LibLink: Charlotte Henry – How can the Liberal Democrats cure its ‘woman problem’?

Over at the Telegraph, Lib Dem blogger and former London Assembly candidate Charlotte Henry takes a look at the Lib Dems’ ‘woman problem’ in the light of the recent publicity concerning allegations against Portsmouth South MP Mike Hancock and former party chief executive Lord (Chris) Rennard. Here’s an excerpt:

The Lib Dems need to get more women elected at every single level, of that there is no doubt. It is galling to still walk into party meetings with barely any women, or to still see male dominated panels at party conference. … All that said, it should be noted that the party leader in Wales is female, as is Caroline Pidgeon AM, who led the party’s London list last year. Furthermore, women occupy a huge number of powerful positions around Nick Clegg. It’s also worth pointing out that Liberal Youth, the party’s youth and student wing, have just elected two highly talented young women to be its chair and vice chair, both beating male candidates.

Friends and colleagues of mine have felt let down by our party when making the most serious of allegations. However, many of those issues stem from personal loyalty and poor organisational structures, not a desire for a libertarian free-for-all as has been implied. A thorough investigation into what was going on in the Liberal Democrats needs to happen, with recommendations made and more importantly, followed, so that that issues like this never arise again, and women feel safe in the party. That doesn’t mean the party has to stop being liberal though.

You can read Charlotte’s piece in full here.

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8 Comments

  • Eddie Sammon 9th Jun '13 - 7:07pm

    I think the main problem is the wealth inequality between men and women.

    So how do we change it? First of all I do not accept the argument that men like to hire other men just because they are men – men like women!

    Rather, I think the solution is to improve maternity support for businesses. This will require a lot of cash, which some might not like but it is the only solution.

    Quotas are Owellian – once you introduce quotas to resolve one inequality we could then introduce them for race, class, geography, profession – it is just a non starter.

    I am sure others who are a lot more informed in this area will have many other ideas that could help, I would just like to say I think the cause and the solution boils down to cold hard cash.

  • “It’s also worth pointing out that Liberal Youth, the party’s youth and student wing, have just elected two highly talented young women to be its chair and vice chair, both beating male candidates.”

    Not sure what this shows. The former LDYS had 4 female Chairs in 6 years – then didn’t elect another female chair for a decade.

  • What is the problem with female representation? I can’t see why we should be having a problem with it, yet we are. I think we should consider something like fast-tracking talented women, because it is important that political parties reflect the populations they seek to serve.

  • There are almost no Liberal Democrat safe seats. Each seat has to be hard fought with a sustained campaign over many years. Whether this is led by a man or a woman is secondary. It certainly would not work to parachute candidates into constituencies where there are individuals who have carved out an identity that carries local votes.

    Is there a problem in getting strong female local campaigners who are prepared to be active over many years? If not there should not be a problem;, unless these hard working activists are not sufficiently recognised.

  • Eddie Sammon 10th Jun '13 - 5:27pm

    Martin makes a very good point stating that local candidates who have worked hard to build a presence should get priority for standing as the member of parliament, rather than parachuting in a woman.

    Besides looking at the financial barriers to entry for women in politics, I think beginning the withdrawal of all taxpayer funds from religious organisations, including faith schools, could also help. Our free school policy is not helping this.

  • The major problem is the culture of campaigning, to be a parliamentary candidate for our party you need to literally safe your life to it, body and soul; generally speaking, the only group with the time, money and insane personality required to do this (at least, on mass) are white middle class males. Thus, this group is disproportionately represented in our parliamentary group.

  • Matthew Huntbach 11th Jun '13 - 11:59am

    Eddie Sammon

    I think beginning the withdrawal of all taxpayer funds from religious organisations, including faith schools, could also help.

    Perhaps you could explain how this links to the subject under discussion here, because I have tried to think of how this comment might be relevant to it, but it has defeated me.

  • Eddie Sammon 11th Jun '13 - 5:17pm

    Matthew, I just think many religions portray women as less suitable for power than men. I am not a militant atheist, as you will remember I am very tolerant to religious objections for gay marriage, but I just think religion should be privately funded.

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