Is Nick Clegg looking at all-women shortlists for 2020?

From today’s Independent:

Nick Clegg is planning to introduce all-women shortlists for the Liberal Democrats if not enough female candidates are selected in winnable seats in 2015.

The radical policy change, which will upset many activists who believe it would go against the party’s constitution, would be introduced in the next Parliament as many candidates have already been selected for the election in 18 months’ time.

Only 12 per cent of Lib Dem MPs are women, and there are none at all from ethnic minorities. Lib Dem sources said a number of “excellent” female and ethnic minority candidates have already been selected to replace outgoing Lib Dem MPs and in winnable seats for 2015. But if the female tally does not increase dramatically, all-women shortlists will be imposed for the 2020 election.

Let’s just look at this a bit more carefully. Even if this is Nick’s view, and there is no direct evidence in this story to suggest that it is, it is not within his gift just to impose it on the party.  If we were ever to take such a move, it would be the party who would decide, not the leader. It would take some doing to persuade the two-thirds necessary to change the constitution if that were deemed necessary. Indeed, getting a simple majority would be challenge enough in a party which has been historically opposed to positive discrimination. Our most recent survey on the subject showed a large majority remain of that view.

I bear the scars of the zipping debate ahead of the 1999 Euro elections. I was very much in favour of it as a one-off measure to ensure that we sent a gender  balanced team to Brussels. Others were  furiously opposed. Gloom, doom, pestilence and the sky falling in were some of their more optimistic predictions if this were allowed to happen. The Scottish party was having none of it, although they selected Elspeth Attwooll without it. Of course, all that actually happened was that we sent a gender balanced team to Brussels.

Our record on gender balance in other parliaments is embarrassing.  Currently we have 7 female MPs out of 57, 1 MSP out of 5 and 2 out of 5 AMs in Wales. This harms us and makes us look out of touch with the public. How can women have confidence that we understand their views and issues affecting them if our parliamentary parties have such an overwhelming majority of men?

For this coming election, the problem has been tackled by setting up the Leadership Programme aimed at giving intensive mentoring and training to candidates from under-represented groups. I am unconvinced that it’s the lack of training that’s the problem and if our gender balance does not improve in 2015, we will have to look at other alternatives.

It’s not comfortable to think that there may be sexism within our selection processes, but I have seen this at first hand. A selection where a male and female candidate had children of similar ages – which do you think was asked by members they visited about their childcare arrangements? These questions are not allowed at hustings, but female candidates regularly face them in private. I’ve even seen a female candidate whose children had left home quizzed on how she’d support her family.

Having said that, as Stephen summarised yesterday,  we’ve seen female candidates selected in held seats and in our targets. Three women out of five have been selected in retiring MPs’ seats so far and there are two still to come. Of the 19 selections in our top targets, 6 of them have gone to women, 4 in seats which were held pre 2010.

If there is no significant improvement in women elected in 2015, we will need to have the debate. It would be better if we could conduct it in a calm, rational manner and work together as a party to find a solution to a significant problem. We could do with losing that casual assumption that everyone selected under the current system is the best candidate and that any women selected by an all-women shortlist are somehow not as good. That assumption says more about sexism within our ranks than anything else. While Labour’s experience of all women shortlists has been mixed, it has worked and they now have the best gender balance in the Commons.

In the meantime, can I suggest that if Nick is in favour of all women shortlists, he shows some clear intent if there are further places in the House of Lords up for grabs. He had an opportunity earlier this year to significantly improve the gender balance in the House of Lords and didn’t take it.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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43 Comments

  • labour’s experience of AWS has “worked” in that they have more female faces on the benches, but I have heard first hand from labour friends how deeply it has entrenched the idea that women selected under AWS are inferior. Not only that but once you have AWS it is assumed that all women in every seat must have been selected under AWS because women CAN’T be selected in their own so every single woman whether selected under AWS or not gets treated as an “inferior” AWS woman.

    I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. This is the one red line that on its own would see me leave the party. I don’t discount that we have a problem, but doing something that would make it worse because Something Must Be Done is not what liberalism is about.

  • Still no appreciation of the difference between selection and election. Our problem is *electing* female candidates, not selecting them. The area where most focus is needed is on the on the ground campaigning organisation and support in those seats where we have female candidates selected. If we can’t hold the seats where our MPs are standing down or can’t win any new seats, then we still won’t have any more female MPs with or without AWS.

  • Many of the women who so vehemently opposed positive discrimination when we last debated it have now changed their minds or left the party. When asked whether they had been selected/elected as a parliamentary candidate a typical response was, “Don’t be silly, I’m a woman”. Says it all really.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 27th Oct '13 - 11:11am

    You see, Jennie, I’m not sure that it would make it worse. I’m not sure it could get that much worse.

    We would have had two more female MPs if we had had all women shortlists in held seats in 2010. That still wouldn’t have been great – we’d barely have held our own – but it would be better than we have now.

    In this case, I don’t think accepting lack of women as inevitable is an option. What we don’t have that Labour does have, of course, is safe seats. They can do pretty much what they like and their candidate will be elected. The reason I suspect AWS will not happen in our party is that we need to work our backsides off and we need all our team behind and believing in the candidate. And even that doesn’t always work.

    I do think, though, that we need to have a proper look at all of this calmly and rationally after the next election. If the Leadership Programme and extra money on campaigning doesn’t work, we’ll have to look at what else can be done. Maybe we should allow local parties to choose the option of an AWS or all BAME shortlist if they so choose. That might be an acceptable and liberal compromise.

  • Malcolm Todd 27th Oct '13 - 11:13am

    Caron: “We would have had two more female MPs if we had had all women shortlists in held seats in 2010. “

    How can you possibly know that?

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 27th Oct '13 - 11:43am

    Malcolm, we didn’t select female candidates in two of the seats of retiring MPs where we were most likely to hold on. If we had, we would have had two more women. I’m not complaining about the men who won, because they are very good. But this isn’t about personalities, it’s about how we come across as a male dominated (as well as pale and middle class) party.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 27th Oct '13 - 11:46am

    Jennie, another thought – of course more women MPs has not eliminated sexism in the Labour party (which, in my view is still quite prevalent, especially amongst the old Labour dinosaurs), but they are progressing. They are currently at 31%. Shirley reckons that 40% is the threshold where there really starts to be a cultural change. We are nowhere near that. We need to catch up somehow.

  • Paul Twigger 27th Oct '13 - 12:00pm

    I could not agree to all-women, all-men or all-anything short lists – as a party, we need to encourage under represented groups to get involved and work hard on challenging the status quo. It is up to us to ensure the correct mechanisms, such as training, are in place.

    I also agree that we seem to have a problem with getting women elected, as opposed to selected.

  • My aim is and always will be to get more Liberal Democrats elected. Last time we got 23% of the vote and 9% of the MPs. If we had PR we would have had nearer 150 MPs. Just imagine how much better a deal we could have got with Cameron if we had 150 MPs against his 250. We could even have done a deal with Labour if we had wanted to.

    Nick lost his chance to achieve anything on PR in coalition, and after 2015 we will have to build up from the base again to get another chance.

    The only way we will achieve this is by getting more Lib Dems elected seat by seat and the only way to do that under the current electoral system is workaholic candidates, whether these are women or men is immaterial. The only people who can make this decision is the local party, not the centre.

    What really worries me though is comments like “We could do with losing that casual assumption that everyone selected under the current system is the best candidate and that any women selected by an all-women shortlist are somehow not as good. That assumption says more about sexism within our ranks than anything else.” If we are not careful, this sort of casual put down sounds more like “We know best and other liberals don’t.” That can say a lot more about the dangers of illiberalism within our ranks than anything else.

  • The majority of people in this country are represented by an MP they did not believe was the best person for the job. You can introduce exclusionary selection policies if you like, it’s a lazy quick fix but it is likely to get more women elected. In the process you’ll alienate all the people who thought the Lib Dems were for seeking solutions to discrimination not for embracing it. But maybe that is not such a big price to pay, where else are they gonna go? So after all the selections in winnable seats are fiddled so we have 50% women, 50% men and 10% bame. Have you improved the quality of representation in parliament? Not in the slightest. Maybe you’ve even made it worse. Most of us don’t care whether our MP is a man or a woman or black or white. What we care about is that they share our values and are good at representing them. Most of us will still have an MP we didn’t want.

  • Eddie Sammon 27th Oct '13 - 12:48pm

    I have a lot of respect for the left, even the far left such as 100% tax rates, but I think the idea that most men are sexist and the only thing that can be done about it is to take away our rights is quite possibly the worst idea in modern left-wing thought.

  • Let’s assume, by some miracle of politics, that by the end of the week all the structural inequalities against women in society and politics are solved by cross party legislation passed in Westminster.

    Even assuming this miracle, it would still take many parliamentary cycles, many years, generations even, for numbers of women and men in politics to become more equal as careers have to be established, backs scratched, spouses changing work patterns, children to grow up, and so on.

    By then, the continued dominance of men in politics might have weakened this legislation, society might have regressed to once again assuming that a lack of women in top positions means a lack of ability in women and so on.

    Frankly, I find it astonishing that a political party wouldn’t be proactive in encouraging adequate female representation, much less rejecting all attempts to do so. Even in the aftermath of a parliamentary miracle, let alone in the lack of one.

  • Jo Christie-Smith 27th Oct '13 - 1:40pm

    We do have a problem getting women selected – I’ve lost count of the number of good women being discounted in favour of frankly mediocre, white middle class men – those women, who are in demand by all sorts of organisations then stop being active in the lib dems and go and expend their considerable talents and energies on some more meritocratic activity and the lib dems are poorer for it in almost every way. For example, our newest MP, whose name I can’t even remember, is a man, more or less appointed, when we could have put in place one of many, many amazing women, but we didn’t – such a lost opportunity!

    And Caron, whilst I more or less agree with what you say , I would say that a lib dem voice poll is somewhat dodgy evidence base for assuming how ‘the party’ feels about something. Firstly, LDV members are not representative of the party and the poll contributors even within that group are are self selecting – it’s not proper polling – its just a bit of fun but also a bit of a waste of time in gauging actual feeling in the party.

    And please, people (not you Caron) stop wittering on about training women – it’s lazy and sexist to suggest the reason why women aren’t selected is because they are not good enough, or would be good enough if only we could train them to be different – women are not selected, very often, because they are discriminated against, in many different ways from the obvious to the very indirect. The people who have to change are not the female potential candidates but the rest of us who time after time, use our democratic mandate to allow mediocre men to go forward in their place.

    To be honest I doubt we can change, and so we will continue to haemorrhage good people from under represented groups – I suspect we lose for more of these people that we would of those who threaten to leave at teh thought of AWS in 7 years time.

    I always find it extraordinary when people (often men) suggest that AWS are patronising to women – frankly I’d rather face being patronised (‘cos it’s not as if it’s never happened to me before) and be in a position of power than powerless – which is the position of so many under represented groups in the party today.

    Grrr – right, I’ll get back in my box now….

  • I’ve lost count of the number of good women being discounted in favour of frankly mediocre, white middle class men.

    And, Jo, what do the men who lost out to these “mediocre white middle class men” say about their own failure to be selected? Do they blame discrimination or cronyism of any kind?

  • Mick Taylor 27th Oct '13 - 3:16pm

    Any serious analysis of our party selection procedures shows that we are sexist and racist when it comes to selecting candidates. Only this week I had a comment from a very down to earth Liberal that the muslim candidate who has put himself forward for a by-election vacancy is not the right candidate ‘for that ward’. The ward in question is overwhelmingly white. I know that women candidates are discriminated against because they either have or might have child caring responsibilities.

    The problem we have is not with the shortlisting panels, because by-en-large they have to be trained, but with the wider selectorate, who get no training at all. Widespread fallacies abound and are acted upon. It is still widely believed that to select a woman or non-white candidate will cost votes, when there is no evidence of this at all.

    When we adopted zipping for EU seats, we got a balanced European Parliamentary Party. Slowly that is being eroded. Two women have been replaced by men and if we do retain a seat in Yorkshire and the Humber it will be a man instead of the woman elected in 2009. [I have absolutely nothing against the 3 men in question but it still valid to point out an obvious trend)

    I have been driven very reluctantly to the conclusion that this will never be solved unless we make a positive decision as a party to have quotas, zipping (for EU seats) and yes, all women or BAME shortlists.

    Otherwise we’ll be bemoaning the lack of women and BAME parliamentarians in another 20 years.

  • Isn’t it more than a tad presumptive to suggest that Nick Clegg will have any influence over anything by 2020?

  • Jo Christie-Smith 27th Oct '13 - 3:52pm

    I don’t know, john, but your question misses the point – which is that time and time again, good women are being passed up in favour of less good men – that there are other less good men also being passed up is not relevant because we don’t have a dearth of white middle class men being selected. The issue for those white middle class men who are not getting selected is different because they are not being subject to the direct and indirect discrimination that clearly women and BAME potential candidates are.

    Unless, of course, you are proposing that the reason why we have so few women and BAME parliamentarians is because they are not good enough?

  • I didn’t miss the point. ‘Better’ and ‘mediocre’ are highly subjective terms. Your mediocre candidate might be my good candidate. I have no way of knowing. But if the man selected was roundly thought to be ‘mediocre’ then it’s pretty likely there was a ‘good’ one in the mix as well, okay maybe not on every occasion, but if it is ‘time and time again’ that these ‘mediocre’ men are being selected then one is bound to pop-up eventually. I’m just curious to know why he thought he wasn’t selected.

  • If I need heart surgery, or some dental work, or an architect to build my house, I really would like the best for the task, irrespective of gender.
    So surely, what this discussion proves without a shadow of a doubt, is that politics is so low skilled that, (like a shelf stacker), anyone will do. Only low skilled work, where the consequences of being mediocre can be hidden from view, have the luxury of AWS.
    Jenny’s point is right, in that it tarnishes other women who have achieved by merit. Because of AWS, there is always a shadow on their worthy achievements. and the perception that they only got there with an AWS policy ‘leg up’, and not because they are actually good at the job.

  • Juliet Williams 27th Oct '13 - 5:55pm

    I stood in 2010 and happen to be a woman. I also, which in fact has more relevance to whether I stand again, live with a disability. I had no particular difficulty getting selected. I also received a fair and sympathetic hearing in interviews for a couple of other seats where I was not selected. I very seldom if ever heard voters voice any disquiet as to the possibility of a woman MP. Occasionally sadly I heard some extremely racist views on the doorstep. Also regrettably, there were a minority of local party members who thought I wasn’t up to it; and a minority who were not comfortable to work with a female candidate. There was though reasonably good support at regional level over these issues. There were other local party members who were extremely supportive and gave much practical help to my campaign.

    As a party, we are at a disadvantage due to our smaller size and more limited means, plus the lack of safe seats of our persuasion. Both Labour and Conservatives have the facilities, if they so chose, to parachute diverse candidates into safe seats, irrespective of whether those candidates have local connection or not. Labour candidates receive a salary whilst standing and are not haivng to juggle paid work and campaigning as we do.

    My experience was that it was very very exhausting, and quite expensive to stand as a candidate for our smaller party, whilst combining this with paid work, caring responsibilities and living with disability. I do not get any choice in the last.

    I am not sure that I am in a rush to do this again. It left me exhausted and in financial difficulties, which were compounded by then being made redundant twice in 6 months.

    Would more training or more confidence have made me more likely to win ? No, my view is we got a good result and the only thing which would make that seat more winnable is long term effort from not just a workaholic PPC (of any gender or ethnicity) but from a sizeable and committed team of activisits, over a long term period; it is a traditional Labour/Tory marginal. Would more training or confidence make more likely to stand again ? For me neither of these are the barriers. I am already a professionally trained public speaker and negotiator. Legislation I helped to draft is now in force. I have a variety of casework experience.

    What would make me more likely to stand again as a Lib Dem would be significant private income and/or a supportive wife/partner, and if at all possible a realistic chance of winning. It would help to be able bodied and have boundless energy too.

    It is an important contribute to stand where winning is not likely, so that the party stands a candidate and voters have the chance to vote Lib Dem. It is understandable to have to test your comitment and abilities before being promoted to a winnable seat. But perhaps having to do this is harder for some candidates than for others. As is perhaps the work of building up a seat to make it winnable.

    There is little doubt our party could do better on visible diversity. It is regrettable that able women lost seats or did not win seats, meaning the proportion of female MPs was lower than the proportion of female candidates in held and target seats. The question is how to achieve this, and whether AWS is a useful tool. I do not especially like the concept, but would not rule it out. However, I think it should be seen as a short term tool, and only to be applied in target and held seats.

    I personally find the suggest that because I am female I am more in need of training pretty much equally offensive to the proposal of an all female list. I’m not a shrinking violet and already have good education. I worked hard to achieve professional goals, often in the face of adversity and family opposition.

    We need to think more widely about how we as a party appeal to women voters. I would like to see less woman = caregiver in our policies. We risk being seen as patronising, old fashioned and offensive if we perpeturate this approach. Not all women are interested only in children. Some women – shock horror – are not interested in children at all ! Women are interested in technology, civil liberties, the media, opportnities or lack of them for work and advancement ……….

    One idea which circulated through Out to Win was that having a party list element to the election, as in Scotland,can be helpful in getting a more diverse slate of representatives elected. I’m aware 😉 that electoral reform hasa been kicked into the long grass, but in the longer term, electoral reform may help increase diversity.

    We all need to think how we can help get as many Lib Dem MPs elected as possible. That isn’t just the candidate’s job, nor is it to do with selection. It’s too do with supporting and working with the candidate, so it’s less down to them bieng a workaholic, which may be more difficult for some than for others; it’s to do with being active at local level too, good councillors will help the party’s reputation and vote, as a foundation for winning parliamentary seats. Being seen to have a slate of candidates representative of the population might helpf or image and hence our vote ?

    Hence in my view there may be a case for exceptional ‘special measures’ in 2020, in held and target seats (as these would change the public face of the party fastest).

    At the moment the public face of the party is both ‘male and pale’. I could add, young and able-bodied. I will add too, that this appears to appply to the staff employed as well as to the elected MPs.

  • Tony Dawson 27th Oct '13 - 6:01pm

    @Jo Christie-Smith

    “Unless, of course, you are proposing that the reason why we have so few women and BAME parliamentarians is because they are not good enough?”

    I would suggest that most women are far too sensible and considerate to their families to put themselves and their loved ones through the terrible strains required by the prolonged self-exploitation required to be a Lib Dem candidate in anything other than a ‘safe’ held succession seat. This doesn’t leave many seats for them to ‘go for’. Not all men are basically more selfish and inconsiderate but more than enough are.

    If my experience of council candidates is anything to go by, it is unfortunate that some of those potential female candidates who may well perform best sometimes choose to not even put themselves forward.

    As for BAME candidates, I think that we re still waiting for some of the better ones to actually work long enough to build up a seat to be ‘winnable’. The present national political environment for Lib Dems can hardly help this at the moment.

    Candidates who pitch themselves around the country as possible MPs tend to fail at selection whatever their background unless they are in the top 0.5 per cent of ‘performers’, whatever their status/gender/origin.

  • Liberal Neil 27th Oct '13 - 6:58pm

    If Nick is really concerned about the under-representation of women on the Lib Dem benches in parliament he would have put more of them in the House of Lords.

    Actions speak louder than words, as we Lib Dems often say.

    In the meantime let’s concentrate on getting the excellent women and BAME candidates who have been selected in held and strategic seats elected, and then review after the 2015 election once we’ve seen the results.

  • Given that my last comment has been hanging in ‘moderation’, for a couple of hours now, let me try the same point re AWS, + BAME, + Gay, Transgender, Lesbian, policy etc
    If your child needed some open heart surgery, and the senior surgeon, was a Mr Walter White, who had a good 30 year track record with the hospital, but you had been assigned a new entrant to the consultancy. Dr. Michelle Read who you discovered, has been recruited as part of the hospitals policy on inclusivity in terms of ethnicity, transgender, lesbian, gay and promotion of women policy,.. would you be OK with that?
    Would you not ask a question as to their qualifications, and surgery track record?
    Don’t you find it strange that you are far less bothered about the competence and veracity of someone that is being supported to stand as a candidate for a seat in parliament, such that AWS + BAME + TLG is ok,.. but it’s not ok, when considering the life of your child ?

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 27th Oct '13 - 8:38pm

    John Dunn, maybe the reason your comment was held in moderation was because it’s Sunday evening and the vipolunteer team on LDV was busy living their normal lives like we do of a weekend evening.

    Re surgeon, Dr Read might b more versed in up to date techniques, Walter Whatever might be awful. If I were biased against Dr Read on the basis of no evidence to doubt her skill, I’d be being sexist.

  • Juliet Williams 27th Oct '13 - 9:25pm

    I agree with ‘Liberal Neil’, especially as to the House of Lords.

  • David Evans 27th Oct '13 - 9:34pm

    George,

    You can put silly words into Tony’s mouth if you want to, but when you have been around as long has he has, and have seen what it involves, you will realise he is telling the truth. You may not like it, but there it is.

    P.S. You can call us ageist if you wish, but the one place you get experience from is having seen your own and others’ youthful naivety fail before. You may not like that either …

  • On the school playing field I was taught “it’s not the winning that matters, it’s the taking part that counts” A fine sentiment on the cricket pitch but politics are a different ball-game. Unless we want to go down in history as gallant sporting losers, we must find another way to establish gender (and racial) balance other than imposing selective shortlists

  • William Jones 28th Oct '13 - 7:43am

    Diversity isn’t all about All-Women, All-BAME short lists.

    Shouldn’t we be looking at socio-economic exclusion as well?

    There is a major problem with with MPs coming from a very narrow group, be they Women or BAME, who have either been interns, worked in parliament or have a PPE degree from ox-bridge and preferably come from the South. Everyone outside this narrow group is socio-economically excluded from becoming an MP unless they are extremely determined. We should be helping these people too, even if they are male or not BAME get into parliament to make it more diverse.

    Something to think about on our drive for diversity within the Lib Dems.

  • Charles Beaumont 28th Oct '13 - 12:43pm

    Couple of observations: first, this is mostly assuming there are “winnable seats”. Is that a dangerous assumption? Second, assuming that a party which doesn’t pick a BAME or female candidate is racist or sexist is outrageous and unfair to all the unpaid party activists who are merely trying to do their best with limited resources and usually starting in third place. I have no problem with AWS as a concept for a breakthrough moment in representation, but it probably needs to be done when the chances of success are highest so it has impact, rather than being a gesture. Also, we should be pushing harder for a change to political culture – there may be good reasons that women are less inclined to become politicians, or equally BAME candidates. Loading all the blame onto selection committees is totally unreasonable.

  • @George Potter:

    George, I would suggest ‘with respect ‘(sic) that you would not recognise sexism if it hit you in the face like a wet kipper.

    I have personally spent quite a bit of my life supporting a political candidate of the other main gender, during years which would have been advantageous to me to pursue a political career of my own had I chosen so to do at the time. Actually, the main discrimination in the Lib Dems tends to be against people with major caring responsibilities for either children or elders. Are you going to pretend that both of these groups are not presently heavily-dominated by women? Is it ‘paternalistic’ to describe this particular truth? How many male parliamentary candidates with major or full-time caring responsibilities does this party support in serious campaigning roles? It is rather fewer than the poor number of women in those same situations who we support!

    Now if you want to, you can start another thread, somewhere else, about whether it is right that female humans commit massively-less violent crime than their male counterparts, and whether the balance of this is due to chromosome/hormonal factors or socialisation. For the gender-correlation (NB not causal or 100% correlation!) of those traits is clear and massive just as it is with the ones which I have previously described. But get this clear in your head. There are presently only two dozen or so Lib Dem held seats and a handful of ‘targets’ where the current support structures are such that any parliamentary candidate will stand a hope in hell without a degree of self- and family- exploitation which goes beyond the range that anyone sane would consider acceptable. And quite a few of these have MPs not standing down in the near future. So the opportunities for women to move forward as Lib Dem MPs in numbers at the moment are pretty poor. Now, if you want to pretend that female and male attitudes to such ‘exploitation’ issues are currently anywhere near the same (even though there is a small ‘overlap’ group) then I would suggest you transfer from politics to book-binding or sumo-wrestling because your talents would doubtless be better spent thus.

    I report things as they are, not as I would like them to be. Only if you confront the truth (rather than what you would like it to be) will you ever change anything. There is far too much navel-gazing in this Party with the result that we do not collectively address reality but what some people would prefer to be reality. With predictable results. 🙁

    There is no ‘subtext’ in my message. If people choose to place it there, that suggests living in a cloud. It is actually you who might as well be saying:

    “Listen women, stay at home with your family and don’t worry your pretty little heads about politics”

    because your attitude will do NOTHING AT ALL to change anything to make the political process attract more good women candidates WHO MIGHT SUCCEED in our party (which is VERY different from the situation in the two larger parties under fptp) – as opposed to those joining the tribe of ‘valiant losers’. I imagine you haven’t got a clue about the personal and family strains of fronting-up a serious parliamentary political campaign in any of the party’s ‘target’ seats which do not have lots of members or pots of money. There ARE non-self/family-exploitative routes forward for those constituencies if our party becomes more electable again but, realistically, they require a process of development lasting well beyond a Parliament unless in the most skilled of hands.

  • @Lester Holloway:

    “Tony, how do you explain the fact that at each election, including the forthcoming one, a handful of our MPs retire and are replaced by candidates who have not worked a hopeless seat into a winnable one over several elections?”

    If there is no hard-working ‘son or daughter’ waiting in the wings, these ‘succession seats’ tend to get filled through a ‘risk-averse’ process unless our Party is overwhelmingly-strong in the constituency concerned. I would say that some of the outcomes of these processes are ‘not the best’ even though the candidate (who may get elected) is a good Lib Dem. Our party is not averse, either, to the charms of a ‘show man’ or ‘show woman’ who ‘wows’ a meeting regardless of the substance they may or may not have – any more than the other political parties are.

  • @Charles Beaumont :

    ” this is mostly assuming there are “winnable seats”. Is that a dangerous assumption?”

    This ‘assumption’ is, unfortunately, presently more true than at any time in the past century. Doesn’t mean that other seats cannot become ‘winnable’. Just that they have a long way to go.

  • “We could do with losing that casual assumption that everyone selected under the current system is the best candidate and that any women selected by an all-women shortlist are somehow not as good. That assumption says more about sexism within our ranks than anything else.”

    Thank you for calling me sexist; I will remember it next time I am giving a speech on why it is erroneous that Taiwanese women are taught they must earn less their husband.

    Of course, Jo’s comment that was basically said our last candidate was a men, so he must have been inferior to the female candidates is perfectly fine, I guess.

    I have said it before and I will say it again, positive discrimination will not solve your problem because forcing there to be a mathematical balance does not mean you have overcome the problems which cause the imbalances in the first place – and that is taking this erroneous presumption that 50-50 splits is somehow a magic number for equality at face value.

    I am sure there are sexist people out there, but that is not what stands in the way of most candidates, what stands in the way of most candidates is the plain practical truth of the matter, very few people – outside of those who are white middle-class businessmen – have the time and money to realistically be a candidate for our party.

    If we really want an open and diverse parliamentary group, then we need t fix the problem that to be an MP is your life, not your job.

    Otherwise, you will end up with the only people going into politics being the kind of people who will give everything up for their career – and who have the resources to do that. Those people tend to be white middle-class males.

  • Charles Beaumont 28th Oct '13 - 2:04pm

    @ Lester: I quote Mick Taylor’s earlier comment

    “Any serious analysis of our party selection procedures shows that we are sexist and racist when it comes to selecting candidates.”

    Did I misread that?

  • Does anyone know how many Tory and Labour female MPs beat male LibDem candidates?

  • Jim Hardaker 8th Apr '14 - 6:35pm

    By its nature, discrimination cannot ever be completely eradicated. It is paradoxical, because the needs of the many and the needs of the one can find themselves in conflict.

    In order to address what may be seen as overall discrimination against women, we could introduce all-female shortlists. This, it can be argued, is a means by which to encourage a better male/female balance. It keeps the numbers tidy, and ensures equality where the bigger picture is concerned.

    Meanwhile though, Mr ABC who wanted to stand, has been barred from doing so because of this all-female shortlist. He may well feel discriminated against, because we’re telling him he can’t be involved for no other reason than he is the wrong gender.

    The same arguments can be applied where almost anything is concerned. The concept of a 50/50 balance in the workplace for example may seem like a cornerstone in the fight for equality – but what about when a male employee leaves and the perfect replacement is denied the job just because she’s a woman?

    Personally, I don’t think it’s fair to make the individual feel excluded so that we can keep up appearances, so I wouldn’t support all-female shortlists any more than I’d support all-male ones.

    Apart from that, I don’t think we should be telling our members ‘you will select a candidate of this gender/race/religion whether you want to or not’, because restricting their ability to choose rather contradicts the principle of democracy.

    It is true that society may elect more members of a particular gender/race/religion than others, but then again I’m afraid that’s what democracy is all about. Society elects more Conservative and Labour MPs than Lib Dem ones, and we could argue that that’s unfair too! But people must have the choice, and be allowed to make that choice freely knowing that it will be respected.

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