Tag Archives: diversity

Baroness Sal Brinton writes…Electing diverse MPs

One of the most shocking events of the 2015 General Election night was the loss of our top held and target seats with women and BAME candidates, which resulted in an entirely pale and male parliamentary party. Members were rightly upset by this, and there has been much discussion about what steps the party needs to take to ensure that in 2020 and beyond our party looks like the countries and communities we represent. Top seats are already beginning the process of selecting Westminster candidates for 2020. We can’t afford to delay any arrangement, hence the motion coming to York Conference.

Under our current constitution, these arrangements are the responsibility of the three state parties. We hope members will let their state party officers know their views as well as responding to the Federal consultation and debate in York.

In the governance consultation response last autumn the Federal Executive received many comments and proposals saying that ‘something must be done – doing nothing is not an option’. In fact it was one of the top topics members wrote in about. FE and the Joint States Candidates Committee has investigated possible options, and the resulting motion that will be debated at York Spring Conference sets out a wide range of proposals, including limited application of All Women Shortlists (AWS). We know members have divided views on the issue of AWS, but it is important that the debate before and at conference is much broader, because it includes support for other under-represented groups. Indeed, not every member of FE supports all the details in the motion, but there was broad acceptance that it was right for members to debate and vote on this. You can see the full motion here.

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Willie Rennie: Why I need you to back me on diversity

Willie Rennie has made clear that he wants to see a more diverse team of parliamentarians elected at all levels over the next 5 years. Today, he has emailed Scottish Party members to set out the case for them to back his plans at Scottish Party Conference in three weeks’ time.

His email is copied below:

In periods of adversity organisations have opportunities to renew, refresh and reorganise to prepare for future successes. For the Scottish Liberal Democrats that opportunity is to build a team of candidates in winnable seats that is more reflective of society.

It cannot be a mark of a system of equality and opportunity that only five of the thirty six new parliamentarians in the last twenty years were women. Yet that is what our current system has produced and I am determined to change it.

Our conference in Edinburgh later this month will have a choice. We can try, yet again, to achieve more balance amongst our future parliamentarians with the same system that has delivered white, male dominated parliamentary groups since the war (No, I’m wrong. It’s forever).

Or we can back the proposals that I have developed with a group of wise and experienced campaigners. These campaigners were sceptical but have now developed a package that will get results. Sheila Ritchie, Sophie Bridger, Fred Macintosh and Jo Swinson were all against such action in the past. In fact many spoke up at conferences against such measures. The motion we will debate has been crafted by them and has their endorsement.

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Tim Farron talks Wogan, refugees, EU and diversity on Murnaghan

Tim Farron was on Sky News Murnaghan this morning. It was quite refreshing to hear him introduced as “leading the charge” on the refugee crisis. It is actually blindingly obvious that we have been, but it’s not so often acknowledged.

The Murnaghan programme provides very helpful transcripts of their interviews, for which I am very grateful.

Terry Wogan

He was interviewed only an hour or so after the news that Terry Wogan had died and was asked for his reaction:

I am genuinely very, very upset. He formed an enormous part of my childhood, interviewing all sorts of people on his TV show but also the radio programmes, he was a peculiar and unique individual who appeals both to me – somebody who is obsessed with pop music – and my grandparents at the same time and I think that was his great strength, he spoke without arrogance or pomposity and he was a kind of warm and genuine figure in your living room and around the breakfast table and we’ll all very much miss him.

Refugee crisis

On refugees, he was asked if we should avoid creating a “pull factor:. He was clear that the way to do this was by creating safe and legal routes for refugees.

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Baroness Lindsay Northover writes…Our MPs must include women as well as men

We are an internationalist party.  We believe in human rights.  Our constitution commits us to equality, as well as liberty and community.

So how can it be that we, the Lib Dems of all parties, have absolutely no women MPs?  Zero.  0.0%.

Round the world, countries and parties have addressed the paucity of women in elected positions. Our sister parties have done so. We have a history of trying to do so – but trying is not the same as succeeding.  That must change now. I am extremely glad that our Party President, Sal Brinton, and our party leader, Tim Farron, are making clear that change must happen.

The SDP and then the Lib Dems led with affirmative action until the late 1990s.  Then Labour sailed past us with women-only shortlists.  They transformed their party – and the UK Parliament. Now their Commons party is 44% women.  Even the Conservatives are almost 21%.

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Let’s all make conference more financially diverse.

Tackling inequality is one of my greatest passions, it quite literally gets me out of bed in the morning.

It’s also quite well established now that the more representative decisions making bodies are, the more all of us benefit, no matter if we belong to an underrepresented group or not. The past decade has been a historical time in politics for minorities and activist groups have many proud achievements to celebrate in the name of diversity (yet of course, we still have so very far to go), but there’s one spectrum of diversity that’s not doing so well lately, and we don’t really appear to be tackling it head on, and that’s financial diversity.

Politics favours the rich. Not just because we aren’t doing enough to create a more fair society, but because Parliament is the most unrepresentative forum you could imagine, and by design: unless you’ve got a spare £34k knocking about, as Isabel Hardman estimated in the Spectator last year, you’d better be prepared to work 50 hours a week and volunteer maybe 20 on top of that if you want a chance of ever standing as a parliamentary candidate.

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We need to make internal selections affordable for all

What makes a great candidate? It can be an incredibly demanding job and I imagine it’s lots of things. A strong ability to communicate, to listen, to represent people effectively. To demonstrate generous leadership, to inspire and to continually learn. These are all what I’d consider the headlines.

What about fundraising? It’s certainly vital – but I’d argue that not only is it not the single *biggest* priority.  It’s certainly not more important than the above qualities. It’s one of the skills that can most often be generated truly as a team effort whilst potentially being most successful when lead by the candidate themselves.

I learnt so much during the recent GLA London List Election. As a first timer I was clearly delighted with the result and I loved the opportunity to speak to literally thousands of members. Having phone canvassed for lots of candidates as part of the Team 2015 efforts in the General Election, it was a really interesting next step to be phoning and listening to people’s concerns as the potential candidate myself.

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How can we support candidates who can’t afford to stand for office?

With the #LibDemFightback still continuing after the announcement of our new Leader and by-elections happening almost every week across the country and the party making net gains, campaigners are now planning for next year’s local elections up and down the country. We may be under 5 years away from 2020, with a new vision and a path for the party to be decided, but what about candidates who want to stand for election but can’t  because they can’t afford to?

I write in response to last week’s article by Mark Argent regarding the financial exclusion of candidates. I thought about standing in the last election, but I didn’t feel it was the right time and I thought I didn’t have the finances I would need. There may be many prospective candidates wishing to stand for parliamentary seats, but feel they could not because they couldn’t afford to run a campaign for several months.

We as a party do need to look at the wider members within the party, especially the 17,000+ new members who could potentially be the next parliamentary candidate for their constituency. But what if they couldn’t financially contribute to the campaign? How should the party help them?

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