All women shortlists

At Liberal Democrat Conference in York this weekend I have been told by a number of women that they would not want to be the candidate for a seat that selected from an all women shortlist.  I have some news for them, most of them won’t be.  The motion passed means that of the around 580 seats that the Liberal Democrats will contend 8 must have all women shortlists.

I will now issue a direct challenge to those women, don’t walk away from the party but instead as there are up to 572 seats not selecting on all women shortlists so choose one of those seats and get selected as a Parliamentary Candidate.  However, my challenge goes much further than that because right now we only have enough approved candidates who are women to fill a quarter of those seats so at the same time convince another woman who is capable of standing for parliament to do the same.

Meanwhile, I will continue to press for the following changes that I think are essential if this party is ever to achieve the equality and parity that we need in our list of approved candidates:

  1. All main committees should be elected by STV on one member one vote with 50/50 zipping of male and female candidates and one seat reserved for the highest placed self identifying non-binary candidate (in the event that no self identifying non-binary candidates are directly elected).
  1. We must introduce a standard accredited and tested modular training package with the appropriate modules being determined by the nature of the office sought and make the module on unconscious bias and pastoral care mandatory. This training must be accredited in order that it can be transferred into the workplace and any candidate who has not completed the training should be ineligible to seek election.  This would include not only party nominations to external bodies but also those to internal party committees.
  1. We must restrict all electoral divisions (parliamentary, ward, mayoral, PCC or Region) from commencing selection of candidates until at least one of its resident members from an underrepresented minority group has achieved the appropriate approval.
  1. We must require that all appointees to sub-committees and working parties face the same standard of testing.

In a party with around 70,000 members, 35,000 of whom are women we must have more than 178 women who are able and willing to stand for parliament.  It can be neither fair nor just that no matter how many MP’s this party had elected at the last General Election we would never have achieved anything even close to parity between the number of men and women we returned to parliament.

AWS won’t change the culture of the party, but it will give us a reason to discuss the issue and find a solution.  Every journey begins with a single step and yesterday the Liberal Democrats took a tentative step towards securing the equality for ourselves that we expect to see in others.

* Chair of Manchester Gorton Liberal Democrats, a member of the NW Regional Executive and the English Council and Vice President of LGBT+ Liberal Democrats

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32 Comments

  • Stephen Howse 14th Mar '16 - 10:53am

    Are the LDV powers-that-be actually trying to have a home page which is entirely comprised of pieces about bloody AWS?

    There was other stuff discussed at conference, editors, and who knows, your readers (Lib Dem and non-Lib Dem alike) might actually be interested to read about some of it.

    AWS has been passed, so can we now move on, stop this navel-gazing and start focusing again on issues which actually affect the British public at large?

  • Stephen – why don’t you send LDV some more posts yourself on other subjects?

    The posts we publish simply reflect those that are sent in to us. AWS has generated a huge amount of interest across social media so it’s not surprising that is mirrored here.

    Contributors have also covered the debates on cannabis, fracking, Agenda 2020 as well as Tim Farron at the Rally and the Leader’s speech, and several fringe events. It’s not too late to send in contributions on any other debates or fringes.

  • Rabi Martins 14th Mar '16 - 12:55pm

    Stephen As you well know legislation can only ever be just a catalyst for change – of itself it does not and cannot bring about deliver the outcome
    That is why we need to continue to discuss AWS and other measures that will help the Party make progress on Diversity in elected offices. That is why I for one am obliged to LDV for providing the platform for the such discussion We can never have too much of a good thing

  • Helen Tedcastle 14th Mar '16 - 1:56pm

    Iain Donaldson
    ‘ I will continue to press for the following changes that I think are essential if this party is ever to achieve the equality and parity that we need in our list of approved candidates:

    ‘All main committees should be elected by STV on one member one vote with 50/50 zipping of male and female candidates and one seat reserved for the highest placed self identifying non-binary candidate (in the event that no self identifying non-binary candidates are directly elected).’

    Can I ask, in the event of the eradication of unconscious bias against women and non-binary self-identifying individuals, why there is no mention of eradicating bias against people (of any group identity) from poor backgrounds or deprived backgrounds?

    As economic inequality is the biggest factor in individual underachievement and in social advancement in British society, and bearing in mind the Lib Dems is an overwhelmingly middle class (and southern) party, I find the lack of action on inclusion regardless of social-economic background, extraordinary.

  • R Uduwerage-Perera 14th Mar '16 - 2:01pm

    Dear Stephen,

    Regarding your statement “AWS has been passed, so can we now move on, stop this navel-gazing and start focusing again on issues which actually affect the British public at large?”, this is exactly why we need to keep repeating the message.

    You are right that we need to move on, yes we do into action to create the inclusive Party that we claim to be, so being in AWS, and in the future when legislation has been changed as a result of our campaigning other marginalised groups will be heard.

    All underrepresented groups are interested in equality of opportunity so I think that you will find that the result from this weekend will have been noted by far more people than you may initially believe.

    The passed motion remember also calls for changes to how we develop our policies, procedures and practices, including political policies. These need to be evidence based in order that we do offer the public more than laudable rhetoric.

    Namaste,

    Ruwan Uduwerage-Perera
    Chair – Ethnic Minority Liberal Democrats

  • Iain Donaldson 14th Mar '16 - 2:41pm

    Thank you all for your comments so far. Stephen, I think that other contributors have answered your question and need say no more than has been said.

    Helen, it may be that in your assumption that I would be so shallow as to assume that training on unconscious bias would apply to only on group against whom such bias may exists is s clear demonstration as to why the training should be mandatory for all candidates for all posts, and additionally voluntary for those members who want to do it for their own benefit.

  • Stephen Howse 14th Mar '16 - 3:29pm

    Ruwan – thanks for your comments.

    In response, I’ll say that I’d really like to see financial incentives introduced for local parties to recruit a diverse membership base. The incentives to grow local parties’ membership really worked to 2015 and I think a new diversity incentive would get activists thinking about how they can help to build a more diverse party – driven by candidates who want the extra funds for their campaigns. Similarly, I’d like to see a diversity fund introduced to which candidates can apply as required – I understand something like this was tried under Ming’s leadership but ended up being used as a mere extension of general campaign funds? Finally, I think mandatory balanced selection panels would be a very good thing, in tandem with mandatory unconscious bias training for all serving on them.

    Ultimately, money talks, so let’s see the party putting its money where its mouth is. AWS might make a few people feel good about themselves for having done *something* but given the nature of how we usually get MPs elected (i.e. through loads of hard work and by having a candidate people feel connected to) they will not in and of themselves be sufficient to get a single female Lib Dem MP elected in 2020.

  • Stephen Howse 14th Mar '16 - 3:34pm

    Helen Tedcastle said:

    “As economic inequality is the biggest factor in individual underachievement and in social advancement in British society, and bearing in mind the Lib Dems is an overwhelmingly middle class (and southern) party, I find the lack of action on inclusion regardless of social-economic background, extraordinary.”

    Another key concern of mine. Expanding our white middle class southern male talking shop to become a white middle class southern talking shop for men and women doesn’t really strike me as being a great leap forward. Again – we need as a party to put our money where our mouth is, recognise that economic barriers to participation can be just as difficult to overcome as other barriers, and find a way to overcome them. But then I rather suspect that a key attraction of AWS is that they’re free…

    Yours,

    A northern working class lad!

  • Stephen Howse 14th Mar '16 - 3:36pm

    Sorry for the triple post, but finally… Helen, were you to write such a piece on economic inequality and submit it to LDV for publication, I’m sure they’d look upon it favourably! 🙂

  • “why there is no mention of eradicating bias against people (of any group identity) from poor backgrounds or deprived backgrounds?”

    John Prescott is from a working class background but he hardly needs a leg up. People who are working class are not necessarily poor or do not stay that way for long. Concentrate on eradicating poverty so that people aren’t poor long enough to need positive discrimation.

  • David Evans 14th Mar '16 - 4:26pm

    Phyllis, but before you actually can eradicate poverty so that people aren’t poor long enough to need positive discrimination, don’t you need to get MPs elected who are prepared to do the necessary on eradicating poverty so that people aren’t poor long enough to need positive discrimination, I think I know which is the chicken and which is the egg here.

  • Helen Tedcastle 14th Mar '16 - 4:48pm

    Iain, my comment was not assuming anything on a personal basis but a comment about the wider debate – concentration in the party on groups and their identity over against what I and others regard as the bigger issue – eradication of barriers like economic poverty and bias against those from poor backgrounds.

    Stephen Howse
    Yes, the attraction of AWS is that seems to be a way to fix under-representation of groups. As Lib Dems we used to believe that Labour’s fixation with sections and groups was dis-empowering, sublimating the individual to a particular identity – not any longer it seems.

    Phyllis

    John Prescott cut his political teeth in the trade union movement, a traditional way for people from working class and disadvantaged backgrounds to learn the soft skills which empowered them to debate in parliament with the public school boys. That route is not commonly used by would-be Labour MPs these days. The route now is university followed by a political internship.

    In the Liberal Democrats we always believed in fighting the causes of poverty and ignorance first to create a fairer and more equal society. That was our priority.

  • Maurice Leeke 14th Mar '16 - 5:40pm

    AanythingS is discrimination and an embarrassment for a party that aspires to inclusion. It has already cost my local party a first rate activist – and I have not got back from Conference yet. I really don’t think more of it is the answer.

  • @ Helen : “In the Liberal Democrats we always believed in fighting the causes of poverty and ignorance first to create a fairer and more equal society. That was our priority”.

    Yes, but that was before 2010.

  • David Evans 14th Mar '16 - 6:04pm

    David, Technically I think you might find it was before 18 December 2007.

  • Mark Valladares Mark Valladares 14th Mar '16 - 7:09pm

    “We must restrict all electoral divisions (parliamentary, ward, mayoral, PCC or Region) from commencing selection of candidates until at least one of its resident members from an underrepresented minority group has achieved the appropriate approval.”

    You can tell that the author comes from an urban environment with large, populous wards. Here in Stowupland ward, in glorious Mid Suffolk, we have two members. I’m one, my wife (who’s a bit busy…) is the other. I do happen to be from an underrepresented group – I’m BAME – but don’t want to be the candidate. For fairly obvious reasons, nor does Ros.

    Iain, it appears, wants us not to run a candidate until we recruit someone who isn’t a white, heterosexual male who also wants to run for council. Now, I’ll welcome anyone who is sufficiently liberal who wants to be our ward candidate, but I’m not keen to see it uncontested until then.

  • David Evans 14th Mar '16 - 8:07pm

    Mark, Absolutely. This is what you get when some in the party don’t trust the rest of us to make a liberal decision that is right by them. Tim will have a lot to answer for when this insanity has run its course. The party is already a lot less liberal than it was.

  • Mark, happy to be your box-tick if you like. You can even pick which box of several you want to tick for me 😉

    Iain, I very much like your suggestion 2 🙂

  • Simon Thorley 14th Mar '16 - 10:14pm

    @Helen: The best reason I’ve been given as to why social background isn’t included in oid equality drive is that it isn’t included as a parameter in the Equality Act. I couldn’t agree more: I see identity-based diversity as no diversity at all if it means privately-educated individuals – of all identities – are prioritised over others.

    One’s social background has a far greater determination upon life outcomes than gender or even race. But it’s not trendy.

  • Stephen Howse 15th Mar '16 - 10:54am

    “I see identity-based diversity as no diversity at all if it means privately-educated individuals – of all identities – are prioritised over others.”

    I remember reading that the women who were selected through AWS and elected as Labour MPs in 1997 were 3x as likely to have gone to a private school as the population as a whole.

  • Matt (Bristol) 15th Mar '16 - 11:06am

    Mark, this isn’t only an issue in rural areas! I can’t make statements on behalf of my local party with whom I am only intermittently in touch, but I believe myself to be a large-ish proportion of the members in my local ward – having not met the other one(s) I cannot vouch for our collective diversity, but I am certainly not going to be ticking those boxes myself.

    However, as a bystander, I think much of what Iain says is sensible.

    There are positive things overall to be got out of the debates I see the party having as it discusses what the new motion really means.

    It’s good to see people from all sides of the argument robustly discussing implementation, rather than shouting principles at each other.

  • Stephen Howse 15th Mar '16 - 1:45pm

    Iain – that is a worthy amendment, and well done for getting it through, but it’s not what I was suggesting. Quite the opposite, in facr!

  • David Evans 15th Mar '16 - 1:54pm

    Iain Donaldson – you may think that local parties have not got it right for 28 years. I disagree and think they have and you are wrong in your assessment. I say this simply because I believe that the Liberal Democrats exist to build and safeguard a free, open and fair society, in which we seek to balance the fundamental values of liberty, equality and community and in which no-one shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance and conformity. Lots of individual Lib Dems who also believe in that did so to the best of their ability over many years over many constituencies. And you say that they were wrong!

    I trust Liberal Democrats, even though they may not be perfect, to make Liberal and Democratic decisions, on balance, better than any other mechanism. If you don’t, I think you need to consider what you do believe in. Yourself perhaps.

  • Mark Valladares Mark Valladares 15th Mar '16 - 7:59pm

    Iain,

    Thank you for your explanation as to how ward selections work. As the Chair of my County’s candidate approval panel and a thirty-year veteran Returning Officer, I am so pleased to have that pointed out to me.

    However, your proposal said that a ward needs to have a resident member from an under-represented group approved as a candidate before it can select. You’ll pardon me but, it doesn’t matter who selects the candidate, if no such person comes forward, you would prevent them from having a candidate at all.

    If that is not your intention, perhaps you need to reword your proposal…

  • It’s beginning to look like it’s a case of ‘Nanny knows best, and we don’t give a fig about local democracy’. Such attitudes led to the Boston Tea Party.

  • David Raw – Local democracy has gone out of the window. The militants and micro managers have moved in and Tim Farron appears to be asleep. I can just imagine them in May watching the total wipe out in the Scottish, Welsh and London Assembly. They will still be patting themselves on the back because they got the AWS motion passed, the fact that the party is being destroyed will bypass them completely.

  • Tony Dawson 16th Mar '16 - 3:20pm

    It is still 15 days till April 1st!

    Perhaps we need an amendment to local selection rules to say that selection can not proceed unless a member of an under-represented group is among those dragged screaming towards candidature? 😉

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