Last summer I wrote a survey that was sent to all party members, as part of informing the creation of a new Lib Dem women’s organisation. Colleagues at the Campaign for Gender Balance and the Women Liberal
Democrats are working on a new constitution, and I hope many Lib Dem Voice readers will consider joining, so please get in touch if you would like further details. Please email me at tamoralangleyATgmail.com, replacing “AT” with “@”.
Perhaps the trickiest issue to resolve, in a party characterised by people who tend to think of themselves as individuals rather than members of a group, is establishing what it is that Lib Dem
Asked what the new organisation should focus on, ‘Under-representation of women in politics/public life’ came out top in the survey, with support from 74% of the 762 members who answered. Next was ‘Pay/workplace inequality’ with 66%; then ‘Trafficking and violence against women’ with 57%; then Childcare with 40% and last, ‘Women’s health services e.g. breast cancer, maternity services’ with 27%. These total more than 100% as people were allowed to tick as many answers as they liked.
When asked if voters recognise that Lib Dems have championed women’s issues, for example our achievement of lifting thousands of women out of paying income tax by raising the personal tax allowance, most (58%) thought voters did not recognise this. It is not surprising, then, that a majority thought it very important for the new women’s organisation to have a stronger voice in the media, so that more people understand what Liberal Democrat women believe in, and are encouraged to support us.
Some respondents challenged the concept of ‘women’s issues’, pointing out that many men cared about these issues too, and there are few issues women do not care about.
Members stressed the need for the new organisation to be inclusive and true to Lib Dem values; “LD women should not be self-serving: they should NOT focus on ‘women’s issues’, but on justice for everybody.” The Lib Dem belief in fairness came through strongly too in comments like this; “I believe the best candidate for positions in politics and/or public life should be the norm and that there should be no discrimination between males and females.”
Other issues members thought we should focus on included support for carers; isolation of older women living alone; the media’s portrayal of women; and violence against women attributed to religious or cultural practices.
There were hundreds more helpful comments on the kind of events, training and membership offers people want, and ideas on how to work collaboratively with other party organisations. With thousands of talented women in this party; members, activists, candidates and elected representatives; my personal hope is that the new organisation will bring us together and make our voices stronger. I do hope you will consider joining.
* Tam Langley is the Vice Chair of the Campaign for Gender Balance and on the working group planning a new women's organisation. In 2010 she was parliamentary candidate in Lewisham Deptford, securing a 5% swing and winning a council seat from Labour.