, and think it's a retrograde step to form any organisation based on gender, to the exclusion of others.
In my heart I agree, and I understand why some should take a hostile position. Personally, I don't like "sub groups" and I have not felt the desire to join one for probably 20 years. I am a member of the Conservative Party because, on balance, I believe the Conservative Party offers the best government for our country. How true it is (or was) that in the UK we have our coalitions 'within political parties'. It is a matter of deep regret that the 'internal coalition' which enabled the Conservative Party to govern the UK for most of the 20th Century was allowed to fragment in the 1990s and we have not yet found a way of piecing it back together.
However, just because I don't like sub-groups within larger organisations, it does not mean they are wrong or should be stopped. Free people bond in their own way and for their own reasons. No about of Objectivist logic can (or should) prevent this. If a group of woman wish to work together; to share their experiences, contribute to the policy discussions and further the work of the Conservative Party, then why shouldn't they? Political parties are a patchwork of interests. In my own Party we have Conservative Friends of Israel, Conservative Christian Fellowship, Small Business Forum, Muslim Forum, Conservative Friends of India and many more. I appreciate that none of these necessarily exclude people based on gender, but they do set their own parameters. Just as CF exclude people based on age - and no-one complains about that or thinks it is wrong. Similarly Emily's List - how many men where invited to join that group?
What I don't like, however, is when internal groups become selective in the execution of their endeavours. CF work tirelessly for all candidates - not just those under 30. At our recent by-election we had a CF group of 20+ volunteers travel all the way to TW to work for our 50yo candidate. Likewise, I could never imagine the Ladies Group picking their way through the leaflets checking the gender of each candidate before deciding if they would pack the envelope. Should that ever happen, it must be stopped as ultimately we are there to work for a common goal.
So, I am sorry Mrs R - (I know you read my blog!) - we'll have to agree to disagree on this one.