Tag Archives: diversity

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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Jo Swinson writes…Dissolution honours make the contribution of women look invisible

Congratulations to all of the new Liberal Democrat Peers announced today.  They will strengthen our existing excellent team in the Lords, fighting for a democratically elected second chamber while in the meantime using their power to provide a check on the government and its worrying assaults on the poor, on our civil liberties, and on the environment.

It’s also good to see recognition for those in our party who have served our communities and our country so well – Sir Vince Cable, Dame Annette Brooke, Ben Williams OBE and others.

What is depressing and wearily familiar, however, is the missing women.

But surely our Lords list is balanced?  5 out of the 11 nominations (45%) for the peerage go to women, which is progress I suppose – of the 40 people nominated to the Lords under Nick Clegg’s leadership, just 17 (43%) were women.

And 45% women wouldn’t be so bad if the existing Lords group was well-balanced, but of our 101 Peers, just 35% are women – so we’re still far from equality.

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Candidates and financial exclusion

I’ve seen a number of comments recently about the financial cost of being a candidate. That is particularly sharp with people standing for parliament, but not limited to them.

As a party, we try to take diversity seriously. This is about justice and Liberal Democrat values. It’s pragmatic, in that we’re all diminished if we casually discard the talents of people from disadvantaged groups. There is also a bigger challenge: the changes we push for in society have to be made within the party and in our choice of candidates. Addressing problems this creates may not be easy, but is a first step to bringing change more widely. Addressing any problems this creates also helps us find ways to address barriers to change more widely.

One of the knotty points is around wealth.

The targeting of seats is unavoidable under our present electoral system, so there is no way round the fact that a high proportion of party’s resources has to be directed to winnable seats.

Away from target seats, the financial situation on candidates can be really difficult, especially when local parties are small and have limited resources. Yet it is also important to fight these seats, both to build up the party where it is presently less strong, and to be serious about being a potential party of government. I’ve seen guidance that potential candidates should not be asked what they can contribute financially to their campaign, as this discriminates against the less wealthy. But most parliamentary candidates work very hard in an election campaign and the pressure to end up putting more personal resources into the campaign can be intense — even if that pressure begins with them rather than anyone else. Anecdotes include someone saying they hoped there wouldn’t be another election soon as they had been self-funding and were more-or-less wiped out, and an agent asking the candidate to provide the deposit two days before the nomination form was to go in as if this was a perfectly reasonable request (and failing to register for their regional party’s deposit guarantee scheme).

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Two appalling examples of lack of diversity in our public services

Before anyone mentions it, yes, I do know that the Liberal Democrats’ parliamentary gender balance is horrendous everywhere except Wales and Europe,the latter being because we only have one MEP. Stuff must be done to resolve this, but that’s not the point of this post.

This week, two examples of lack of diversity in our public services have come to light. The first has been revealed by the Scottish Liberal Democrats. Only 1% of Scotland’s Police Officers identify as coming from a BAME background – and none make it to the highest grades in the force.

Figures obtained using freedom of information laws found that – despite 7.6 percent of Scotland’s population being BAME – there are no BAME officers in the top two ranks and only two across the top four ranks held by the 446 most senior officers in Scotland.

In total, there are only 175 BAME officers out of a total 17,515 police officers.

Figures for police staff showed that there are no BAME in the top five grades, and only 69 out of 5963 staff overall.

Commenting, Scottish Liberal Democrat justice spokesperson Alison McInnes MSP said:

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New access fund for London candidates – how you can help

We all know standing as a candidate involves huge personal and financial sacrifices. I’m always grateful to everyone who puts themselves forward – whether as a “paper” candidate flying the flag for the party, or even as a target seat candidate dedicating all hours of the day to the party.

For next year’s elections in London we will shortly be selecting our Mayoral candidate and 25 candidates for the London Assembly. Those candidates’ ability to lead and motivate our activists and to promote our messages is going to be critical to our performance at these elections. And the high profile London elections are an early opportunity to show the Lib Dem fightback in action.

But it is also critical that our field of candidates reflects the diversity of London in all its aspects.

We know our ability to communicate with all Londoners will be strengthened by presenting a field of candidates who reflect the city’s diversity. But we also understand the costs and sacrifices involved in attending hustings, community events, and local party campaign days.

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Opinion: Getting diverse in the arts

Last month, I was invited by my friend Danny Lee  Wynter to an event he had organised at the National Theatre called Act for Change. It’s a movement that was set up in response to a TV Advert in 2014 which trailed the upcoming season of TV but failed to feature a single BAME performer or disabled artist. AfC campaigns on a platform that the arts are for everyone, regardless of race, gender, class, sexual orientation, age or disability, and they should reflect the societies we live in. Sound familiar to problems in any other places of work?

The event at the National was wonderful, eye opening and angry all in different measures. Chaired by Shami Chakrabati with a host of interesting voices on the panel including the actor Adrian Lester who told a wonderful story about his daughter commenting on the lack of diversity among Hobbits whilst they watched together the Lord of the Rings trilogy. He tried to reason with her until she pointed out an exact passage in Tolkein’s books in which the hobbits are described as being dark skinned which had just been ignored in the casting process.

I think Phyllida Lloyd summed the situation up best in the event when she answered a question by saying:

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Lib Dem Leadership: Farron and Lamb in diversity hustings

Diversity Hustings GlasgowIn a normal election, hustings can be a great place to spot key differences between candidates and find where they stand on various areas of policy. Internally, however, there’s often a lot of overlap between the candidates’ values and hustings can become a little ‘same old, same old’. For this reason, Scottish Lib Dem Women teamed up with Ethnic Minorities Liberal Democrats, Liberal Youth Scotland, and LGBT+ to organise an event in Scotland that wasn’t about policy but was about one specific area instead: diversity, both within and outwith the party.

This is a topic seen far too often as a fringe issue or a minor problem, so it was great to have a full two-hour discussion that allowed us to touch on a great number of areas under the umbrella of diversity. There was a lot of interest in the event so we streamed it online and also took questions through Google Hangouts, Facebook, and Twitter.

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Daisy Cooper writes… Building a diverse party: my challenge to leadership candidates

Last year, I ran for Party President on a platform of party reform, with a focus on diversity. Now that all eight of our remaining MPs are white, middle-aged, middle class men, that reform agenda is even more important than before.

I’m asking both declared leadership candidates – Tim Farron and Norman Lamb – whether and to what extent they will commit to these achievable measures.

1. Will you promise to take a zero tolerance approach to inappropriate behaviour, insisting that all elected representatives and everyone in your team has a “responsibility to act” on any and all anecdotal and substantive evidence that reaches them?

2. Will you promise to appoint at least one recognised senior Disability Activist, as a spokesperson for the party (possibly as a Peer)? This person may well be required to speak out against Tory cuts that could impact disproportionately on disabled people.

3. Will you promise to support a motion to Conference to ring-fence money to support the election of at least one BAME candidate to Parliament in 2020, or similar ideas towards the same goal?

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Opinion: An embarrassing lack of diversity

The lack of Black and Asian members at federal conference was depressing and embarrassing.

Glasgow was the most racially undiverse Lib Dem conference since I joined in 2006. Every TV scan of the audience showed a sea of white faces, even for equality debates. The day I went was no different.

The message it sent Britain was that we are not a party that reflects modern multicultural society, and therefore probably don’t care much for it.

To add insult, the Federal Executive (FE) proposed committee quotas for women while ignoring BAME and other under-represented groups.

Under this system the three BAME men would all have lost their places to, in all probability, white women. The only ethnic minority left would be Pauline Pearce on Federal Conference Committee (FCC).

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The big difference between what Olly Grender said and what the Mirror said she said

The Mirror ran a big splash yesterday saying that Liberal Democrat peer Olly Grender was complaining that her House of Lords allowance is insufficient. “We struggle to get by on £300 per day tax free allowance” screams the headline.

If you actually look at the substance of the story, there is absolutely nothing to substantiate  that total misrepresentation of what she was saying. They even run a little poll asking if you could get by on £300 tax free.

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Opinion: Kippers’ squeals show we are a more liberal country

UKIP logoPoor judgment: that’s the reason UKIP MEP Janice Atkinson has given for referring to a Thai-born supporter as “ting tong from somewhere”. I was “completely tired out”: that’s how Farage explained his statement during the European election campaign that he’d be concerned if Romanians moved in next door. Excuses, excuses.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t ever consider whether or not to use a racial epithet. I don’t think to myself, on balance I judge it right to refer to that person as …

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Cambridge Liberal Democrat Sarah Brown up for a National Diversity Award

Sarah_Brown_(politician)Voting is currently underway for the National Diversity Awards 2014. These annual awards, whose headline sponsors are Microsoft and The Guardian, are a celebration of those in the UK who have shown an outstanding devotion to enhancing equality, diversity and inclusion.

This year I nominated fellow Lib Dem Sarah Brown for the LGBT Positive Role Model Award. Sarah has just ended a term as a Cambridge City Councillor and headed up their leisure and community services as the councillor in charge. She was one of the only openly trans elected …

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Farron calls for better sex education to protect children from inappropriate material

It’s not often these days that the comments underneath a newspaper’s online article are supportive of the Liberal Democrats. However, virtually every commenter in this Independent article backed the party’s stand on filters which are aimed at restricting access to content deemed in appropriate for children but in reality block a great deal more. Since they were activated, we’ve reported that they’ve blocked access to the LGBT+ Lib  Dems’ section of the Liberal Democrats’ website and the site of St Mary’s Cathedral in Glasgow.

Tim Farron’s and Julian Huppert’s motion to Spring Conference on a Digital Bill of …

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Porn filters block cathedral website, including invite to crib service

Since BT activated its porn filters, we’ve seen many examples of perfectly acceptable sites being blocked. Alisdair Calder McGregor reported last week that the LGBT+ Liberal Democrats site, hardly a den of debauchery, had fallen victim to BT’s algorithims.

The latest, and best example to date in my view is the blocking of Glasgow’s St Mary’s Cathedral website and the personal blog of its Provost, the Very Rev Kelvin Holdsworth, as he told us on Twitter.

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Porn blocking comes in… and blocks the LGBT+LD website as porn

As many readers will remember, during the debate on motion F17 at Autumn Conference many speeches were made by technically inclined LibDem members describing how the proposed porn blocks would not work, and in particular would misclassify and block legitimate websites as containing pornographic content.

Just in case we needed confirmation that we were right, TalkTalk have provided it… by classifying the LGBT+LD portion of the party website as porn. In addition, the website of LGBT charity “London Friend” has been blocked. These are not isolated incidents. Wired has a more in-depth …

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Opinion: Clegg’s big fat gypsy blunder

Once a week I stay with a relative in South London. I am not talking here about Nick Clegg’s South London (a Putney, Wimbledon or Clapham) but about a very different South London – the border between Camberwell and Peckham. The Guardian-reading euphemism would be that Camberwell and Peckham are “vibrant and diverse” places. The upshot of some of that diversity is that at all times of the night people hang around chatting in the street, especially in the summer. In a ground floor flat late at night it sometimes feels a bit intimidating. I have never talked about this …

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Candidate news for those with disabilities

As some of our readers may already be aware, the Government has set up the Access to Elected Office Fund, as part of its Access to Elected Office Strategy, to help pay the disability-related costs that disabled people standing for elected office might face. The fund is open to all disabled people who wish to be selected as a candidate in an election, or who have already been selected and are standing in an election.

Candidates may apply for money from the fund to meet the costs of disability-related support needed to stand for elected office, e.g. costs related to …

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Next week in the Lords: 8-11 January

Whilst rumours of a list of new Peers swirls around the Palace of Westminster, the Lords returns to work on Tuesday, and a somewhat lop-sided week continues through to Friday in order to fit in the postponed debate on Leveson.
Never let it be said though that the Lords needs a gentle warm-up before asking the difficult questions. Tuesday sees oral questions on airport capacity in London, housebuilding in South East England and the effect of the ‘fiscal cliff’ solution on the UK economy, before the Growth and Infrastructure …

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Positive action for women on Westminster shortlists

The English Candidates Committee (ECC) has decided to retain positive action measures to address the under-representation of women in the Parliamentary Party.

Clause 24 in the Westminster Rules for Selection of Parliamentary Candidates stipulates that where the ECC has decided to adopt positive action arrangements which affect a shortlist, those arrangements shall be observed by the Returning Officer and shortlisting committee as if they were contained in this Rule.

The provision is that:

In strategic seats and aspiring strategic seats (those that have ‘opted up’ to the full selection process):

    a shortlist of three candidates must contain a minimum of one woman
    a shortlist of

Posted in News, Party policy and internal matters and Selection news | Also tagged and | 35 Comments

Opinion: the Government’s new integration strategy – when are we going to learn?

The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) recently published and launched its new integration strategy – “Creating the Conditions for Integration”. Following discussions with many concerned Lib Dem party members and feedback from Black Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) community organisations involved in race equality work, I am now more convinced than ever that this document does little to address the persistent racial inequalities that exist across the nation. The Government for their part are trumpeting this publication as equivalent to a race equality strategy – although one which has diminishing credibility within BAME communities up and down the …

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Opinion: Lib Dem Cabinet Ministers – surely we can do better than this?

When the great British public look at their leaders, what do they think? In the unlikely event it’s anything other than ‘what have we done?’, it’s probably indifference or, occasionally, murder. The current crop of Lib Dem Cabinet Ministers do nothing to dispel these opinions. Chris Huhne’s sadly justified resignation provided an opportunity to change our public image for the better. This opportunity was not taken.

As has been pointed out, Ed Davey’s appointment as Huhne’s replacement has removed a ‘big beast’ from Cabinet: someone who can stand up for a broader range of party opinion. However, his appointment …

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The fallout from Chris Huhne’s resignation

I’ve been busy with the media yesterday and today giving my take on Chris Huhne’s resignation, so here are the two main highlights if you missed them:

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Lynne Featherstone MP writes… We do not just elect individuals, we elect people to be members of a team

Home Office minister Lynne Featherstone writes a monthly column for one of her local newspapers. Here is the latest edition, looking at Parliamentary representation.

Our Parliament has come a long way in recent years. In fact, watching ‘The Iron Lady’ with Margaret Thatcher sticking out like a blue female sore thumb amongst the total male greyness of the then chamber – it reminded me of how recently in history this establishment was nearly all male.

However, despite real progress, it is still nowhere near reflecting the percentage of women in the country – and that is without even starting to talk about …

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The Lib Dem Candidates Leadership Programme – a participant’s view

Last weekend marked the official start of the Candidate Leadership Programme, with a residential training weekend in Greenwich. For many, this Programme marks an important shift in thinking to improve the diversity of our Parliamentary Party. I write this piece to give a participant’s point of view.

Despite efforts for years to get candidates from diverse backgrounds to become approved, sadly, and not without great effort on behalf of organisations such as the Campaign for Gender Balance (CGB), the result did not show in terms of elected Parliamentarians.

The Leadership Programme is designed to focus on the steps post-approval and selection, to …

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The Leadership Programme: the first 11

The all-member Liberal Democrat News currently in the post to party members includes this update on the party’s Leadership Programme, designed to support candidates from under-represented groups:

Of the first 11 candidates, five are women, three from black and minority ethnic backgrounds, three have disabilities. There is one LGBT candidate and five of the 11 come from low socio-economic backgrounds … we have four candidates on the Programme so far who are under 30.

The scheme is due to expand to support at least 30 people.

You can get a subscription to receive each weekly edition of Liberal Democrat News here.

Posted in Party policy and internal matters | Also tagged and | 2 Comments

Opinion: Tackling the myths about that Scottish Diversity motion

I’ve seen a few comments online over the past few days insinuating that the Scottish Liberal Democrats don’t care about improving diversity in the wake of a motion passed at the recent Scottish Conference after a passionate debate and a protracted and complex series of votes.

I want to correct some myths about what happened. Scottish Women Liberal Democrats (SWLD) put forward a motion containing a wide ranging series of measures. Most of these were uncontroversial. Who can argue with making sure that the concerns of women are hardwired into the policy process?

The first main points of contention were over the …

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Opinion: Why the Lib Dems need all-women shortlists

In his Lib Dem Voice piece “Too male and too pale” – Why shortlists and the Leadership Programme are not the answer, Paul Head states that he is totally opposed to all-women shortlists (AWS) because they ‘ignore the real problem’ that this reflects in the party as a whole; and that we need to engage more with women and BAME people on a grassroots level and change from below.

This is a sensible argument, and is something that we should strive for. However, I believe that there is a place for AWS in the Liberal Democrats, despite the fact that …

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The Independent View: Evidence that candidates make a difference

The Liberal Democrats in England took an important step in 2007 when they decided to review the approval process for parliamentary candidates. The aim was to develop a modern system capable of identifying, supporting and developing the best possible political talent in order to ensure the Party could field candidates with the qualities, skills and values needed to build public support and win seats.

Although change can take a long time in politics, four years on it is hard not to be impressed at what the Party has achieved.

Posted in Party policy and internal matters and The Independent View | Also tagged and | 3 Comments

Can you guess who said what?

Take two people: one a successful female businesswoman and one a male Tory MP.

Then take two public statements: one calling female Cabinet members “an ugly bunch” and “I could not look at them”; the other calling for companies to be better at ending the male dominance of the boardroom.

Who do you think would have said which…?

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Recent Comments

  • User AvatarDavid Raw 30th Nov - 8:14pm
    Question 1 with a ratio of 67 No to 24 YES is the telling one. That's what will be debated in the H of C....
  • User AvatarTerry 30th Nov - 8:02pm
    Missed this poll, but the most popular answers are broadly in line with my views. It is difficult to see how Tim's five tests have...
  • User AvatarDave Orbison 30th Nov - 7:55pm
    Interesting that it is fairly similar to the Labour Party result. I applaud any attempts to consult with the membership of any party to determine...
  • User AvatarCaron Lindsay 30th Nov - 7:11pm
    I hardly think so - it was actually open for 25 hours, and given that the vote is on Wednesday, we needed to get a...
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    What I find difficult to accept with Nick"s viewpoint, after the deaths of 131 innocent people in France, it could have easily been London, Bristol...
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    Social Liberal: I would contend that, in the extent of the territory that it covers and in its apparent aim of widening the conflict, ISIS...