Labour really, really, really wants to win this year's election - you can tell by the way they scrunch up their faces and concentrate as hard as they can every time one of them gets near a news show.

They're doing everything they can to get in the spotlight, but bought themselves an argument this week when that light shone on their 50-50 male-female candidate quota.

The thought that - worst-case scenario - we could end up with power shared equally between men and women enraged many.

Some even refused to admit that, all things being equal, representation would occur without the need for human intervention.


After all, nature divides human beings into male and female on a roughly 50-50 split, and nature always organises things in the most efficient and productive way.

Even conservative Christians will acknowledge that God made Adam and Eve, not Adam, Roger, Dermot and Eve.

But all things aren't equal.

It would be great if we didn't need a quota but we've gone without one for decades and it hasn't produced a fair result. The current system is institutionalised gender-bias.

It's not that women need special treatment. It's that they need the same treatment men have been giving themselves for centuries.

It's better to have a system that favours one gender transparently rather than a system that favours one gender while pretending it doesn't.

As an article on the Australian website Crikey summed up, political success for men relies not just on merit but on "personal/professional connections of the candidates, the factions they belong to, the patronage they get from senior politicians, and the perceptions of their competencies in areas where nobody is objectively measuring their performance".

The most plausible criticism of a quota is that we could end up with women in important positions, not because they are the best candidates but because they are women. That's quite possibly true. After all, at the moment we have a lot of men who aren't particularly good in important positions, because they're men.

The quota isn't a guaranteed vote-getter. Even many women claim it's patronising and demeaning to women.

But it's nowhere near as demeaning as a system that excludes them simply because their chromosomes are organised differently and that's the way God planned it.

They're mad about gender quotas in those Scandinavian countries that are always pointed out as top of the happiness pops. The quotas are not necessarily the reason for this, but they're obviously not making people miserable. Even those notorious feminazis at the OECD advocate quotas on the basis that they work.

Many apparently successful women have got to the top by playing men's games and being what they think men want them to be.

We have much higher female representation in Cabinet than we did a relatively short time ago. But these are exceptions.

They're often accused of not doing anything to help their sisters, true or not, you can imagine it happening because they wouldn't want to leave themselves open to charges of bias from their male colleagues and patrons.

Why does it matter? Because women bring different experience, insights and strategies to politics and government. And because we need the example set by women in politics to young women outside politics.

Why should a girl strive to succeed in any field when she knows no matter how hard she works or how competent she is a big swinging wally will get her job?

Labour may have gender representation right in its list, but it has another, more serious problem. Five per cent (ie, one person) of its top 20 list places is occupied by Maori, who make up 15 per cent of the population.

This is something Labour needs to address if it wants to be seen to truly reflect our country and its diversity.