Tag Archives: gender balance

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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Who runs the World?

I had an absolutely brilliant day on Thursday at the first ever national Scottish Conference organised by the Women 50/50 Campaign and Engender entitled Who runs the World.

Women from all over the country gathered in Edinburgh’s MacDonald Hotel to discuss politics, the media, getting involved in councils and public appointments and ensuring that all areas of our public and political life had at least 50% women running them. There was a keynote speech from First Minister Nicola Sturgeon who said that the Women 50/50 campaign was one of the most significant campaigns in Scotland today.

I’m going to write in more detail about some of the sessions later but here are some of the highlights.

How sexism stops women fulfilling their ambitions

There were two panel sessions during the day. The first, in the morning, discussed participation in and portrayal of women in the media. One of the journalists on the panel, Gina Davidson, told us how she had wanted to the crime reporting job on the paper she was working for. She was turned down for that and given health. Conservative MSP Mary Scanlon had come into Parliament desperate to get on the Audit Committee. Her request was denied by the leadership and she ended up with health, a subject that she knew nothing about. Having said that, she has developed quite an affinity with it – she intends to spend her retirement volunteering for a mental health project. Even so, women are often directed into areas traditionally seen as theirs.

Working across parties

It’s great when women from all parties get together. We find out that we share a lot of the same frustrations and come across the same behaviours across politics. There was some talk on whether there should be a formal Women’s Caucus at Holyrood, something that the MSPs there thought could be useful. There are already examples of cross party working. Labour leader Kezia Dugdale talked about having a quiet word with then Employment Minister Angela Constance (also on the panel) after she’d noticed that all the photos on the construction page of Skills Development Scotland showed men wearing hard hats. Angela went and got it changed.

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LDVideo: The first day in office of a Liberal Prime Minister

This is not the stuff of far flung fantasy. This actually happened, this week, in Canada, to a Liberal Party that’s fought its way back from devastating election defeats.

Here are two things that you should watch and take heart from.

First of all, a 24 minute behind the scenes video filmed by CBC of Justin Trudeau’s first day in office. In parts it has the feel of an episode of The West Wing, but our absolute favourite moment is when he puts down the reporter for being disparaging about the Cabinet travelling on a bus, reminding him that this is how many Canadians get to work. Enjoy.

Secondly, his great response when asked why he’d produced a gender balanced Cabinet. “Because it’s 2015.” By half way through the second decade of the 21st century, you would expect equality and it’s great that he (and Nicola Sturgeon) have set such good examples while remembering that Nick Clegg couldn’t even put one woman in the UK Cabinet when he had the chance.

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I am not my gender

 

I’ve written about this on the Lib Dem Voice before so I apologise if I’m repeating myself but once again we’re discussing the idea that we need to get more women into politics as parliamentarians. Once again I’ll repeat myself in saying that this is not something I disagree with. But to have Willie Rennie say “I know many in the party instinctively do not favour positive action but I need to be frank with you. Nothing else has worked.” is actually incredibly concerning for me.

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Willie Rennie to highlight gender balance in his Conference speech

We know that Willie Rennie is determined to improve the appalling gender balance record of the Scottish Liberal Democrats. He has to persuade a party which has historically rejected any proposals for positive action in candidate selection to adopt proposals to be drawn up by a working group made up of himself, Jo Swinson, Sophie Bridger, Sheila Ritchie and Fred Mackintosh. The ultimate aim is for half of Scotland’s Liberal Democrat parliamentarians to be women within 6 years.

The proposals will be debated at the Scottish Party’s Spring Conference just a few weeks before next year’s Holyrood elections. You can’t accuse Willie of not being willing to take a risk. He will be talking about it in Saturday’s speech to Autumn Conference too:

I want our party to change.

All our MPs in the United Kingdom are men. And four out of our five MSPs are men too.

I know many in the party instinctively do not favour positive action but I need to be frank with you.  Nothing else has worked.

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What the 2015 Sex and Power report has to say about the Liberal Democrats

The 2015 Sex and Power report published by the Counting Women In coalition came out this week. It looks in detail at the number of women candidates put forward by each party and the number of MPs elected.

It’s not fun to read if you’re a Liberal Democrat for obvious reasons. It’s not just that we have an all white middle aged male party in the Commons, it’s that we’re not making nearly enough progress to redress the imbalance. The proportion of women in our target seats should be much higher than 50/50 if we are serious about improving gender balance.

What’s particularly galling is a graph that shows that our number of women MPs elected peaked in 1987 and we’ve been going yo-yoing ever since at a much lower level.

Lib Dem graph from Sex and Power Report 2015

This is what the report had to say about us:

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A woman’s place at Conservative Party Conference – walking with Dave, not talking on panels

Two interesting reports from Conservative Party Conference. First, Isabel Hardman writes for the Spectator that new MPs, many of them highly qualified professional people, are not taking kindly to being put on a rota for walking with David Cameron between buildings. Yes, dear readers, such a thing actually existms.

It appears that the women are none too pleased at being used as “arm candy” while the men are annoyed at being excluded:

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 107 Comments
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