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 help participants from under-represented groups get selected and then win. Participants will receive an MP mentor, a Party mentor and a business mentor, along with specialised training that results in a qualification from the Institute of Leadership and Management. This weekend focused on the areas of advanced leadership and fundraising, selection and career progression.

I found it all extraordinarily useful. This is the first time this type of support has been offered in such an organized way, and my hope as the Deputy Chair of the Parliamentary Candidate Association is that this will develop best practice that will ultimately be available to all candidates.

However, this Programme was set up and the criteria for eligibility were set and overwhelmingly passed by Conference, in recognition of the issues that the Party faces in terms of representation in the Parliamentary Party. That fact is extremely important to me as a participant on the programme – it’s a push from the membership, not a pull from above. There is no doubt that there is significant support from the Parliamentary Party, with many of our ministers volunteering to be mentors, and Nick Clegg coming to meet us yesterday.

Vitally though, the local party will make the ultimate decision as to whether I am right for their seat. We are indeed getting extra help to prepare to lead a target campaign, but in the end it is up to us to prove we are the right women and men for the job. I would not be here if it was any other way.

Every single candidate on the Programme recognises that we are going to have to work incredibly hard to achieve our ambitions, and we are all completely committed to doing what it takes to lead a team into the next General Election. Whilst we all are proud to be part of the Programme and look forward to developing our skills over the next three years, none of us take anything for granted. I believe that the Programme will make us all better candidates and, I hope, representatives that the Liberal Democrats can be proud of.

* Layla Moran is a physics teacher in Oxford and Parliamentary Candidate for Oxford West and Abingdon.

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44 Comments

  • Meral Hussein Ece 16th Jan '12 - 5:52pm

    Leyla, firstly congratulations to you and all those who have graduated to the Leadership Programme list.
    While chair of EMLD, I pushed for this, and together with EMLD, we laid the foundations for this to happen.
    Lester makes a very good point. There are a number of people on the Leadership List, who have always spoken out and opposed any positive action methods (some vociferously). So am surprised (though pleased) they would want to be included on this programme. It demonstrates that we in EMLD with our limited resources, were definitely right to campaign, and lead the way for this. I wish all the Candidates every success.

  • Simon McGrath 16th Jan '12 - 6:06pm

    Sounds like a great programme. What a pity we can’t let people be selected for it on grounds of ability rather than because of their sexuality/sex/ race etc/ How is this consistent with the party constitution which says we are against discrimination?

  • Agree with Simon. Any programme that increases the diversity of the party is to be welcomed, although I too am surprised that some of the candidates on the programme were vociferously against these measures when they were debated at conference. However, I would be interested to know what steps the party and the Parliamentary Candidates Association (is that body still functioning?) are going to take to increase the training opportunities available to all approved candidates. It is in the interests of the party that all candidates are sufficiently trained and mentored; at the moment this does not happen. Steps also need to be taken to increase the age profile and work background of candidates – in all parties, too many young candidates who have graduated through the parliamentary researcher route.

  • Tam Langley 16th Jan '12 - 9:12pm

    Layla delighted to hear you’re finding the programme useful and thank you for giving so much of your time to taking part as I know it’s a big commitment. We need our women and BAME candidates to be fully supported so that our party can show it really is a meritocracy. Simon you dont really think white men are hugely more competent than everyone else do you? No? Then clearly there are unfair barriers to women and BAME candidates coming through, see dinti batstones research for examples. So programmes like this are needed to try to level the playing field – hence not discriminatory.

  • Jonathan Hunt 16th Jan '12 - 9:54pm

    The law of the land states that it is permitted, and desirable, for positive action measures (as opposed to positive discrimination) to be used to reverse the actual discrimination that has been the norm for centuries. We white men have been favoured at the expense of white women and black and ethnic minority people, certainly in politics.

    Many hundreds of employers have used training, mentoring, fast-tracking and measures to reverse previous discrimination to ensure they are using the talents of all their people rather than just the pale, male and stale.

    While that includes the other two main parties, sadly it does not include ours. The last two positive action measures I mention are not allowed by the Liberal Democrats or its so-called Diversity Group.

    The Leadership Programme will hopefully lead to at least one BME candidate being elected. We should also be concerned about diversity at the local level, and using positive action to ensure the party is better able to utilise the considerable talents of BME members to become councillors and party officers.

    The sooner the party faces up to this omission, the happier and more effective we will all be. But I am not sure about our diversity dinosaurs and Midsomer myopes who are too willing to cry discrimination if non-whire people are being helped. In reality they care little about discrimination — until black people are being helped to overcome vast prejudice and bigotry.

    This form of insidious racism must be identified and exposed wherever and whenever it raises its ugly head.

  • Cllr Steve Bradley 17th Jan '12 - 12:36am

    I was told by the PCA at Autumn Conference that within the party approx 30% of people seeking selections as PPCs are female ; of those approx 30% manage to get selected ; and of those approx 30% get succesfully elected. I don’t know what the timeframe involved was, or whether it referred only to PPCs or also cllrs as well. Is this the case ? If so – it suggests that the real problem we have as a party rests in getting more female candidates onto the conveyor belt towards public office in the first place, rather than any under-performance or bias in selection contests.

  • Cllr Steve Bradley 17th Jan '12 - 12:37am

    Forgot to add – congratulations Layla ! :o) I haven’t heard all the names of those on the LP, but there are good people on there from the names I have heard.

  • I feel compelled to write to echo the view outlined by Layla’s excellent article above and, in light of some of the comments made, make a plea to all my fellow Liberal Democrats, simply:

    Please, support this programme…

    It would be very easy to throw brickbats at it and you know what, some of those might have sharp enough edges to draw blood. But SURELY none of us is happy with the status quo: female MPs = 7 ; ethnic minority MPs = 0… Whilst we might argue about the method required to address this imbalance, I’ve yet to meet anyone within the party who doesn’t want the same thing and that is for our party, and in particular our Parliamentary party, to reflect and represent what modern Britain looks and feels like today. So something needed to be done and we now have a cohort of leaders from diverse backgrounds who have demonstrated they have what it takes to make it in the political arena.

    Make no mistake – it’s in our opponents interests to pull out every dirty trick in the book to hold us back or knock us off course. So it’s imperative that everyone in the party pulls together to support this scheme. Some may not like it because it offends their sense of fairness… I can see where they are coming from (although I don’t agree)… Some might not like it because of some perceived or real conflict with the constitution… I don’t understand that I’m afraid… But as Liberal Democrats there is ONE thing we can all believe in and that is democracy. The CLP was put before our main policy making body, our Conference, and was passed OVERWHELMINGLY by voting reps from across the land. The CLP is the will of the party and democracy in action. So I’m not asking everyone to love it… I just hope that we can all respect it.

    As I’ve said before, we’re at the beginning of an almighty battle with our opponents and it’s is going to get nasty. The last thing we need is for our own people to start picking at the seam of our party policies, structures and representatives. Let’s turn our “guns” on our opponents, not on ourselves. We are so much stronger together than we are apart and together we can help change not just our party but the very nature of British politics as a whole.

  • Chris Smith 17th Jan '12 - 9:19am

    Congratulations Layla and great that it was hosted in our local patch down here in Greenwich.

    I went through the approval process successfully last year myself, primarily to give the local party a bigger choice next time. However as I said on my approval day I tick every worst box imaginable, white, male, middle class, middle aged, Oxbridge educated and worked in the City for a while!! Frankly I would much prefer to campaign for a woman/minority candidate than stand myself and fill our party/Parliament with more people like me. However the local party must have the final say and ability must top the list of credentials – I would prefer there to be a bias towards women/minorities if ability was equal though. As it happens in the local elections round here women do well for us, though I would like to discriminate more on the basis of the alphabet, so if there are any Abigail Aardvaaks who can top our ballot papers please get in touch!

  • jenny barnes 17th Jan '12 - 9:55am

    Simon – as you’re white, male, middle class, etc. you are more than likely unaware of your privilege. Indeed, some of your speeches at conference last year are evidence of that. Why do you think women and BME people don’t apply as often as people like you? Clue, it’s not because they have no ability.

  • Layla, congratulations on being part of the programme. I fully support this, and like many other women, have hoped that the situation would correct itself over years, but it hasn’t. Indeed of the three main parties we now have the worst showing of women and BAME MPs. Other parties have used positive discrimination and A lists to ensure that good candidates from minority groups are selected to safe seats. Lib Dems don’t have safe seats and it is an uphill struggle to retain an apparently safe seat on the retirement of the sitting MP. As has been said above the problem is at both ends of the process – getting enough minority candidates to become approved candidates, and also to ensure that those who are clearly MP material get every opportunity to become MPs. I know from my own experience that this requires huge sacrifices and upheaval to become established in a potentially winnable seat. It’s true that some MPs have been able to ‘grow their own’ seats but to be honest do we all have that many years. If we expect voters from all parts of our diverse community to support us, it is becoming a matter of urgency that we start to look like the diverse party deserving of that support. In my constituency we will be selecting a new PPC sometime in the next year. I want that person to be someone who can be truly representative of our party. With our LD cabinet members all looking remarkably similar something must change soon.

  • Simon – as you will know the party constitution also states:

    “We are determined to strengthen the democratic process and ensure that there is a just and representative system of government with effective Parliamentary institutions…”

    I do not believe our system of government can be said to be representative when so many people are so badly under represented. Do you feel we should be ignoring this part of the constitution?

  • Miranda Roberts 17th Jan '12 - 12:47pm

    Thanks for your post Layla, it’s great to see your enthusiasm!

    I am sad to see comments implying that those who have spoken out before against this, or other positive action measures should not now be participants in the Leadership Programme. Surely as democrats we all debate what is the best way forward on an idea or issue, we vote on it, and then we work together for the democratically agreed decision. I am personally especially impressed by those participants who were wary or uncomfortable about this initiative.

    Would we prefer that people say “this isn’t exactly what I wanted so I shan’t participate”? I think they would make pretty rotten candidates if they did. What on earth would they do when their local party disagreed with them in future? We need candidates who give their views, engage in debate but then accept the times when their view is not shared by the majority, and co-operate fully, rather than folk who won’t participate in something unless it is done exactly the way they want it!

    I am someone who has fought and argued against quotas, against lists, zipping and a lot of other positive discrimination. I have been Chair of Women Lib Dems, Lib Dem Youth and Students (as was) and worked on the Gender Balance Task Force and now Campaign for Gender Balance projects. I 100% agree with previous posters that a large part of the diversity problem is to encourage a more diverse group to apply for selection in seats – but this is exactly why we need ideas like this Leadership programme. It is initiatives that support and encourage people before, during and after selection that will have a better chance of successfully diversifying our Parliamentary teams.

    If we want a more diverse team of MPs we need to do something. Our current practices have given us an imbalance that we should correct. At the moment, the best person for the job is not always on the ballot paper!

    We need to give members a really diverse choice at selection, and then make sure that those candidates who would increase the diversity of our team are given every tool possible to help them succeed. As Sue Doughty just said, staying the course as a PPC of any background demands a huge amount of sacrifice, compromise, time and effort. Yes, in a perfect world every candidate would get all this extra support, but for the moment it seems that white, middle aged, middle class men are doing best at getting through it, whilst others are (for many reasons) not making it through the full process, or not even starting it. We need to help the people who aren’t becoming MPs rather than the groups who are already managing the process pretty well.

    I don’t love everything about the Leadership programme, but let’s give it our whole-hearted support to make it work, and as others have said, we can then fervently hope it is no longer needed after the next election cycle.

    Miranda

  • Well done to all for getting on. I’ve no doubt most of you will get selected!
    The hard work, blood, sweat and tears starts after selection!
    I was in the CGB group that went to Peterborough which was brilliant too and helped many of us get selected. Unfortunately, after that we were very much on our own. Mentors didn’t make much difference even though some of us also had mentors in the Lords.
    I hope the party gets it right this time as there was some controversy over the numbers of women that resigned and dropped out.
    Make sure the party continues to support you with practical measures rather than just someone to talk to. Make sure you have money in the bank – 2 years cost us £40k, make sure you have the stamina and thick skin to see you through several years – much prejudice comes from fellow party members. If there is a diversity fund this time then make sure that you know exactly what is expected so you can get some!
    In other words, keep on at them, nag, make yourself high-profile so you can’t be sidelined and don’t let anything distract you from your goal. Good luck!

  • Jonathan Hunt 17th Jan '12 - 9:07pm

    It would be helpful if those who interchange at will the terms positive action and positive discrimination should take the trouble to learn what they mean.

    Positive discrimination, where you choose one candidate over another on the basis of ethnicity or colour is quite rightly illegal, even though some may say it has long been practised in the party by those picking a white male rather than a black or female person.

    Positive action permits the things I mentioned earlier, designed to put the discriminated against into a more equal position. It includes training, mentoring, fast-tracking and measures intended to reverse previous discrimination.

    Tactics like zipping have worked, because it ensured we elected a number of outstanding MEPs who have fully justified their original selection, and have held their seats.

    Think what – and who –we could have missed without it. Sarah Ludford, Emma Nicholson, Diana Wallis, Sharon Bowles, Liz Lynn and many more who have also made their marks in Brussels.

    I spoke in favour of zipping at the Brighton party conference, and those behind the move told me in good faith that the next target was to find a similar device to ensure BME candidates were chosen. More than a dozen years later we are still waiting for black and ethnic minorities to be given an even break.

    Given the continued success of the Gender Balance group, and on the basis that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, is it time to form an Ethnic Balance campaign?

  • Cllr Steve Bradley 18th Jan '12 - 12:17am

    I’d agree with Miranda Roberts’ comments re those who opposed the Leadership Programme when the idea was first mooted. Have the debate, but then move on (without the urge to take one’s ball home afterwards).

    I’d also agree from another perspective. If you’re a meritocrat it’s all very well to stick to high moral principles. But when faced with a process in which meritocracy is being relegated in favour of other priorities (e.g. diversity) it would be self-defeating to continue to play solely by your own rules/values. Political careers are hard enough to forge as it is without being the only one losing out to a moral position not exactly of Emily Pankhurst-esque significance. The Leadership Programme offers a number of pretty hefty advantages to those on it, so it would be pyyrhic to exclude oneself and damage one’s own career for a silent and anonymous protest at it.

    That said – I do fear that the party may be pursuing the wrong answer to the right question on this issue. I hope that we can all agree that the Lib Dems and parliament both need to be much more reflective of society, so that’s a given. I would also hope that everyone here will agree that the party should act to understand what is preventing it from being more demographically reflective, and take the appropriate steps to address that. However – the data appears to suggest that the party is failing to do that, and has instead chosen an easier but perhaps incorrect response to this challenge

    Firstly re females. If the statistics from the PCA I posted earlier are correct (and I was hoping Layla could confirm or deny their veracity), then the approval-to-selection-to-election proportion of females within the party appears pretty consistent throughout the process. That would therefore suggest that the problem we face as a party is not with selection, but rather with insufficient females coming forward for approval in the first place. The Leadership Programme is aimed at people who were planning or strongly considering seeking selection to target seats in 2015 anyway. So I fear it will do little to increase the percentage of females looking to get involved at the very early pre-approval stage. Instead it may just skew the currently proportionate percentages at the ‘selection’ and ‘election’ ends of the conveyor belt. All very well, I’m sure many will say. But if you accept the starting premise that men and women are broadly of equal ability, then a properly functioning selection process should see them going through each stage in the same percentages that they join the process at. Which the figures I’ve been told suggests they already are. So skewing the system to favour women would be no better than ignoring a system that is deemed to favour men. It would be certainly no more ‘liberal’, but most importantly it would do little or nothing to address the core problem of not enough females coming forward in the first place. So it would look good on the surface, but fail to tackle the root problem.

    Secondly re BME individuals. The data I’ve heard (again by PCA) appears to suggest that ethnic minority individuals are proportionately over-represented within our pool of councillors. This probably reflects the woefully low BME membership of our party, rather than any vast swathe of BME candidates coming forward. But it does nonetheless suggest again that the real source of the problem may not rest within our selection process or procedures. It is pretty absurd that as a party we sit around scratching our heads at the absence of any BME presence on our green benches in parliament, whilst largelt ignoring the fact that our membership is so shockingly non-BME. Again – the way to tackle this problem is surely to address our disappointingly low membership diversity, not to give special treatment, privileges and high-level support to a hand-selected few. I accept that not having high-profile BME representatives within our party may make it harder for us to attract membership from amongst certain BME groups, but on the flip side I don’t believe that having a few BME MPs would substantially increase such membership either (it hasn’t for the Tories). It’s so rare that someone joins a political party these days that when they do so it will most probably have more to do with what the party stands for and a positive direct experience through case work/campaigning etc.

    As for LGBT representation – I would be intrigued to hear the thoughts of anyone who believes that there is an under-representation or lack of influence within our party from amongst the LGBT ‘community’ (if people will forgive me using such a catch-all term) :o)

    So whilst we all want to see our party be more reflective of society, I fear that we may be trying to do so in a way that doesn’t reflect the actual source of the problem. We appear to be acting like classic politicians when faced with an important yet complex problem (e.g. crime, youth issues). It’s always a lot easier to set up a programme and develop a few high profile success stories/case studies to champion in order to appear to be doing something than it is to genuinely tackle the much more complicated underlying source of the problem . We need to get more BME people into our party in the first place, as well as more BME and female members interested in standing. Our problem therefore lies more in helping certain demographics get onto the lower level of the proverbial greasy poll in the first place. The Leadership Programme appears to be more about building a strategic base camp near the top of that poll for a small sub-section of those who were already busily scaling it anyway, so doesn’t address the underlying issue.

    CAVEAT TIME : That said – the programme exists, anyone who is eligible should try to get onto it in my view, and I wish those that do success ! Particularly good people like you Layla (and Marie Jenkins and Lisa Smart. I haven’t heard who else is on it yet :o)

  • Chris Lucas 18th Jan '12 - 1:41am

    Lester…

    To suggest I spoke out against reserved places per se is totally disingenuous. You know only too well that I spoke out against reserved places for BAME candidates for reasons we have discussed many times before and will serve no purpose going through again here.

    I really wish I could help you and others to understand that the Candidate Leadership Programme isn’t just about reserved places on shortlists… It’s about identifying, recognising, developing, nurturing, mentoring and investing in talented individuals from ALL underrepresented groups who will, ultimately, go on to take leadership positions within our party, hopefully within the House of Commons itself. Whilst modern Britain is truly multi-ethnic, you must understand that it also has more women than men, has LGBT people, disabled people and financially disadvantaged people – all of whom face prejudice and discrimination, and all of whom are MASSIVELY underrepresented within our Party. I recognise that you care passionately about BAME representation, but, as I’ve said before, that is but one skirmish in a much bigger battlefield – to look like and reflect modern Britain as a whole.

    So once again, I urge you and others to stop looking back to the debate on your motion with anger and hostility towards those of us who had a problem with it, and look positively to the future. Be proud of the fact that by getting it on the agenda and debated we now have in place a programme that looks to address the issue of diversity within our party. I implore you to focus your incredible passion and zeal towards those on the programme and support us however you can because, whilst our methods might differ, ultimately, we all want the same thing: a more diverse Parliamentary Party and a more diverse House of Commons.

  • DAVE WARREN 18th Jan '12 - 9:36am

    I was interested in this programme and i made an initial inquiry but as one of the UKs estimated six million unpaid carers it just isn’t possible.

    My caring role is full time so in addition to being disadvantaged by the state, i am effectively disadvantaged in other ways too.

    I have made a number of attempts to get this issue on the agenda with our party but a solution doesn’t appear to have been found.

    Being a parliamentary candidate is as unattainable for me as being a conference rep and most other activists roles in the Lib Dems.

  • I’d love to see the scheme extended to disabled and LGBT candidates as well (but then I’d like to see more support for all disabled candidates). I stood as a local council canddate last year and could really have done with additional support doing things like door knocks which I found exceptionally difficult as someone with a mobility impairment and would have been impossible if I’d been a wheelchair user equally people with certain disabilities can have difficulty selling themselves even while being exceptionally capable (people on the autism spectrum tend to either come off as overly arrogant or very timid while in reality being neither for example)

  • Simon and Anon: Do you think the people on the Leadership Programme just phoned up LDHQ and said “Hi, I’m female/disabled/BAME/homosexual, reserve me a spot on the programme?”
    Of course the Leadership Programme is based on ability, and there was a thorough assessment process to get the very best candidates.
    I know several of the participants, and even if application had been open to any Party member, the top 40 would have ended up containing many of the same names, as exceptional candidates who have spent years working exceptionally hard for the party.

  • Chris Lucas 18th Jan '12 - 3:57pm

    Lester…

    If you think the phrase “anger and hostility” is a “low blow” then I won’t describe here some of the offensive words and behaviour that have been thrown in the direction of me – and others of us who disagreed with certain aspects of your motion, by some of the people on whose body you represent(ed?)

    I do not doubt for one minute that you have a record for fighting “across equality strands”, which makes it even MORE disappointing that your motion barely mentioned any of the others at all (and there was no mention of LGBT representation whatsoever!) The proposed outcome of your motion was to single out and prioritise the issue of BAME representation over and above that of other groups – so you can see how easy it is to draw the conclusion that you do INDEED see race as more important than any other equality group. In my view no underrepresented group deserves more special treatment than any other – we should all be together in order to fight injustice and prejudice wherever they rear their ugly heads. And that is why I – and others – spoke out against the ‘exclusivity’ parts of your motion and in favour of the much more nuanced and sophisticated motion that followed.

    Your post above that suggests those of us who spoke out against aspects of your motion have now had some sort of “conversion” is ridiculous, tenuous to the extreme and, by calling me by name, personal and deliberately inflammatory, hence my response.

    I’m delighted that you support the programme – those of us on it will take all the help we can get. I look forward to working with you and others to achieve what all right minded Lib-Dems want: a more representative and diverse Parliamentary party that reflects and represents modern Britain as a whole.

  • Jonathan Hunt 18th Jan '12 - 9:40pm

    Simon: As a white male parliamentary candiate who has in the past been selected by party members, I would certainly not accuse them of discrimination — intelligent discernment, perhaps.

    But it does worry me that I had to stand in Camberwell & Peckham alongside three excellent black candidates and use Papist birth control methods — pulling out at the last minute — lest anyone complained that there was an all-black shortlist.

    This is the kind of nonsense we have to put up in a party where we still refuse to enter the 21st century and recognise that where we have discriminated in the past against minorities, however unintentionally and unknowingly, we have to take action to ensure everyone begins on the same starting line.

    Chris Lucas: I am in no way surprised that you are on the Leadershi* Development Programme. You have the ability, personality and confidence to become our first-ever Afro-Caribbean MP, and I hope you do soon.

    Positive action is not required for the likes of you. You would get there anyway, whatever colour you are.

    But a programme of positive action is urgently required by those who lack your talent, and who may only aspire to be a councillor or party office. Please don’t stand in the way of those less able than yourself. As an MP you will be constantly required to fulfill a duty to encourage other BME people to join and participate in our party.

    Positive action

    Given the confusion about the differences between Affirmative Action, Positive Action and Positive Discrimination, I thought it may be helpful to circulate the official definitions below so that we may all have the benefit of speaking from positions of knowledge rather than ignorance, and thus be an aid to effective communication.

    Having said that, there is no reason why Liberal Democrats can’t be like many organisations and companies across the country and practice positive action to ensure a degree of fairness to the individuals shut out, and to the organisations that lose the talent within because of prejudice and bigotry.

    We can and should demand from the leader an enforceable pledge that he will put into place an agreed programme of positive action. This what his much-vaunted Liberal Future should mean in practice.

    What is positive action?
    The term ‘positive action’ refers to a number of methods designed to counteract the effects of past discrimination and to help abolish stereotyping.

    Action can be taken to encourage people from particular groups to take advantage of opportunities for work and training. This can be done when under¬representation of particular groups has been identified in the previous year.

    Under this broad meaning positive action may include initiatives such as the introduction of non-discriminatory selection procedures, training programmes or policies aimed at preventing sexual harassment.
    Legislation

    Section 47 of the Sex Discrimination Act 1975 (the SDA) does however allow for the use of ‘positive action’ in a number of specific circumstances. Sections 37 and 38 of the Race Relations Act 1976 allow an employer to give special encouragement and provide specific training for a particular racial group. Link to sex, race and disability legislation

    Positive Action is often confused with positive discrimination. Positive discrimination, which generally means employing someone because they come from a deprived group in spite of whether they have the relevant skills and qualifications, is unlawful.

    Positive measures
    Although they are not legally required, positive measures are allowed by the law to encourage employees and potential employees who are members of particular groups which are under-represented in particular work.

    Discrimination at the point of selection for work, however, is not permitted in these circumstances.

    Such measures are important of the development of equality and diversity practices. It is therefore recommended that, where there is under representation of particular work, the following process should be taken wherever appropriate and reasonably realistic:
    • Job advertisements designed to reach members of these groups and to encourage their applications: for example, through the use of the ethnic minority press, as well as other newspapers.
    • Use of the employment agencies and careers offices in areas where under-represented groups are concentrated.
    • Recruitment and training schemes for school leavers designed to reach members of these younger aged groups.
    • Encouragement to employees from under-represented groups to apply for promotion or transfer opportunities.
    • Training for promotion or skill training for employees of under-represented groups who lack particular expertise but show potential: supervisory training this may include language training.
    Positive action is not about giving more favourable treatment to particular groups in the recruitment process. Positive action is lawful, provided certain criteria is met.

    Selection for recruitment or promotion must be based solely on merit!

  • Lester…

    Emotions ran high in the aftermath of that debate and things WERE said by members of the EMLD that were totally out of order and offensive (isn’t it ironic that the same claim has been used by high profile footballers to justify racist language?) Did I report it or whinge about it? No, because you know what… I took the view that it would be counter productive to the cause – as I’m beginning to believe this back and forth discourse between you and I may well turn out to be also…

    As for other campaign group’s motions, they may well centre on the issues that affect them but the difference is that they did not call for anything like exclusive provision on short lists or equivalent measures. If they had, I would have been just as vociferous in opposition to them as I was to your motion.

    And what’s wrong with a unified approach by all interested groups looking to address under representation within our party? That’s exactly what the motion that set up the CLP did and Conference felt comfortable trying to address all under representation rather than singling out any one for special treatment.

    As for the EMLD members who got rejected, I too am disappointed that at least two people I know who applied didn’t get on. But neither you or I were in the interview and where you see conspiracy I see the sad reality that they were simply unable to convince the panel of their abilities against an extremely tough competency based framework. And having just spent the weekend with those who did get on, I can assure you that the bar was set INCREDIBLY high. Everyone of my colleagues on the programme is there on MERIT and to suggest that gender/LGBT colleagues “are judged by a different standard” is highly offensive to those from those groups who successfully made it. You have no right to say that and I think less of you for saying it… Need I remind you that not every woman, gay person, disabled person, financially challenged person made it on and yet it is only you who is crying foul…

    As for you referring to Diane Abbott… well the least said about that the better. What I will leave you with is this:

    “Not every soldier carries a sword…”

    Think about it…

  • Cllr Steve Bradley 19th Jan '12 - 2:42pm

    So does no-one care that we seem determined to tackle the party’s diversity problem in a tokenistic fashion that may be divorced from the actual roots of that problem, and would therefore be inherently doomed to failure…?!

    Recent experience has shown to me two things about how the party approaches this issue :

    1) We’re not serious about having a diverse party. We just want a party that LOOKS diverse.
    Hence, for example, we refuse to recognise that there can be white ethnic groups who have likewise suffered generations of discimination in Britain (e.g. Travellers, the Irish). Sadly they just look the same as everyone else in a photo, so we don’t care about them.

    2) That despite what the membership has stated in the past re appropriate ways to improve our diversity, the rules will be bent and ignored whenever the party wishes to push its own preferred solution to our diversity problem. For example in the London Assembly list election in 2010. The selection rules were amended to ensure there would be at least one of each gender in the Top 3, and two in the Top 5. All very sensible stuff, I hope everyone would agree. But when it looked like there was a real danger of the top 3 people being all female – which would have necessitated a male being moved up the list under the party’s own new diversity rules – pressure was applied to male candidates from on high to agree that in such a circumstance they should refuse to be moved up the list. And when the 5th placed – male – candidate dropped out. Despite the rules stating that there should be two of each gender in the Top 5, the list below was just shunted up – meaning we now have only one male in the Top 6 positions in our list. Had the gender balance been the other way, we can all be certain that the rule would have been applied and a female candidate zipped up the list instead.

    So we absolutely need to ensure we are much more diverse as a party. But that means ensuring that we are genuinely diverse – not just ostensibly so. It also means accepting that rules are rules and that diversity doesn’t just work only in one particular direction. And it means not losing sight of Liberal principles in the pursuit of what on-the-ground facts appear to suggest is a flawed approach to tackling the problem anyway.

  • Layla Moran 19th Jan '12 - 4:22pm

    What an incredible debate this has sparked. I am glad to have initiated it. If I were afraid of my head being above the parapet and in the line of fire I’d probably make a rubbish candidate/MP so I’ll take any criticism coming to me as a sign I’m doing my job!

    The fact is – I think the party is getting somewhere. As Steve’s story of the GLA list shows, positive action can work, but needs to be constantly monitored to make sure it is fit for purpose. As to the numbers, yes you are right. Those numbers are right, the lack of Diversity is matched in our local parties, though I’m not sure if this came from the PCA but rather the Diversity unit (so if you’d like verification, Vicky Boooth is the one to ask). However it is true we have grassroots issues here. Last week I was at an exec of 18 people. Not one looked ethincally diverse and only 4 of us were women. Sound familiar? Now imagine being a new member entering that room, what would you be thinking? Is it really a wonder we’re in this position.

    However, it’s a bit like government. You can only make policy about what you can change and hope it has the desired effect. Our party is devloved and to say local parties HAVE to seek out and develop more diverse memebrs is impossible. In fact it’s just not how we roll and I’m proud of that. Imagine if they didn’t do it – will they be sanctioned or shut down ?! I think not. We can’t do it although we know full well well there are parties (ahem, LabCon!) that operate like that. However, we can affect things at a national level and this is one way of doing it.

    But as my final word before I head off with 16 students, all of different nationalities to the Hague to join 3000 more to discuss how to fix the global mess we have collectively made of the World (MUN), I ask you. Please. Whatever you may have thought in the past. Give it a chance?

  • Cllr Steve Bradley 19th Jan '12 - 7:00pm

    Layla – you’ve got the wrong end of the stick re the GLA example I gave I’m afraid, as I wasn’t arguing that the rules worked.

    Before the diversity rules were introduced into the selection process, 66% of our elected GLA members were female and none BME. If we manage to return the same number of Assembly members again in 2012, we will still have 66% of our GLA members female and none BME. 60% of our total GLA list for 2012 is female. I would be surprised if the make-or-break factor in those individuals deciding to stand was the change in the gender balance rules, but I obviously can’t speak for them (half of them stood before without the diversity rules being in place though, which suggests it wasn’t a key consideration). So as the motion you submitted to regional conference last year suggested, these rules weren’t actually neeeded this time round. Though that didn’t stop them being used negatively anyway, as outlined in my previous message. Diversity only works in one direction it seems.

    So the point I was making re the GLA wasn’t that the diversity rules worked, but that the system is cooked to work one way and one way only. That is illiberal, in breach of the spirit (if not also the letter) of the rules/party policy, and it will do little or nothing to address the underlying root cause of the lack of diversity within our party, which statistics show starts at a much lower level of desire to join or become actively involved.

    My fear is that the quest for diversity/balance within our party is only being allowed to work in one direction. For example – do we really have a ‘Campaign for Gender Balance’ within the party, or is it not more honestly a campaign for the advancement of women in politics ? There would be nothing at all wrong with such an aim or campaign – there really wouldn’t. But if that is what CGB is more accurately seking to do, then they should have a different title. On the other hand, if they do see their role as being genuinely about seeking balance between the genders, then it would concern me that they’ve been silent when rules are being ignored/bent/broken to prevent certain stipulated gender balance mechanisms from being implemented. If the same situation had been reversed and female candidates had been the victims here, there would understandably and justifiably have been uproar.

    All that said – I would echo your call that people should give the Leadership Programme a chance. Even though the data suggests it may be the wrong solution to our diversity challenge as a party, the fact is that it does exist and it will be of huge benefit to those on it. But I would also add that if the party wants members to be more fully supportive of future diversity initiatives, the particular route it choses needs to stand up to scrutiny/challenge. And the rules also need to be implemented even-handedly – not changed, bent or ignored to always favour a certain type of outcome regardless of scenario. Don’t forget that when Leadership Programme candidates are unleashed upon Selection contests, they will start to compete with people who haven’t had the special training, support, privileges and investment that the LP cohort will have had from ‘our’ party. If the Programme that has given them these benefits struggles to justify itself in terms of genuinely addressing the core of our diversity problem, there may well be a lot of bitter people around who feel they lost out in selections on a bogus premise. That could store up trouble within the party for future diversity initiatives, which would be in nobodies interests.

    Enjoy Den Haag, and see you on the campaign trail soon ! :o)

  • Meral Hussein Ece 19th Jan '12 - 8:15pm

    @Chris Lucas – I do think you should take your discussion with Lester off-line. As an aspiring politician you will need to be more careful of engaging in public on-line fora ‘spats’ Can I assure you that no-one I am aware of during my time as chair of EMLD would say anything offensive to one of the few BAME active members. You will know of the high profile Race campaigner who was present at that debate who you are probably referring to…. Of course EMLD gave greater emphasis to BAME representation, because we dont have a single BAME MP, and its what we were set up to do!! . We may have narrowly lost that particular motion which you opposed, but I’m delighted that it led to this Programme, which I hope will benefit you and other hopefuls. Without campaigners like EMLD in the party, I’m pretty sure there would’ve been no ‘Leadership Programme’. Its not about the individuals concerned, but finally breaking through the rock solid ‘glass celilng’ Some of us have been campaiging for decades to change the face of the Party, making it representative, as the others have done, and into the 21st century. I hope you will lend your weight to this work.

  • simon woolley 19th Jan '12 - 8:48pm

    Interesting debate going on here. Some might say the new guard against more seasoned campaigners.

    Whilst the more experienced members of the party must nurture a new dynamic generation who will be confident and can carry the torch forward, the new guard would wise to listen and learn, otherwise history will repeat itself. You’re bosses will try and find a way to make sure one of you gets through, and if you’re not careful that person will believe they are there on ‘merit’ alone and not on the backs of those who have fought the tough battles. The draw bridge gets pulled up and the status quo broadly remains the same.
    And if at some point that individual does fall, as did Lord John Taylor- not many Lib Dems much less Black people will shed a tear for them.

    BAME lib dems, be smart. In this very difficult time your communities need you.

    Simon Woolley OBV

  • Marie Jenkins 20th Jan '12 - 11:14am

    It’s so good to see that Layla’s article prompted such a debate. I’d imagine this sort of frank debate is one of the many reasons why we all joined the party.

    I would just urge caution over the emerging tone of this conversation and suggest that the focus of everyone’s efforts should be fighting the Tories and Labour rather than dwelling on the decisions of the past. We don’t want to give our opponents the thrill that the illusion of a divided voice can bring.

    I look forward to meeting some more of you at Spring Conference and hope that we can talk more about how we increase diversity both in our Party and in Parliament. That aim is something we can all agree on.

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