All-women shortlists to select Lib Dem candidates? 66% of party members say no.

Lib Dem Voice has polled our members-only forum  to discover what Lib Dem members think of various political issues, the Coalition, and the performance of key party figures. More than 600 party members have responded, and we’re publishing the full results.

Party members oppose all-women shortlists by 66% to 26%

Events this year have once again shone an unflattering light on the party’s lack of female representation in the House of Commons. Though, as Mark Tompson has previously highlighted here on LDV, this is in part at any rate down to first-past-the-post skewing Lib Dem election results. All-women shortlists is a proposal with a controversial history: a heated debate in 2001 saw the party conference reject the idea. Then, just 5 of the party’s 52 MPs were women; today there are 7 among 57. So we asked…

Would you support or oppose the introduction of all-women shortlists in target seats to increase the number of women Lib Dem MPs?

    26% – Support

    66% – Oppose

    9% – Don’t know

A pretty overwhelming two-thirds of Lib Dem members in our survey oppose all-women short-lists; one-quarter support them.

Women Lib Dems are opposed by 2:1 margin (men by a 3:1 margin)

We collect gender data on those completing our surveys. As is common in online surveys, men are over-represented in our polling and I was curious to see if this would be one of those questions where the views of female and male party members might differ. The answer is they do, but not hugely significantly. In our survey, female Lib Dem members oppose all-women short-lists by a 2-to-1 margin, while male Lib Dem members oppose them by a 3-to-1 margin.

Would you support or oppose the introduction of all-women shortlists in target seats to increase the number of women Lib Dem MPs?WomenMen
Support31%24%
Oppose59%68%
Don't know10%8%

Here is a selection of your comments:

Members already select women candidates all other things being equal. We need to explain better what happened in 2010. We had lots of women in winnable or held seats, but we were unlucky. The women all lost. We cannot afford to risk losing held or target seats by choosing women if they are not the best candidates.

The best person for the job should get the job. I would not like to be given a job simply due to my demographics. It is the fact that not enough women come forward that is the really issue and needs to be addressed directly as opposed to simply ignoring the root of the problem and thereby perpetuating it. We need to sort out child care!!

There should be all-Diverse shortlists – for those with disabilities, LGBT+ and BAME etc.

Support very reluctantly, and only because nobody seems to have come up with an alternative that works

I could be persuaded, but as with other measures of positive discrimination, I see it as a last resort and am not sure we’ve exhausted the alternatives.

We will only get a representative house of commons if the electoral system is one designed to get a representative house of commons. We shouldn’t be in the business of fixing candidacies.

Support extra help with selected women PPCs in winnable seats

It’s important for democracy that local parties have complete freedom in selecting their candidate rather than been coerced into a top-down selection. However, local parties should mark down candidates who are political-career clones and actively seek good women. I think they can be trusted to do that.

Merit can be the sole reason

Positive discrimination is self-defeating and hides fundamnetal problems with giving women the support and oportunities to excel.

Positive action please not discrimination. I could only support this measure if all existing MPs seats were divided up for shortlists as well.

We need to recruit higher-quality (political) women to our candidate list, not pretend to ourself that its only because of X that they don’t get selected.

This is the only way now until we get to a sustainable 50% of women LD MPs (or PPCs in target seats)

Local parties should be free to choose their candidates

I would support all-women shortlists but ideally I’d prefer that shortlists should have at least 1 female and 1 BAME candidate (who could of course satisfy the minimum female requirement!)

All women short lists are sexist. It is more important to get the best candidate, rather than ones with desirable genitalia.

Difficult one. Most women I know oppose all-women shortlists as they say it brings into question their legitimacy.

Women should be encouraged and trained to stand on equal basis.

There is no difference between men and women and there should be no sexual discrimination. It is insulting to both men and women

Don’t like criteria on short lists: but I do think we should be working a damn sight harder to bring forward female candidates.

Was against, but my opinion is slowly changing.

If we select enough women anyway, as we did in 2010 (we got very unlucky with women getting elected – half the seats where MPs stepped down selected a woman, but only one of those women got elected), then we don’t need AWS. If we fail to select enough women, then we will need AWS to cover up our party’s sexism. But we shouldn’t pretend that AWS does more then conceal our sexism – if we can succeed without AWS, then that’s a sign of not being sexist in the first place, which is a much better thing.

Every time we discuss this we hear the same arguments – wait and see if it gets better. It hasn’t and it won’t until we kick start it. Zipping worked really well for the Euros, so we should look into it in Scotland & Wales for devolved regional lists. AWSs (and possibly BME shortlists and others for underrepresented groups) are probably the best choice for Westminster. This isn’t giving women/BME people/anyone else an unfair advantage, it’s balancing out the current discrimination against them by default.

We seem to have a good set of female PPCs selected for the next election (as we did last time), all parties need to focus on helping less wealthy candidates to stand.

Put more effort into training women. In the end the choice must be for the person most likely to win the election.

We need good candidates regardless of gender who will work damn hard to get elected. There is enough support in place now for good women candidates to succeed without further assistance.

I would have to see the ratio of Female to male standing in target, recently held and held seats (separate and the overlap) to assess whether it is a problem of selecting female candiates.

We need more women in parliament but not by fascist means.

Positive discrimination isn’t a way of solving other forms of discrimination. I’m in favour of giving women candidates more support, however local parties should be voting for the person who is best for the area and represents their view, that should be opened up as wide as possible, not confined to a select number of people based on their genitals.

The current policies are just not working.

We need the best people for the job, so we need to encourage more women to train themselves and put themselves forward. All-women shortlists are discriminatory and risk us having to put up a candidate as poor as the Tory candidate in Eastleigh.

  • 1,500 Lib Dem paid-up party members are registered with LibDemVoice.org. Just over 600 responded to the latest survey, which was conducted between 19th and 23rd July.
  • Please note: we make no claims that the survey is fully representative of the Lib Dem membership as a whole. However, LibDemVoice.org’s surveys are the largest independent samples of the views of Lib Dem members across the country, and have in the past offered accurate guides to what party members think.
  • For further information on the reliability/credibility of our surveys, please refer to FAQs: Are the Liberal Democrat Voice surveys of party members accurate? and polling expert Anthony Wells’ verdict, On that poll of Lib Dem members.
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  • * Stephen was Editor (and Co-Editor) of Liberal Democrat Voice from 2007 to 2015, and writes at The Collected Stephen Tall.

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    65 Comments

    • Helen Tedcastle 10th Aug '13 - 4:03pm

      I used to be adamantly opposed to all all-women short-lists or preferential treatment of any kind for women in party selections.

      Now, I am happy to admit a change of heart. Our party is woefully underrepresented by females in the Commons. I do not believe any more that it is because we have less talented women in the party than talented men. Rather, the style of politics is off-putting for many, the sheer amount of self-sacrifice needed especially I would argue for a Lib Dem candidate – it is not a family-friendly or even dare I say female-friendly way to spend the time.

      Therefore, in the short to medium term, the party must attract back women with families and enable younger women, (who may not be brimming with obvious self-confidence but who would make damn good MPs), to stand.

      If we do not try to win these people over or bend the rule to ease their passage – for the longer term goal of having more female representation – we will never do so.

      Those with the most confidence and who shout the loudest need to help those less confident to gain in confidence – a helping hand is needed.

    • Yes MP candidates should be judged only merit ability to communicate not their Gender or Sexual orientation

    • If I am to have cardiac heart surgery, I want the best surgeon available. If that ‘best person’, happens to be a disabled, black woman of lesbian persuasion , I would shake her warmly by the hand, thank her, and ask that she do her best.
      Don’t you find it strange that minority short lists, are OK in the field of politics, where there is no ‘liability’ threat, of injury, death, or bridges or buildings collapsing, but under such high risk circumstances, we understandably want those who are actually qualified, and competent to perform the task?
      There are many women in politics, (not all of whom I agree with), but they got there due to hard work merit. And that is how it should be.

    • David Evans 10th Aug '13 - 5:29pm

      I fear that our problem for the next few years will not be a shortage of able women candidates who want to stand and would make good MPs, but the shortage of superhuman Liberal Democrats of any group who will have the willingness to sacrifice themselves for year after year after year in the very feint hope that something local will happen to give them an outside chance of winning a seat anywhere.

      Because no Lib Dems are going to do it on the national picture, even in a seat where an existing Lib Dem MP is standing down.

    • paul barker 10th Aug '13 - 5:32pm

      @Terry, whatever you think should happen our MPs are judged on all sorts of things including whether they look like the Britain they seek to represent. Right now they look nothing like their voters, too white, too male & too old.
      Obviously AWS is out but we need to try something drastic.

    • Helen Dudden 10th Aug '13 - 5:39pm

      With the unwillingness to even try some alternative thoughts on subjects, for instance what do you feel about the Spain/Gibraltar issue?

      Believe it or not, this will affect other issues and us.

      How about house building? this is another that has quite a few of your councilors protesting. How about the Family Law? as I wrote on another comment.

      The lack of women, and that is rubbish that women would not have a go. Job Share could have been the answer.

      Do you feel there should be a time to retire? New broom sweeps clean was once a very well known proverb.

    • I’m curious to know — and this is not a rhetorical question, I really don’t know the answer — in how many constituencies have the shortlists been all-male?

    • “Do you feel there should be a time to retire? ”

      The younger Lib Dem MPs should retire. They are nowhere near as good as the older ones. The older ones seem to have younger minds somehow.

    • Sarah Brown 10th Aug '13 - 7:16pm

      As a former Labour Party member I feel that AWS are the only way labour can tackle the sexism inherent in their selections. My local labour party recently selected their PPC – the female candidate (they had to have one) got NO VOTES in the selection. Labour had a real problem with selecting women. Not a problem the lib dems seem to have. I guess the problem with AWS is that the open selections become “all male shortlists” by default

    • David Evans 10th Aug '13 - 7:55pm

      @ Geoffrey Payne

      “We face the prospect after the next general election of having no women MPs at all. Either because they are in Labour facing constituencies that we are likely to lose, or in marginal seats that will be hard to retain given the national opinion poll ratings.
      Worth bearing in mind before we rule out certain options.”

      Of course one possible answer to all the above problems would be an All Women Shortlist for

      Sheffield Hallam!

    • Clear Thinker 10th Aug '13 - 8:06pm

      Selection processes in many walks of life are notoriously inaccurate. Why else do we have such a high divorce rate? It seems unlikely that candidate selectors are able to accurately judge “merit”, even if that was a relevant characteristic. AWS is a way to deal with what seems like a pretty obvious unconscious bias in this and all parties.

      Another way could be to split selectors into male/female groups and weight each group the same, rather than each individual selector the same.

    • Our main problem, Paul B, is that we are too high income, and public school background. We are certainly rather too white. But in our PPC selection (as opposed to Councillors, where it is a very serious problem) we are not noticeably too old. Our PPCs are less male than certainly the Tory Party, and not very different from Labour, and last time, the party “managed” the process to such an extent that winnable seats (incl former held seats) were more or less equal. Because the existing incumbents were overwhelmingly male, the MP balance would stay well in favour of males, and the electorate seemed to favour our male PPCs over our female ones – I don’t know why – I suppose it could be sexism on the part of voters?

      Had we made real progress in 2010, instead of falling back, we would most likely have achieved a much more favourable balance. We do not need new procedures in our position – we need to acknowledge our political problem – and first on the list there, must be the aforesaid Paul Barker.

    • Hat tip to Lester Holloway, who has summarised my point succinctly above!

    • Helen Tedcastle 10th Aug '13 - 8:56pm

      @ John Dunn: “There are many women in politics, (not all of whom I agree with), but they got there due to hard work merit. And that is how it should be.”

      Let’s turn this around and argue a similar case for men. The men in the Commons at present got there due to hard work and merit.

      Mmmmm… it just does not sound credible, neither does it bear relation to the reality. Do the present males in parliament really have no female equivalents who can match them in qualifications, tenacity and work-ethic? Women are not short of qualifications, neither are they not capable of hard work, unless you would care to argue otherwise….

      Personally, I think our political culture and adversarial debating chamber militates against more women than men. It seems to me that the commons is a place to which many women are allergic, because it goes against natural instincts of co-operation, discussion and mutuality. This doesn’t mean women can’t dish out political put downs – watch the Scottish parliament – plenty of women there operating successfully with male counterparts.

      Like any allergy, one has to take medicine to alleviate the symptoms.

      Until we get PR like Scotland we need to help good women to beat the system, especially as the system we have militates against them. We need AWS now.

    • Paul Westlake 10th Aug '13 - 9:57pm

      In the absence of any evidence that women are less capable than men, we must surely have been practising positive discrimination in favour of men for years. AWS would correct that bias, so I am in favour.

    • Helen Dudden 10th Aug '13 - 9:58pm

      @snagglepus. I happen to believe there is a time when you should hand over the reigns to someone younger. Of course, the next generation will have different attitudes.

      New ideas, lots of energy, and I should know as an older person.

      Actually I have not found the Labour Party to be difficult with women, I am one, again, I should know.

    • Helen Tedcastle 10th Aug '13 - 11:36pm

      Simon Titley: “The party is in danger of becoming a refuge for wealthy Liberals in the south-east of England. I’m all for gender and racial equality, but replacing a northern working-class male candidate with a south-eastern affluent woman doesn’t strike me as much of an advance.”

      Simon, you make an excellent point. I’m wondering though whether we have to start somewhere and whether the issue of gender is now so glaring that is the immediate priority.

      At risk of sounding like a class warrior, I do agree with you that social class is a growing issue on the party – it is overwhelmingly middle class, graduate, public/private school dominated. This seriously skews priorities and concerns and if these types reside in London and the South east predominantly, we end up with a situation of peers being picked consistently from the south with a smattering of token members from the provinces if lucky. Oh, guess what, this just happened!

      We have many dragons to slay. We have to start from somewhere and gender is a good place to start. If we can find working class northern women who are willing to stand in an all-female shortlist and work very hard, great!

      Don’t know why but Barbara Castle and Claire Brooks both sprang to mind! They don’t make them like they used to.

    • I keep saying this and nobody notices – maybe the penny will drop some time:

      What we should advocate is a balanced Parliament in which everybody votes in 2 parallel contests – for one male MP, and one female MP.

      Last time I tried out this idea, it was shouted down by people who thought it might make things difficult for transsexuals (which actually it doesn’t, if you make some reasonable rules). Talk about tail wagging the dog!

      So to forestall the next objection – No, it doesn’t mean government must be a rigid 50/50 split. The Cabinet can be any MPs. It could be all-male or all female if that’s what the winning Party put forward. Or of course it can be a sensible balance.

      To forestall another objection – It can equally work with STV, or AV, or FPTP. The idea only needs a slight tweak to work.

      This is a way to get real equality without gerrymandering! I am really amazed that it doesn’t seem to get wider support.

      Please – If you don’t like it – Post something and say why.

    • Helen Tedcastle 10th Aug '13 - 11:41pm

      I should add that Claire Brooks was a proud northerner who was absolutely, implacably against all-women shortlists. She However, Claire didn’t need any help – she was a force of nature and there are not many around in politics or even in parliament like her now.

    • Malcolm Todd 10th Aug '13 - 11:46pm

      David Allen

      That’s not at all a bad idea. It privileges gender issues over other divisions, of course, but that’s not unreasonable in some ways… One problem is that (with FPTP, which I think we’re stuck with for now) you either have to double the size of constituencies or double the number of MPs — neither of which is likely to be popular at the moment.

      Oh, and it’ll never happen of course! But that’s not the fault of the idea…

    • Helen Tedcastle 10th Aug '13 - 11:48pm

      David Allen. The thing is, having parallel voting permanently divides males and females. The beauty of AWS is that is should be a temporary measure to help overcome subconsciously sexist attitudes. It would help people to get into the habit of viewing women candidates as serious players, rather than token women on a mixed shortlist.

      With STV we would not need parallel voting either.

    • Alisdair McGregor 11th Aug '13 - 12:42am

      @ Helen Tedcastle:

      That’s not what’s happened in the Labour Party though, is it?

      Instead, it’s entrenched the sexist attitudes.

      Another fact against AWS is the fact that it gives more power to control who gets selected to whoever decides which constituencies are selected by AWS.

    • Thanks Simon, Helen etc for acknowledging the class issue that Lester H and I raised. The other part of my post tries to give my view (although based in facts on the ground) of why strenuous efforts to alter gender balance in 2010 didn’t work – we already had very close to 50 / 50 candidates in target seats (including those where sitting MPs were standing down) and more men as a proportion were voted in by their electorates than were women candidates. Take the example of Cornwall, which had an extra constituency added (up from 5 to 6). In 2005, all MPs were Lib Dems , 4 men and one woman. In 2010, only 3 Lib Dems were elected – all 3 were men. 3 women candidates were not elected. That was probably an extreme case, but that was something that you could find in several places.

      In this case, where we are VERY unlikely to gain more than a couple of new seats, and the main remedy lies in the politics, and restoration of public trust in the Party, there are only a limited number of options to increase the women:
      1 Persuade more male MPs to stand down than would otherwise be the case, and either use some form of zipping, or AWS to make sure all or nearly all replacements are women, or 2 Force all to go up for reselection then impose AWS or near AWS on the situation. Either of these options would provoke massive resistance, from candidates, members, and voters, of both genders – and probably trans people as well! This would lead to even greater seat losses than we are likely to be in for anyway.

      So, no Helen, you can’t slay the gender balance dragon at HoC level “just like that” at the moment, by any possible mechanism. 2015 might bring better luck, in that the number of women retaining their seats and / or replacing retiring men may break the other way from 2010, but I suspect very little way to control that – if we fight “60 byelections” you could encourage all the volunteers from other seats to work in female seats, but even that may provoke a degree of resistance.

      The other point with the restricted social and income background is, of course, financial support. That IS a tough one to solve.

    • Jonathan Brown 11th Aug '13 - 1:01am

      @Malcolm and Dave – I like the idea of 2 elections and had never thought of it or considered it before. It doesn’t have to be premenant either. Apparently zipping the south east region’s euro list (may have been done elsewhere too, I don’t know) – in which the list alternated 1 female, 1 male, 1 female, etc. worked. And was only needed in one election. Zipping was not used after the first time, but the gender balance stayed more or less the same. We could do the same with parliament: have the parralel voting system for 2 terms, then remove it, and if the proporation of women (or men, just to be fair) dropped below say 40% it would automatically be reinstated for the next election.

    • If Tim13 is correct and in target seats and seats where MPs were retiring we nearly had a 50 / 50 split then maybe AWS are the answer to achieve a 75 / 25 split in favour of women. It would be useful to have statistics on PPC selections and women. What is the current split for target seats and seats where MPs are retiring? How many contests do women stand in before they are successful and how many for men? However only 27% of approved candidates are women according to the Campaign for Gender Balance report being presented at conference.

      Have we identified the barriers to women coming forward to be PPCs rather than barriers to them becoming PPC? Have we allocated enough resources to remove these barriers to women coming forward to be PPCs?

    • Stuart Mitchell 11th Aug '13 - 9:41am

      Headline: “All-women shortlists to select Lib Dem candidates? 66% of party members say no.”

      Footnote: “Please note: we make no claims that the survey is fully representative of the Lib Dem membership as a whole.”

      Shome mishtake, shurely?

      As usual, those who oppose AWS on the grounds that it would be “discrimination” are happy to ignore the tacit discrimination that has been occurring for decades – unless they genuinely believe that men are over seven times more able and/or willing than women to be Lib Dem MPs.

      Whatever reservations one may have about the principles of AWS, the fact is that it works in the sense of increasing the number of women MPs. I would have a lot more respect for the critics of AWS if they would come up with an alternative that would also work, and preferably within a few years rather than decades. Given the amount of progress made so far, I’d say the chances of that happening are zero.

    • Of course, Jonathan – zipping was a Party rule for the 1999 Euros (the first done on Regional Lists) and delivere half and half men and women MEPs.

    • Pete Dollimore 11th Aug '13 - 10:47am

      Simon Titley wrote: “I might add that 25% of the party’s membership resides in Greater London, compared with 13% of the population as a whole.

      I’m amused to note your “25%” claim – it is of course wildly out. Just over 12 % of our members live in Greater London.

      Did you just make it up thinking no-one would check Simon?

      Pete Dollimore
      London Campaigns Chair

    • david thorpe 11th Aug '13 - 11:23am

      at the last GE we lost a number of promiennet and impressive female Mps INCLUDING SUSAN KRAMER AND JULAI GOLDSWORTHY WHO MAY WELL BE IN THE CABINET NOW IF THEY HAD HELD THEIR SEATS

      AT THE NEDSXT ELECCTION WE WILL HAVE LAYALK MORAN INA TARGET SEAT-AND i SUSPECTONE OR TWO OTHERS as well in currently held seats-there isnt a problemf pr wormen trying to get selected but there is for woemn trying to get elected-I dont know why the electorate turfed out some women mps of ours at the last eleciton……..but I doubt it was because they were women particualrluy

    • @Simon Titley :

      ” these candidates then have to get elected”

      Correct. Which is why this entire thread has an air of Titanic deck chair-arranging about it. We are heading into an election with a ‘strategy'(sic) of ‘bigging up’ the achievements of what most people believe to be a Conservative government (against whose candidates most of our own worrying defences will be fought) as well as handicapping ourselves with other ‘albatrosses’. It is almost like two people sitting in a sunset in the Serengeti discussing animatedly whether to play chess or draughts as a charging bull elephant races towards them..

    • @Stuart Mitchell:

      ” unless they genuinely believe that men are over seven times more able and/or willing than women to be Lib Dem MPs”

      WRONG question. Hence wrong argument and wrong solution.

      Liberal Democrats with major caring responsibilities (overwhelmingly but not totally-female) in addition to their other job(s) are far less likely to be willing to put themselves and their families through the horrors of neglect and self-exploitation which is necessary to be an anywhere-near-winning Liberal Democrat CANDIDATE. With the exception of a few succession seats (even some of these have serious incumbent-following problems), that means issues of ‘being an MP’ are almost irrelevant here. Our party does not have either the resources or the skills to concentrate in any significant manner to (try to) make up the difference to any significant extent, even more so when it is fighting for its life having tossed half of its Councillors to the wolves..

      Once upon a time, by-elections might have been an alternate route to correcting Gender-imbalance. Not presently an option. People need to ‘get real’ or start talking about something else they know a little more about.

    • Stuart Mitchell 11th Aug '13 - 1:18pm

      @Simon Shaw
      This does not seem to have been a problem for Labour. Are you suggesting that Lib Dem voters are somehow less likely to vote Lib Dem if more female candidates are offered? If this is true, it ought to be a cause of concern for Lib Dems. If it is not true, then you have no point.

      @Tony Dawson
      I carefully chose the words “able and/or willing” to pre-empt that kind of response.

      Most people here seem to be falling back on the complacent belief that the lack of Lib Dem MPs is down to electoral bad luck, and if everybody just carries on being all nice and liberal then it will all work out fair in the end. Which makes me think there is very little chance of the Lib Dems gaining more female MPs any time soon.

    • Stuart
      What Tony, Simon Titley and others are trying to tell you (some more gently than others!!) is that there is very little hope of the Lib Dems gaining any more seats at the next election, or at any likely byelection (just to remind you – our parliamentary byelection performance since 2010 has been nothing short of abysmal – which is why we celebrated Eastleigh with such exaggerated gusto). Which is why I concentrated on solutions of replacement of existing male MPs, not anything else. You have also been told that the situation without AWS has even now increased target seat female representation almost to par with men. Do you favour a strong persuasion process to get half or more of our male MPs to stand down in favour of women? Failing that I don’t see there is any point at present, because if and when the party does take an upturn in the polls, we seem able to provide female candidates. We DO need, as has been said, to increase our overall pool of candidates, and clearly our female pool. That also awaits a political upturn, as people are probably not as keen during periods of political unpopularity!

      Meanwhile, where are your suggestions about improving the social balance, which is really urgent, as this may be key in turning round our political position, both by ratcheting up pressure (and hopefully replacing) the current leadership, and by imaginative strategies to bring back non-voters, who are overwhelmingly people on lower incomes.

    • There are very few, if any, Liberal Democrat safe seats. Labour and Conservatives have loads of safe seats, so they can turn on the flow of female MPs as they wish. What is the point of selecting female candidates for failure?

      By all means develop structures that encourage good female candidates to come forward. With suitable support from the wider party and local workers, women should emerge as suitably strong candidates to be selected.

      There is a more radical All Women Shortlist suggestion, that would require the cooperation of other parties to agree that the election of the constituency MP is only between female candidates. I do not see it happening, but why not?

    • I’ve seen it all now: Simon Titley complaining about someone using a “snide manner”. Finally a new cliche to replace the old one about pots and kettles …

    • Andrew Suffield 12th Aug '13 - 12:14am

      This comment thread is annoying me greatly because everybody is obsessing over shortlisting and elections which are very clearly not the problem. I’m going to use an anecdotal example of the selection I was just involved in, but the same problem has been happening everywhere.

      We didn’t have any women on the ballot, not because of anything to do with the shortlist or vote, but because despite heroic measures including a year of chasing people and an attempt to ask every approved female candidate in the region, no women were willing to put their name forward for the seat.

      You can’t fix that with shortlists. If we had an all-women shortlist then we would have had no applicants and we would not have a PPC.

    • Clear Thinker 12th Aug '13 - 12:32am

      Andrew. Maybe your selectors have a bad attitude or reputation. What were the reasons given for not applying?

    • Andrew Suffield 12th Aug '13 - 9:08am

      Maybe your selectors have a bad attitude or reputation.

      How could that possibly matter? Potential applicants don’t get told who the shortlisting committee is, and adverts are prepared under the guidance (and in our case largely following the examples given by) a regional returning officer.

    • Clear Thinker – the situation described by Andrew has been occurring ever since gender requirements were brought in to shortlists. But it is wider than just numbers of women coming forward – it applies to a small pool of potential candidates overall, but with EVEN LESS proportionately women. We can discuss this in the abstract, but for those who want to put themselves forward, there are very serious issues of money, time, family commitments to think about. There is also the issue of whether you want seriously to make a career in politics. Some people are prepared to act as effectively “paper candidates”, others are not. For Tories and Labour, they do have what might be described as “safe seats” where selection as the candidate gives you a very good chance of actually getting to the other side as someone holding a paid job for a few years at least. In the Lib Dems, you do not have that likelihood, and given the reduced poll ratings we have presently, even less may be coming forward than before (I am less involved now, so am not sure of numbers, but the low speed of selections is indicative that that is a problem).

      I am afraid your “clear thinking” has let you down here!

    • Additionally, in Labour and Tory seats, there are sometimes sources of money to support campaigning activity. That is a lot less common in the Lib Dems – and may go some way to answer my perennial whinge that we are not getting enough “people with ordinary backgrounds” as candidates. They simply can’t afford it. If being a candidate carried a salary, we would immediately have an oversupply of takers (many unsuitable, of course!!)

    • Amalric, you asked an interesting question about how long it took women v men candidates to be elected. That is obviously one for Candidates’ Office at HQ, and the Gender Balance group, but I would hazard a guess that women may be elected slightly more quickly.

    • Clear Thinker 12th Aug '13 - 11:15am

      Andrew and Tim13. While my original comment may have been slightly frivolous, your responses actually do suggest that it is bad attitudes that may be putting people off. I guess that you have never actually asked people the question that I asked.

      Maybe you need to work on being less certain that you know the answers – certainty in ignorance is a common male characteristic that can be very unattractive.. Try to be a little less closed in your thinking.

      Can it be, for example, that the impersonality of the procedure described so proudly by Andrew is actually a problem? Can the issues of money, family, and seriousness in career be personal issues to Andrew and Tim13 and to the types of people who gravitate to your functions, rather than what is significant for the people who do not apply?

      Asking is the key, not making up your own answers. Listening. Good luck in what might be a liberating experience! 🙂

    • Clear Thinker – Perhaps you need to think about getting yourself on a selection panel? (Hope I am not teaching anyone to suck eggs here?) Are you actually a Party member? A huge amount of work has gone in to the selection process, yielding gender and balanced panels for other key factors, question design, based around likely effect on candidates etc. The design of the national scheme had as part of the research leading up to it, survey work on potential candidates and other people in the system. The overall aim was to have a scheme which was transparently fair to everyone, and also approved and then selected candidates who were the best for the purpose. Best Recruitment practice from other areas of life were, of course, drawn on.

      I concede that some of the pre – approval processes are not particularly “personal”, although they are investigating the experience training, skills etc a person may have. I also concede (and I have sometimes argued) that we may be trawling too narrow a pool. One of the really key features of the post 2005 system, for instance is “Leadership”, which has become a buzzword in Management selection, as people no doubt know. I think this is too tightly defined, and in many cases not as relevant as some theorists like to think!

      But to suggest that “asking” and “listening” are the keys, is pretty patronising, and inaccurate on your part in that people have been asked and listened to, and does, as I say, display a lack of clear thinking. Do you really understand the necessary commitment to work a seat hard? Have you been a PPC?

    • Clear Thinker – Going back to your original question. Have we asked why people didn’t apply. Who would you ask? All people who are on the Approved List? Most of them have a limited number (often one) of seats they are interested in, and therefore most are not applying because the seat is outside their area. I am sure some seats have asked the question of those who sent for an application pack and then didn’t apply. In this area, informal questions are sometimes posed to approved candidates in the area. Their responses (publicly, anyway) are usually that their circumstances have moved on, and the time is not now right – all associated with time, money, and family commitments as I have said. Of course, sometimes running under this is an often unspoken feeling that there is a front runner who they may be less than prepared to take on, as they may feel it to be a waste of their time.

      Or are you referring to wider party membership? Why don’t they try to become PPCs? A lot of work has been done especially by the Gender Balance group to try to boost women’s confidence. I think confidence or lack of it is one factor among those who might otherwise be good. But, when it comes down to it, many don’t want the role. Anyway, what are your views in this area. How do we show people in general that politicians are not a waste of space, they do a valuable job, and it can be rewarding for people to take it up?

    • Clear Thinker 12th Aug '13 - 12:49pm

      Tim13 – Look at the wall that you have created. Do you really think that it’s attractive? Can you even see it? Look at all the potentially gender-specific gender-value words – “best practice”, “best for the purpose”, “investigating”, “experience”, “training” …. It all speaks of a system of control that only a blind male would see as “fair”.

    • Clear Thinker 12th Aug '13 - 12:52pm

      It is just so typical of blind males to interpret female reluctance to submit to male-dominated processes as “lack of confidence”!

    • “Look at all the potentially gender-specific gender-value words – “best practice”, “best for the purpose”, “investigating”, “experience”, “training” ….”

      This must be a leg-pull, surely.

    • I didn’t make very clear in my last posting that I meant lack of confidence to refer to candidates of either sex. I referred to the work done by the Gender Balance Group specifically for women (noting, now, of course, that this Group has been organised and run by women, for women, essentially!) Reading Chris’s post, Inow tend to agree with him / her – the most recent clear thinking must be some kind of wind-up! Bearing in mind that my professional body, CIPD (the institute for personnel professionals) is now pretty much 80% women, and the words cited by Clear Thinker are most often used in the sort of context I was using them, in professional circles, by those people!!!

    • Clear Thinker 12th Aug '13 - 6:21pm

      You fellas are doing a great job at not answering the question! Oh well, I suppose that’s what men do …. 🙂

    • David Allen 12th Aug '13 - 6:56pm

      Malcolm Todd 10th Aug (sorry for late response):

      “One problem is that (with FPTP, which I think we’re stuck with for now) you either have to double the size of constituencies or double the number of MPs — neither of which is likely to be popular at the moment.”

      You would put together two constituencies to make one double-sized one. That constituency would then elect one male and one female MP. These would share the casework workload, which per MP would neither grow nor shrink. I can’t see that this would cause any major problem.

    • David Allen 12th Aug '13 - 7:05pm

      Jonathan Brown,

      “@Malcolm and Dave – I like the idea of 2 elections and had never thought of it or considered it before. It doesn’t have to be permanent either.”

      I suspect it would work better if permanent. I suspect there would be an initial outcry from every pair of current male MPs whose seats were combined to form only one make and one female seat. I suspect the reform would only survive with the following compromise: that any sitting MP – but ONLY a sitting MP – is permitted to stand for a seat otherwise reserved for the opposite gender. In other words, sitting MPs would have to be bought off with a short-term reprieve (because, cynical as that might sound, they wouldn’t vote for this otherwise).

      Over two or three parliaments, the number of sitting MPs re-elected by this mechanism would dwindle toward zero and so the percentage of women would rise gradually to 50%. Lightning fast progress, in other words, compared to all the conventional alternatives.

    • Clear Thinker – Sorry, what question do you want answered – I had a go at answering your hypothetical question of “Why don’t people apply?” in my post of 12.46. Asking you who you were referring to – the wider membership? those who are on the approved list? those who had applied for a pack and then not applied? I have had a stab at giving some of the standard reasons. I am sure everyone will have their own reasons, some for public consumption, others not!

      Chris and I had come to the conclusion you were trying to wind us up, and I don’t really see what else I could say. You with your “walls” etc must have some theories of your own?

    • Clear Thinker 12th Aug '13 - 8:25pm

      Tim13.

      No.1. The question is … what do people give as their reasons for not applying? You personally cannot have a go at imagining their reasons, by definition, unless you are one of the people who were asked to apply and didn’t. You have to ask the people themselves. I’m sure that HR theory tells you this somewhere. Maybe in the psychology course? Unconscious bias, theory of self-reinforcing interpretations, etc?

      No.2. You and Chris wind up well! Ha ha ha! I look forward to further windings. Maybe I’ll teach you something yet. 🙂

    • No guessing or inventing about it, merely talked to a lot of people and been involved on both sides of the process. Are we not allowed to have relevant experiences that have informed our answers? I accept that you will not have comparative figures, but what those of us who have been heavily involved say are likely (unless we are determined to imagine, as you would put it) to bear a close relationship to the reality. If you want me to say, “I don’t know”, I won’t because that is not the situation. I don’t fully understand why you are determined to think I am making things up? In terms of your point here – yes, I am regularly asked whether I wish to come forward for various byelections. I haven’t come forward since 2005 for various family reasons, mainly, and since 2010, because I don’t want to contest in the current situation.

    • R Uduwerage-Perera 13th Aug '13 - 11:41pm

      Personally, I totally support the idea of female only short lists. Sadly this is the only way of guaranteeing parity of genders in a society that is still overwhelmingly sexist.

    • Meral Hussein Ece 14th Aug '13 - 9:51am

      Usual depressing and predicable comments. ‘Of course we want more women, but they must be the best candidates’ … Funny how ‘the best candidates’ , and the majority of MPs, are mainly men. At this rate of complacency it will take over 100 years to reach any form of parity and gender equality in the UK Parliament. Bring on all women short lists asap.

    • R Uduwerage-Perera 14th Aug '13 - 10:43am

      ‘Of course we want more women, but they must be the best candidates’

      If we have all female shortlists then we will be assured that we get the best woman for the job, because any bias negating this to happen will have been removed.

      Until we genuinely resolve the ‘gender agenda’ we will I fear not resolve the other equality disparities that exist in our Party or in society no matter what laudable language we use. My concern is that if men, and thankfully fewer women in the Party are still comfortable to continue what I consider to be, (and it is meant to be emotive) ‘gender apartheid’, then they will continue to merrily discriminate (witting or unwittingly) and maintain the other inexcusable barriers that exist against sexual orientation, disability, age, race, etc.

      For me personally one of the major measures of equality in the Party can be seen by the levels of recruitment, retention and progression of women in the Party, and as we are aware from the Morrisey Inquiry we do not currently have a particularly healthy or progressive environment.

      As Meral succinctly puts it “Bring on all women short lists asap”.

    • Those who are pushing all women shortlists seem to ignore the fact that what we need to do is increase the numbers of women on the Approved List. Someone further up the thread has pointed out that many selections have been considerably delayed by readvertising etc, because there is not a woman come forward to be shortlisted. Many selections have gone ahead without a woman with special discretion because no-one at all has come forward from the female side. If we have that problem anyway, how are all women shortlists meant to address that? Actually, of course, we need more candidates of all varieties, but a better balance of women and men would be a good start. When the candidates get to the listing stage, there is no evidence that men are favoured over women, and various analyses have been done of this. So, all I would say, that in the evidence that those pushing for AWS are trying to solve a problem we haven’t got, is that the problem for them must be in terms of negative PR rather than any real advancement for women.

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