News of two motions passed by Lib Dem conference today…
Diversity: Hughes to propose “radical changes” to promote candidate diversity
Simon Hughes, the party’s deputy leader, commented:
“I am glad that Conference agreed today that there will be a full set of proposals for candidate diversity and that we will have the chance to take decisions to change the face and mix of the Liberal Democrats.
“I will be presenting a paper to the Party’s Federal Executive next month which will propose radical changes in the way we select our candidates.
“This proposal will include the aim that half our candidates will be women and that one in ten of our candidates will come from our black and minority ethnic communities.
“People with disabilities and gay and lesbian candidates must also play a key part in our parliamentary team for the next General Election.
“The whole party seems clear that Liberal Democrats must act urgently to increase our diversity and make sure many more women and people from black and ethnic minority backgrounds are candidates in winnable seats at the next election.”
The full text of the motion is below:
The party’s commitment to improving diversity within the Liberal Democrats, demonstrated by various initiatives, including EMLD and the New Generation Programme.
The positive role played by black, Asian or other minority ethnic (BAME), people with disabilities and women candidates at the General Election in helping to increase support for the party.
Women taking leadership positions across the party – as Party President, Leader in Wales, Chair of our parliamentary party in the Commons, Leader of our European Parliament group, Leader of our London Assembly group, Chair of the London Assembly and Leaders of Council groups.
The Final Report of the Speaker’s Conference on Parliamentary Representation.
Conference notes that:
I. Notwithstanding one third of our most winnable seats and half our held seats with retiring MPs at the last General Election had female candidates, the number and percentage of Liberal Democrat women MPs has recently fallen.
II. Liberal Democrats have no ethnic minority MPs, MEPs, MSPs or AMs.
III. Limited personal wealth, socio-economic issues, caring responsibilities and other barriers can be a significant deterrent to prospective candidates, particularly from under-represented groups.
IV. There is already precedent for positive action in the party, namely gender ‘zipping’ previously applied for European parliamentary selections, and a quota system that currently ensures that Westminster parliamentary selections have at least one or two members of each gender, depending on the length of the shortlist.
V. There is an urgent need to supplement existing initiatives, aimed at providing support to BAME candidates, with additional positive action.
VI. A major impediment to diversity is a lack of potential applicants coming forward for approval as candidates.
Conference believes that:
Achieving diversity in our parliamentary parties is an issue for the entire party, and must urgently be addressed at every level.
With Liberal Democrats in government and our Leader as Deputy Prime Minister leading on political reform, there is now a once in a generation opportunity to re-shape politics and significantly increase the representation of women, ethnic minorities, people with disabilities and other under-represented groups.
Further failure to make significant progress on BAME representation at all levels, and particularly in the House of Commons, will continue to damage the reputation of the party amongst BAME communities, making it more difficult to gain trust and support; and affect the party’s credibility when speaking about issues of race equality.
Conference therefore calls for:
Diversity to remain a priority in any further appointments to the House of Lords and in plans for its reform, with the objective of achieving a balanced parliament, which reflects the diversity of modern Britain.
The Federal Executive in consultation with the state parties to:
Examine the issue of candidate diversity with utmost urgency and bring further proposals to spring conference.
Commission a wide-ranging review of political reforms aimed at removing structural and other barriers to participation in politics. The review shall be submitted to the President and Leader no later than 1st December 2010 for consideration in the context of proposals for a reformed second chamber.
Among other issues, the review will consider the viability of parliamentary job-shares and other forms of flexible working which have successfully increased the participation, retention and promotion of women in many private and public sector workplaces.
The Federal Executive and the parliamentary parties to:
Strengthen the party’s policies and processes to include positive action around recruitment, retention and promotion of BAME talent.
Commit to the urgent enhancement at all levels of the party of existing measures (including the required, dedicated staff time, and senior staff responsibility) to ensure that:
BAME party members are identified, encouraged, trained and supported in being approved, seeking and gaining selection in all types of seats, and winning and defending seats on representative bodies.
Approval panels and selection committees receive any guidance and training they need to ensure fairness.
Targets to be set and publicised for State and (in England) Regional Parties to dramatically increase the number of BAME on the list of approved candidates, with a target of 100 extra BAME candidates on the list of approved candidates to be achieved by Autumn 2012.
Trident: Lib Dems support full review of Trident and its costs
Heres the text of the motion approved almost unanimously by conference today:
“The exclusion of Trident from the Strategic Defence and Security Review is now untenable; it should be included and receive the scrutiny which strategic, political and financial circumstances demand.”
Conference notes that:
i) In July the Chancellor announced that the Ministry of Defence will have to fund the £20–£30bn capital costs of a ‘like-for-like’ replacement for Trident.
ii) The Defence Secretary has warned that this means severe restrictions in the way Britain operates militarily.
iii) The exclusion of Trident from the Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) is now untenable; it should be included and receive the scrutiny which strategic, political and financial circumstances demand.
Conference calls on the Liberal Democrat ministers to:
1. Press for the extension of the SDSR to allow a full review of the alternatives to ‘like-for-like’ replacement of Trident.
2. Ensure the SDSR considers cost-saving options such as ending continuous at-sea patrols and extending the life of Vanguard submarines.
3. Ensure the SDSR makes explicit the opportunity cost of Trident replacement – in terms of cuts to troop numbers and equipment programmes.
And here’s what Lib Dem minister for the armed forces Nick Harvey had to say about the likely Coalition agreement to defer a decision on Trident:
“If it were to be delayed until just after a May 2015 election that is of no great financial significance, it is of no great military significance, it is of no great industrial significance. But, believe me, it is of profound political significance. The Conservatives know that they are not going to be able to look to the Liberal Democrats to help them get that through parliament, so the issue will be a hot potato for Labour.”