Author Archives: Oliver Clark

We still aren’t doing enough to tackle privilege in the party

As a group, Liberal Democrats pride themselves on their commitment to equal rights and opportunity. Indeed, the very first line of the preamble to the Constitution talks about a free and fair society and, as a member, I am proud of the work we do to advance these goals in government and beyond.

That being said, privilege is something that pervades the governance structures of the Liberal Democrats. From the Young Liberals to Federal Board, it is still far too often about who you know rather than what you can give to the party that decides how far you advance within the party and what you can get done if you do happen to get to a position of responsibility. Our often-opaque system of accountability means that those who have the right connections can make huge advances and are lauded as changemakers while people of similar levels of skill who haven’t been a party member since the age of 10 or don’t have the financial resources to network can struggle to even get projects off the ground to begin with.

This isn’t to say any of this is out of malice. As human beings, we tend to flock to people we already know and are likely to give the benefit of the doubt to our friends if they have ideas that they can’t fully articulate. I am trusting in the belief that most Liberal Democrats don’t actively go out of their way to marginalise people’s point of view, but the concept of unconscious bias has to go further than acknowledging our prejudices to actively questioning whether we give unconscious advantage to our friends.

We are making huge strides towards to improving the diversity of our local parties, but this is moot if these new members are unfairly disadvantaged in their ability to take part in party governance. My main request to those already in positions of authority (even if you just chair a small local party to sitting on Federal Board) is to question whether you too often turn to a small clique to get a project going, make decisions or offer an opportunity to and excuse it by some measure of efficiency or ease. We have a great opportunity to grow as a party over the next few years but it simply isn’t worth it if not everyone can make their own fair contribution.

Posted in Op-eds | 7 Comments
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