Baroness Sal Brinton writes…Electing diverse MPs

One of the most shocking events of the 2015 General Election night was the loss of our top held and target seats with women and BAME candidates, which resulted in an entirely pale and male parliamentary party. Members were rightly upset by this, and there has been much discussion about what steps the party needs to take to ensure that in 2020 and beyond our party looks like the countries and communities we represent. Top seats are already beginning the process of selecting Westminster candidates for 2020. We can’t afford to delay any arrangement, hence the motion coming to York Conference.

Under our current constitution, these arrangements are the responsibility of the three state parties. We hope members will let their state party officers know their views as well as responding to the Federal consultation and debate in York.

In the governance consultation response last autumn the Federal Executive received many comments and proposals saying that ‘something must be done – doing nothing is not an option’. In fact it was one of the top topics members wrote in about. FE and the Joint States Candidates Committee has investigated possible options, and the resulting motion that will be debated at York Spring Conference sets out a wide range of proposals, including limited application of All Women Shortlists (AWS). We know members have divided views on the issue of AWS, but it is important that the debate before and at conference is much broader, because it includes support for other under-represented groups. Indeed, not every member of FE supports all the details in the motion, but there was broad acceptance that it was right for members to debate and vote on this. You can see the full motion here.

It will not be the first time we are looking at these under-represented groups. We were the first party to set up a Leadership Programme (in 2011) to support our best candidates from under-represented groups (women, BAME, disabled, LGBT+) which was successful in giving us a diverse profile in our top seats for 2015, but this did not materialise into MPs. Those good figures mask a further problem: we have far too few candidates from under-represented groups on the approved list so the pool of candidates, especially women, is too small. In the run up to the 2015 election many local parties struggled to find women candidates to stand.

This needs to change, and it needs a revolution from the grassroots to make it happen: every activist and member needs to consciously encourage women, BAME, disabled and LGBT+ members to go for approval; for standing in local government seats (in addition to wanting to improve the diversity of our councillors, we know this is often a pathway to being a PPC); and to then stand for seats in Westminster, Europe, the Scottish Parliament, the Welsh and London Assemblies.

We know that there are local parties who already do this, and want to do more, so we want to give any seat that wishes to, the power to have an all women or all disabled shortlist, or have places reserved on the shortlists for those from under-represented groups.

We also want to adopt the Liberal Party of Canada (LPC) strategy of asking local parties to demonstrate the active steps they have taken to attract diverse candidates to apply. The LPC say that the responsibility and ownership for diversity very locally has transformed their candidate list, and was one of the reasons Trudeau had a wonderfully diverse parliamentary group to draw from for his Cabinet.

We have previously struggled as a party in engaging with BAME communities in particular. It’s vital we take this seriously – encouraging more BAME candidates to stand, acting as role models and speaking up for those issues which affect BAME communities. In the past the New Generation programme, which provided early support to BAME members who were considering becoming candidates, was much appreciated and successful, but we need to expand this.

We want to continue and extend the Leadership Programme to give these diverse candidates the support and skills that they need to fight and win selections, and then win elections. They have barriers that other candidates don’t face.

The motion also sets out possible positive action for regions and states to take in some of our top seats. It recommends that where a sitting MP stands down in 2020, there should be an AWS. It also recommends that in Scotland, Wales and each English region top seats where we achieved 25% or more of the vote should designate a minimum of one not-held seat for an AWS. It also proposes that any seat where we won 10% or more of the vote, shortlists should have at least two candidates from under-represented groups (this would continue & extend the practice that Conference voted for on 2011 for Leadership Programme candidates).

The law says that we can’t have all BAME or LGBT+ shortlists, but we are permitted to reserve places on shortlists for these groups and women and disabled candidates too. We also recognise that even within under-represented groups there are smaller groupings, so we will work with them to attract them to stand. For example, we had a good number of LGBT+ candidates in the Leadership Programme, but no lesbian or transgender applicants. We want to rectify that. We also believe in the + part of the LGBT acronym, and look forward to intersex and non-binary candidates applying under the LGBT umbrella.

Please read the motion – there’s more detail than I can outline here. Any specific questions, please feel free to email me at [email protected]. Please also note that wider diversity issues in the party are part of the next stage of the Governance Consultation, and we welcome your views on that too.

Liberal Democrats know we have to change the public face of our parliamentary party in the House of Commons, and conference will now vote on the mechanisms to do so.

* Baroness Sal Brinton is President of the Liberal Democrats. She is a working Lib Dem peer, and was the candidate for Watford at the 2010 and 2005 General Elections.

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  • Super article, but my sense is that there is an added dimension… I fear that the electorate still has a tendency to default to a narrow sterotype of an MP as a white, middle-aged man with a wife and children. To get other candidates elected means we also need to be seen to be on the side of change to something more progressive. This should be fine and fits with our core values but this has to be about more than candidate selections.

    Could we frame this in terms of “What is the pathway to having a large number of MPs, whose diversity embody the values we stand for”?

  • Richard Underhill 7th Feb '16 - 12:44pm

    Tim Farron was asked about this on BBC1’s Andrew Marr Show of 7/2/2016, available on the I-player.

  • This isn’t rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic. It’s setting up a bureaucracy to organise rearranging deckchairs on the Titanic.

    One would have hoped that having spent five trying to make the Tories nice and losing 90% of our MPs in the process, senior members would at last begin to realise that we need to save the party, not just talk about doing good things. Sadly it seems they haven’t learned the lesson.

  • I find it ironic that this is written by someone who failed four times to get elected. AWS BAME and any other acronym are not going to help getting elected when things are as low as 4% in some polls. What is more important is finding out why nearly everbody isn’t voting Lib Dem. All this is going to lead to is equality in failure.

  • Joshua Dixon 7th Feb '16 - 2:55pm

    This will be a defining moment for our party. I 100% back Sal and the others who are pushing for this. We must be willing to take illiberal action if it can help us produce the liberal outcome that can dramatically change our party for the better.

  • Laura Willoughby 7th Feb '16 - 3:47pm

    Sadly Mark its the selection committees that tend to me more conservative about ‘what an MP should be’ – they stop giving the general public the choice through fear that someone who is not the normal stereotype won’t win. I am trying to dig out an interesting study that showed that hiring a team rather than an individual increases diversity because those choosing can see how different skills benefit and spread the ‘risk’. Maybe if we picked our seats at regional level and picked a team of candidates we may also get greater diversity.

  • David Cooper 7th Feb '16 - 5:18pm

    “most shocking events of the 2015 General Election…was the loss of our top held and target seats with women and BAME candidates”

    Dear Sal, this is beyond parody. In case you are too busy ticking equal opportunity boxes to notice, we were virtually wiped out. I find it deeply disturbing that a President of the party can write stuff like this.

  • Chris White 7th Feb '16 - 5:22pm

    We are hardly likely to move forward in the opinion polls when our key representatives do not look like at least 50% of the population. We are behind both Labour and the Tories in terms of diversity, both in outcomes and mechanisms. It isn’t a nice to have – it is actually about saving the Party. The Canadian Liberals have shown that being relevant wins elections.

  • Chris White 7th Feb '16 - 5:23pm

    Thank goodness we have a President of the Party who does write this. It shows that she understands the fundamentals of Liberalism.

  • Mark Valladares Mark Valladares 7th Feb '16 - 6:09pm

    @ Chris,

    I’ve always been of the view that anyone who suggests that the author of a piece agreeing with them understands the fundamentals of liberalism is to be treated with scepticism. Perhaps liberalism allows for the right to dissent from your preferred stance?

    Will the proposals outlined have an effect different to that that would be achieved if we left things as they are? I’ll be honest, I don’t think they will, although I accept that we’ll probably never know either way. My understanding was that, in our (notional) target seats, the gender balance amongst candidates was pretty good. The catch was that none of them won.

    That said, there is a sense that something must be done, and that this is that something. It appears to do little to encourage under-represented groups to apply for approval as candidates in the first place, nor does it offer any means by which such candidates, once selected, might be supported (and such candidates appear to have a higher fallout rate if my understanding is correct). However, it may have two effects, one positive and one negative.

    On the plus side, it may encourage people to come forward for approval if they think that their path might be less difficult (not easier, I emphasise). On the down side, unless it delivers something, it may offer false hope and consequently disenchantment.

    Will I vote for it? Probably not, even though I am a member who might technically benefit from it. Will I oppose it? I doubt it. For change will only ever come if people come together to move beyond bureaucratic process to dealing with people as individuals on their merits, in the way that I presume that people claiming to be liberals should.

  • Bill le Breton 7th Feb '16 - 8:01pm

    It is a great pleasure to follow Mark’s wise contribution. I suggest that those likely to retain or to win in the situation in which the Party finds itself now will be very good campaigners, actually they will have to be exceptional campaigners.

    Require people to select good campaigners rather than good’potential parliamentarians’ and we shall select a far more representative field of candidates at all levels. Just think of who were good campaigners fighting in 2015 and see how representative they were.

    Our mistake was to define the professionalization of the Party as outsourcing campaigning to so called experts and finding ‘ideal’ Parliamentarians (and then to be surprised when these were pale and male).

    It meant we had too many candidates, including MPs, and campaigners who wouldn’t challenge the poor campaigns that were being produced and wouldn’t challenge a party leadership that was incapable of campaigning itself and was always getting on the wrong side of campaigning issues.

  • Helen Tedcastle 7th Feb '16 - 8:25pm

    What happened to treating each person on their merits rather than which group they ‘self-identified’ with?

  • Don Harrison 7th Feb '16 - 9:35pm

    I am a LGBT LibDem member who only does happy

  • I’ll leave my comment to a fellow member from the North East –
    “As a woman with a disability I find this patronising and insulting I want to see best candidate selected. I would never be part of an all woman or all disabled shortlist.
    Remember any woman wanting to be equal to a man has no ambition!”

  • The problem with all this is that it only works one way.

    For example, men earn more than women but for the under 30’s women earn more than men. Only the former is considered worthy of caring about, not the latter.

    Are women discriminatated against in general? Depends on their social class. A working class male for example is disadvantaged far more than an upper middle class woman. But since politicos are mostly middle class they are fine with this.

    There might be a place for discrimination to achieve outcomes I don’t know. But if it only works ones way it doesn’t and won’t work.

  • William Summers 8th Feb '16 - 1:14am

    I strongly believe in the need for more diverse political representation, including more women, BAME and disabled. But this simplistic one-dimensional identity politics really does make me furious!

    Just by way of example, the author of this article is a privately educated Cambridge graduate whose father was an MP. Statistically she is therefore one of Britain’s privileged elite, and already hundreds of times more likely to be elected to public office than the average citizen.

    To say that somebody from a background of this type needs to be given further advantage over somebody from a low income, state school background – who also happens to be a white male – sounds pretty ridiculous to me. That’s not real diversity, it’s just surface level. It does nothing to improve the overall diversity of Parliament or the Liberal Democrats.

    Humans are not and should not be defined by single characteristics. If the Lib Dems are going to go down that route perhaps they should be a bit more sophisticated and try to ensure candidates are representative of the population as a whole across a number of factors beyond race and gender, such as socio-economic background. But then I guess that would freak out a lot of aspiring MPs!

  • My view is that we do now need to do something. However, I would prefer any changes not to be permanent, but to be subject to review after each election to give consideration to whether we continue to need it or not, and to make sure that there haven’t been any other unintended consequences of it.

    (And I’d be interested to see the constitutional reason why point 5 of the motion is acceptable – it appears to bind the Scottish and Welsh parties in terms of their candidate selection process which I always thought the Federal Conference was not able to do.)

  • Eddie Sammon 8th Feb '16 - 7:41am

    As a commenter only, I might be willing to support the motion if I felt all the main underrepresented groups were being represented and it was flexible enough to consider special circumstances. I have previously called for “diversity short-lists”, rather than simply all women ones.

    From looking at the motion it seems that the Equality Act does not include “low income households” as an underrepresented group. Is this correct? I believe that if there were more people from low income households in parliament then there would be fewer economic cuts. I’m worried that this motion would increase barriers to such households and have an affect on the laws of our country.

    Best regards

  • The point seems to have been totally missed that the reason the Canadian Liberals have a “wonderfully diverse parliamentary group” is because they WON a lot of seats. Duh!

  • Amina Jamal 8th Feb '16 - 8:34am

    I am an approved candidate and stood in the Westminster campaign in 2015. I did not fail to be elected because of my gender, or any other defining characteristic identified in the Equalities Act. The primary reasons were nothing to do with my ability, but linked to more fundamental issues of: national policy content, fiscal and human resources to support delivery.

  • David Cooper 8th Feb '16 - 8:35am

    @William Summers
    Thank you William, I could not agree more. The equality and diversity debate seems to have degenerated into a spat between the privately educated daughters of the rich and their even more spolit private school boyfriends about who grabs the reins of power. Our party president is so wrapped up in this quarrel that is seems to have escaped her notice that we were decimated at the last election.

  • Keith Legg
    The point you make – regular review of mechanisms – was the reason zipping was phased out for Eurocandidates.

    The broader points made here:
    1 The overall electoral situation for Lib Dems now.
    2 The much wider failure of the Lib Dems to involve candidates from lower income groups.
    3 No safe seats anyway, even when we were more successful.

    All the above seem to weigh against concentration on formal action at this time. However, everyone involved, whether candidates’ officers, constituency officers / members of shortlisting panels, and ordinary voting members of constituencies should be conscious of the need to create a more diverse party in the actions they take.

    One key point to be aware of:
    Often selection decisions are not about who is BETTER per se, but deciding what the more important strengths to select on are. If we are all making decisions on a weighting of strengths which favours certain kinds of candidates, then we will get a less diverse party. Looking at the continuing figures in Parliamentary selections, it looks as if candidates educated at independent schools are a key beneficiary of this effect.

  • Ruth Bright 8th Feb '16 - 9:23am

    The idea that this has polarised into a spat between privileged girlies and put upon working class men is truly daft. All of us are products of the mixture of the opportunities and barriers we have encountered in life. The visible outcome of the sum of those opportunities and barriers is that Liberal Democrat women are invisible in the House of Commons. That fact clearly doesn’t bother some people.

  • David Cooper 8th Feb '16 - 9:43am

    @Ruth Bright
    Ruth, you are right. The diversity debate is a spat between Roedean and Eton, or their ilk. Working class men don’t even get a look-in.
    Liberal Democrat women are invisible in the House of Commons for the simple reason explained by “Rob” above.

  • I think too many issues are getting wrapped up in to one situation here, socio-economic status (male or female, or any other characteristic) is unlikely to get fixed by the same mechanism that will be effectively used to increase female and ethnic minority candidate selection.

    That is not to say that it doesn’t need solving just to keep the task manageable.

    As I have repeated over and over, AWS could very easily be used against female candidates, having been picked under a AWS even though many would have been picked regardless their opponents have the opportunity to suggest that they were “lesser” and wouldn’t have been selected other than for their gender.

    There are other ways to incentivise constituency parties to select female (and ethnic minority) candidates which don’t have the adverse consequences.

    Also, and this has to be repeatedly said the candidates need to be appropriately supported as there is a good chance someone will not win on the first attempt and they need to be able to stay able to be a PPC to build their position to the point they win.

  • John Barrett 8th Feb '16 - 10:46am

    William Summers is absolutely right on a number of points, which are actually emphasised by Chris saying that our key party representatives or spokesmen do not look like 50% of the population. Most of our spokesmen/women are now not elected MPs, but from from the Lords. How many of those party spokesmen satisfy any of William’s specific criteria for diversity?

    When a privately educated Cambridge graduate repeatedly fails to get elected and then gets appointed to the House of Lords, where she talks on behalf of the Lib-Dems about what must be done to assist under-represented groups in the Commons, it is no surprise that this does not resonate with the general public.

    When he adds, “To say that somebody from a background of this type needs to be given further advantage over somebody from a low income, state school background – who also happens to be a white male – sounds pretty ridiculous to me. That’s not real diversity, it’s just surface level. It does nothing to improve the overall diversity of Parliament or the Liberal Democrats.” he hits the nail on the head as to why the party is continuing to drift away from the public it needs to connect with.

    I fear that the present debate will not only not improve matters, but will actually continue to show that the leadership and the party is more interested in ticking the correct boxes than dealing with the issues that matter most to the wider population.

  • David Cooper 8th Feb '16 - 11:09am

    @John Barrett

  • Sue Doughty 8th Feb '16 - 11:22am

    A couple of points here. Who was educated where is an issue but not what we are talking about today. The fact that only around 45% (not 50) of the population are white British – a few more if you include Irish and Travellers who are counted separately is key. We can’t make the world perfect in one leap but we must do better. None of the motion denies that the General Election was a disaster but what does matter is that those seats who are ambitious and want to choose now need to be addressing this issue. Lots of seats won’t have AWS under this proposal. One final point – as Lib Dems we also hate the system we use for elections but we still go ahead and stand candidates. Not liking a positive step and finding endless other inequalities to mask it will not improve things for anyone.

  • Perhaps it would be better to look at why women are not voting LibDem rather than the sex of the candidates. 50% more women voted for UKIP rather than LibDem at the last GE, surely that is more of a worry.

  • John Barrett, as usual is spot on.

    All the wriggling and writhing is going to make us a laughing stock on this with the general public and with the press. All we need now is for the former Chief Executive to volunteer to be in charge of AWS.

  • Helen Tedcastle 8th Feb '16 - 11:59am

    @William Summers

    I could not agree more.

    The party really needs to start talking about economic inequality and if it is serious about representing the country, how about appointing more Lords (as that House still exists) from the North and the Midlands and less from the South, and how about selecting more candidates from working class backgrounds, and including people from diverse walks of life who did not go to Oxbridge – male and/or female?

  • Well said, Helen Tedcastle.

    It’s time the party started addressing the real economic issues affecting the general population – the gap between the top 1% and the the rest – the tax dodging by multi-national corporations (which a certain Danny didn’t fix) i- nstead of all this self-indulgent navel gazing. If it doesn’t, the public will finally deposit the party in the dustbin of history.

  • Gwyn Williams 8th Feb '16 - 12:40pm

    I can think of one seat, which we hope to regain in 2020, where AWS will be a disaster. That seat is currently represented by a pale,male Tory. There is an obvious woman Liberal Democrat candidate for Brecon and Radnor next time. If we use AWS in that seat then the Tory will be given the gift of claiming that Kirsty Williams was only selected by a rigged ballot. Why would we give the Tories such an open goal?

  • This article has been described as ‘re-arranging the deckchairs on the Titanic’. It is far worse; it is trying to ‘re-arrange the seating in a lifeboat from the Titanic’ . The sinking has already happened….

    What this party needs, at all levels, is the BEST suitable candidates/workers who can resonate with the voters in diverse constituencies….

  • Yes David. One of the most under-represented group in parliament is people with financial and business experience, especially in manufacturing. The lack is actually serious when it comes to running the country.
    Also poll after poll show the public hates career politicians.

  • Let’s look on the bright side. The number of female MP’s in the 57 seats the Lib Dems
    held in 2010 increased from 7 to 17 in 2015, a much greater increase than if the party
    had managed to retain them. The party has done far more to increase the representation of women in Parliament by collapsing than anything else it has done in its entire history.

  • Geoffrey Payne 8th Feb '16 - 1:25pm

    I am fed up with Lib Dem MPs being quizzed in general election campaigns about why we have no women or BAME MPs. I remember Norman Lamb being interviewed during the general election campaign on this. In front of an audience of young people the who conversation was about that and tuition fees. Nothing positive about what we were standing for.
    The situation has got ridiculous and we have to do whatever it takes to put this right.
    Ideally of course we should recruit more women and BAME members to begin with. But we have known that for decades and whatever we tried before did not work. This proposal is the last chance saloon and we should support it urgently.
    I should add that I am not too impressed with the attacks on Sal Brinton. She did not choose her parents and did not choose to go to public school. We should be grateful that despite her private education she joined the Lib Dems and not as would be more typical the Tories.
    Personally I went to a comprehensive school and I would like to see more class diversity in our Parliamentary party. How we do that is another topic for another day.

  • Unbelievable diversion from the real issue: what is our compelling electoral proposition which faces up the the seismic changes in society?

    It sure as hell ain’t arguing about who ‘inherits’ eight Seats!

  • Helen , David , very good all , but we also need to chill a bit on the criticism some above are making of Sal Brinton . Her class , and family background is not who she is . The Sal Brinton I see is a woman with a disability who is impressive and eloquent and deserves to be where she is by virtue of ability , but is mindful of the disadvantages many face because of their background .

    Two wrongs do not make a right . I do not favour AWS , I agree that it does not address other disadvantages , just as glaring as gender . Unfortunately too many are rushing to judgement and clutching at straws . This is very understandable due to frustration , but not what is needed . We must not lose sight of being , as a Liberal and Democratic party , able to see the whole person , and a holistic solution .

  • P.S. Where are the women on LDV , especially on such a topic , we need more ?!

  • Geoffrey Payne
    Are you saying that improving socioeconomic diversity (our most enduring and difficult problem) is in the “too difficult” pile?

  • How sad, colleagues, that this idea – which is a natural Liberal way to address our problem, is being argued about in this way.
    We are failing to attract women voters and those from other under represented groups. It could be that with more such candidates, the perspective of the party would change and with it, the response of the electorate. The two go together.
    Nor is this illiberal! It is exactly the kind of affirmative action that saw great Liberal governments introduce measures to enable, empower and educate those who would not have had the chance to move forward in life otherwise. Even our Coalition ministers carried that on, with the introduction of the Pupil Premium.
    Sal is quite right, we cannot ignore the way things are, hide our collective heads in the sand and hope matters improve. They won’t.
    Selection is also part of the problem. ‘Gatekeepers’ as they are known, like the status quo. Changing the way we do things will challenge that and force change.
    Good campaigners should come forward too, once they know that discrimination will not push them to the back – and yes, discrimination does happen. So let’s give encouragement to all our party members. At least we will then have the opportunity to be truly representative as a party.

  • Too echo Lorenzo, the criticism of Sal Brinton on the basis of where she went to school, and the relative socio economic position of here upbringing is not adding anything. I don’t like the particular proposal being put forward but would not like it any more if she was born in extreme poverty, ideas must be judged on their merits not on the identity of those making them.

    There are problems with the proposal and potentially a good number of other proposals that in combination would, in my opinion, be better. Let’s stick to the topic.

    That said not too much time should be spent on this as there is need for decent discussion of the policy questions that actually affect peoples lives…

  • Flo Clucas’ experience of the party is different to mine in my 43 years continuous membership. During that time I have worked and lived in a number of different seats, been local party chair, sat on selection panels, served as agent to two female, two male and one BAME parliamentary candidate. I have been a PPC, an undefeated district councillor for 17 years, group whip of a controlling Lib Dem group, with a female leader, and Focus editor for 20 years.

    Never, ever did I sit through a group meeting, short listing panel, interview panel, hustings, be part of a conversation, overhear a conversation or have a conversation reported to me where it was said or claimed that someone should not be short listed, selected or not supported for any reason other than he or she wasn’t good enough.

    The number of potential women and BAME candidates coming forward was an issue and that needs to be addressed. Trying to gerrymander parliamentary seats in a bent electoral system isn’t going to work and neither should it.

  • @ Flo Lucas : “Nor is this illiberal! It is exactly the kind of affirmative action that saw great Liberal governments introduce measures to enable, empower and educate those who would not have had the chance to move forward in life otherwise”.

    Sorry – historically not so. Yes, the all male Liberal Governments of Gladstone, Rosebery, Campbell-Bannerman and Asquith did do some good things….. but introducing women’s suffrage was not one of them. Lloyd George was never a Liberal PM.. but he did support female suffrage (and had his house burned down by the Suffragettes for his pains).

    On the present AWS (and others) issue – it would be interesting to do a socio-economic survey of the Liberal Democrats and compare it to the general profile of the rest of the UK population.

    We did disastrously last time because of the perception of the party by the general population post coalition. AWS had nowt to do with it… We’ll get votes when we’re seen to have relevant policies regardless of any gender tweaking.

  • Ruth Bright 8th Feb '16 - 5:01pm

    Rob – I have encountered little racism in the party that might be because I am white!
    Male party officers are unlikely to notice the subtle ways that women are sometimes belittled. Sometimes not so subtle, like a former PPC I knew who liked to compare the bust line of two female councillors he admired. Not an isolated incident.

    I don’t agree with Ian’s point about people not liking career politicians – when they meet them (Nicola Sturgeon, Tim Farron, Caroline Pidgeon etc etc) they often like them! Becoming a career politician is a way for more women to be involved. Being a candidate, having a demanding job outside politics and having babies at the same time is pretty much impossible!

  • Flo Clucas

    “Nor is this illiberal! It is exactly the kind of affirmative action that saw great Liberal governments introduce measures to enable, empower and educate those who would not have had the chance to move forward in life otherwise. Even our Coalition ministers carried that on, with the introduction of the Pupil Premium.”

    It isn’t like the pupil premium, that does not exclude the non-FSM children form teaching it adds assistance not excluding other children. If I were feeling un-generous and making educational comparisons I would compare it to the creation of Secondary Moderns where it was easier to get in and the esteem they were held in were low (not a perfect comparison, but closer).

    The Pupil Premium approach, I would suggest, would be closer to the approach I have suggested a number of times when the money and effort for the “top 50 seats” would instead go to the “top 50 candidates” where at least 50% would be female and 10%/20% would be ethnic minority. The money following the most candidates most capable of winning. But I notice I have seen many “small” changes suggested on these discussions and they never get even addressed or picked up as possible courses of action.

  • David Evershed 8th Feb '16 - 7:48pm

    Perhaps if we selected more white male candidates from Eton we would get more Lib Dem MPs elected. 🙂

  • I would like to draw attention to the recent AGM of Liverpool Liberal Democrats, where a space on the executive was created for a Equalities and Diversity Officer. This is something other parties (read: Labour) have had for a while, and it’s patently absurd that we have our commitment to breaking down barriers and creating genuine equality, then have nobody actually in charge of doing so at a local level.

    I encourage the wider party to consider adopting these posts in local parties across the country: equality starts at home!

  • Ruth. I wouldn’t describe Tim as a career politician. Defined as never working outside the field of politics – see this yougov poll about what actually bothers voters.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 8th Feb '16 - 11:06pm

    What a depressing thread this is. The attacks on Sal Brinton’s background are particularly reprehensible and reflect very badly on the two men making them.

    I just wonder how all the men would feel if women held the overwhelming majority of the positions of power in society and the party, had done since the dawn of time and with no potential for improvement of this situation, if they were told that diversity was irrelevant and that all that matters was that the “best person for the job” got it. I’m sure that you would all be complaining long and hard about how unfair this was and how it must change – and how it must be a priority.

    When you have large populations under-represented, their concerns have no priority in the political process. This is why you get appalling decisions like the Tampon Tax, because the men involved just don’t think that this will be a problem because it doesn’t affect them.

    If we had got our acts together and actually done some effective work to remedy the appalling diversity of our MPs in advance of 1997, when we really made a breakthrough, we might not have such problems today. Even if we had been reduced to the low number we have, some of them would be women. It is essential that we ensure that women are elected in considerable number at the next election and if that means making sure that our best prospects have a diverse range of candidates, then that’s what we need to do.

    The motion coming to Conference has an evidence based smorgasbord of what works. It’s not all about All Women Shortlists, although I think that they are an essential part of the mix. They provide a balanced team that actually changes political priorities. Nobody was talking about childcare before the influx of Labour women in 1997 and it’s taken 20 years to get that to near the top of the political agenda – but it’s there now. That’s pretty modest – just think what we could do with 40 or 50% female MPs.

    This party needs to get real and face the 21st century. Modern politics requires diversity and if we don’t deliver on that, it will set back our progress. I would politely suggest that those men who think that this doesn’t matter reconsider their positions.

  • David ,as in David Raw

    Campbell Bannerman , a favourite of mine as we share the same birthday ,though he was a lot older than me , apparently did favour womens sufferage, even as he famously told the sufferagettes to be patient , it was at a time when Lloyd George did’ nt ,because the Welsh wizard thought women more naturally conservative , and
    would elect Tories !


    here , here ! Just what some of us have been at lest in part , trying to say on this thread so don t find it too depressing !

  • William Summers 9th Feb '16 - 12:51am

    For the record, I am not attacking Sal Brinton’s background and perhaps should have referred more generally to politicians with a private school, Oxbridge education and an MP as a parent (there are plenty other MPs and Peers in the same category).

    Unless I’m reading it wrong though, this article is about diversity more generally, not just gender (at least that’s the title!), so I don’t think other factors like economic background and education should be relegated to a minor afterthought. The implication that raising the question of wider diversity is somehow a tactic to prevent gender diversity now is inaccurate and short-sighted.

    I am not against rebalancing parliament or political parties to make them more diverse – quite the opposite. I support measures to get more women and BAME candidates elected, eg zipping. I also think it needs to go hand in hand with encouraging more socio-economic diversity.

    I don’t support AWS for single-member seats, mainly because it means you are barring some people from representing their home area regardless of what they do, how suitable they are and how much work they have done already for increasing the vote in the area. It’s a very blunt tool, and, to repeat my previous point, is merely surface level. It does little to achieve a genuine diversity of candidates and may even make it worse if you end up with the situation Labour has of career politicians being parachuted into regional seats they have no real connection with.

  • Caron Lindsay 8th Feb ’16 – 11:06pm………….What a depressing thread this is. The attacks on Sal Brinton’s background are particularly reprehensible and reflect very badly on the two men making them………..This party needs to get real and face the 21st century. Modern politics requires diversity and if we don’t deliver on that, it will set back our progress. I would politely suggest that those men who think that this doesn’t matter reconsider their positions…..

    Perhaps, Caron, instead of tuning this into a Man vs woman thread you might have read…

    Helen Tedcastle 8th Feb ’16 – 11:59am…………..@William Summers……I could not agree more.

    Unless I’m mistaken, Helen is an unusual name for a man..

  • David Evans 9th Feb '16 - 8:52am

    Yes expats, I’m sure the sexism implied in Caron’s comment is lost on her. It isn’t just men who are against AWS, Caron. So why did you make the focus your comment solely on the male sex of people who disagree with you?

  • Caron

    That is an appalling straw man. Perhaps rather than deploying the appeal to motivation approach you could address the arguments. Accusing others of not caring about an issue because they see problems with your solution and have alternatives in mind, is poor when it is constantly used on LDV to attack other parties. At least you are happy using it against other people on your own side.

    As said by many above, people are very concerned about this and see it as a problem that does need to be fixed but the important point is coming up with a method that will work. Some issues I don’t even understand why they continue to be an issue as the solutions should be logistical not ideological and should not require lots of debate (thinking here about Ruth Bright’s observations about lack of child care facilities and no maternity leave, surely this can just happen without extended debate).

    There will be strong views but attacking your opponents as uncaring and trying to label people is not some “trump card” and it is relied no far too much LDV already.

  • Sue Doughty 9th Feb '16 - 1:04pm

    Regarding the attitude of some local parties to advancing women. In Guildford this really isn’t an issue at the last 8 general elections we have had a woman candidate. However talking to other PPCs I know that the situation varies. One local party in 2000 told their candidate that they thought it would be OK to wear trousers at meetings!!! The tendency for quite senior people to suggest to women that they should live in the constituency although the real question is if you can do the job of campaigning effectively is still ongoing and seriously off putting (as it is for men). None of this is about men versus women, or disabled or any of the under represented groups. Its just about saying that we really need to practice what we preach. All these under represented groups bring experience and wisdom from their perspective. With the greatest respect to our 8 white men looking like 45% of the population is scarcely demonstrating Liberal values in action. This motion must be supported if we are ever to move forward.

  • Simon Thorley 9th Feb '16 - 1:47pm

    @Caron: I think that the comments regarding Sal’s background are intended more to highlight that diversity is a complicated issue, and that (by being from the background she is from) she has had more opportunity to succeed in life than many men. Unless we ask the key questions of ‘what was your home postcode during your childhood, what were your parents’ professions and what your household income’ in determining which individuals to favour, we will not achieve true diversity, regardless of how many women and ethnic minorities are elected. It is the difference between tackling a visible lack of diversity and a hidden lack of diversity, and it’s entirely appropriate to draw attention to the limits of the scope of the ‘markers’ proposed for preferential treatment.

    For me, this lack of a comprehensive approach is part of what prevents me from supporting the proposed measures. If a middle-class woman is systematically favoured over a working-class man, we gain very little. I also oppose it on the liberal principle that we should seek to judge individuals as individuals, and not as members of a group defined by some imposed identity marker.

  • Sue Doughty
    Not sure I can agree that “dress code” type comments constitute sexism as such. When I was a PPC there was an almost-recognised movement of “Tim must wear a tie”. In fact, over the years I have “fought” (well, grumbled loudly) in an intermittent campaign to allow men more freedom to wear clothes they may want to. This has, for many years been a sexist anti-men situation in society. I am sorry to say, I haven’t persuaded many men, let alone women, to campaign alongside me. It has probably become worse over the years, with the adoption of the term “being professional” slid into the whole dress code thing. If our party were any sort of liberals, we would be uniting behind this in a freedom of dress culture! Our preamble does mention “not enslaved by conformity”.

  • Helen Tedcastle 9th Feb '16 - 3:23pm

    @ Sue Doughty
    ‘ All these under represented groups bring experience and wisdom from their perspective. With the greatest respect to our 8 white men looking like 45% of the population is scarcely demonstrating Liberal values in action.’

    As others have pointed out, criticism of this motion does not imply the critics are against diversity. Criticism has been made of the mechanism by which to attain it ie: special shortlists for selected groups based on gender, sexual orientation or ethnicity.

    This method however fails to take into account genuine economic and social inequality in backgrounds and for want of better words, class or hinterland. This was the reason behind my comment about selecting more people from a wide variety of backgrounds (not a direct swipe at Sal Brinton, for the record).

    On the issue of our 8 MPs being male and pale: the main reason we are in this situation is because they are excellent campaigners who managed to hold back the tsunami against the party nationally. Their gender is secondary to this grim reality.

  • Ruth Bright 9th Feb '16 - 4:56pm

    Simon Thorley – when I was discriminated against as a pregnant PPC it wasn’t because of an “imposed identity marker” the gender identity marker was pretty darn obvious!!

    My background as the ninth child of a bricklayer however has never presented any problems in the party at all.

  • Simon Thorley 9th Feb '16 - 6:30pm

    @Ruth Bright – I’m sorry to hear of your experience. We must counter discrimination wherever we encounter it.

    My remark regarding ‘imposed identity marker’ referred to the reduction of individual humans to mere members of a group. The discrimination you suffered is a good example of this in practice: “Ruth is a woman and pregnant (identity markers A and B) and thus she will have opinions, needs or priorities X, Y and Z – we don’t want that.” The proposal being made for the promotion of diversity risks the same result: “This person is a woman, and therefore is in a disadvantaged position compared to this man” – ignoring the myriad other factors that make an individual… well, an individual.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 9th Feb '16 - 11:50pm

    I think, David Evans, it’s pretty obvious. You are all saying how ridiculous it is to be bothered about this, but I suspect if you were living in a society that was built by women for women, you might not feel quite so nonchalant about it.

  • William Summers 10th Feb '16 - 6:16am


    I’m not sure what you mean by “you all”, but if you are implying the men on this thread are all “saying how ridiculous it is to be bothered about this” I think that is pretty slanted reading of the comments. For the most part I think this is a constructive and worthwhile debate, exploring the various problems and options. It shouldn’t descend into a game of top trumps about who believes in diversity most. There are clearly concerns about the methods of getting their, particularly AWS, which should be able to be discussed rationally without being tarred as a self-interested chauvinist.

    And you can’t on one hand say it’s “reprehensible” to question the validity of Sal Brinton’s diversity push on the basis of her background and then go on to question the validity of comments by men on the basis of their gender.

    Would I feel differently about gender balance if it was a society built by women for women? Probably, as I would have had different life experiences and challenges. Would I support a gender rebalance of candidates? Highly likely. Would I support All Men Shortlists? Impossible to know.

    What about you?

  • David Collins 10th Feb '16 - 8:46am

    I am a big fan of Sal and the way she articulates LibDem values. She is a big asset for the party. On this occasion, although of course I understand her points, I just wonder if we need to really focus on putting forward the very best candidates (completely irrespective of diversity issues) in order to get them elected. We lost some first class and well respected MPs and Councillors last May and we need to to everything we can to regain our position. Electoral reform should be a key issue…where is that being debated? Have I missed something?

  • Caron, as has been pointed out, a woman has also questioned Sal Brinton’s stance. You choose to ignore this……
    Sal Brinton’s, “One of the most shocking events of the 2015 General Election night was the loss of our top held and target seats with women and BAME candidates, which resulted in an entirely pale and male parliamentary party” is an unwarranted swipe at those who, in the electoral disaster, managed to keep the Westminster party alive… What is shocking is the loss of almost ALL of our MPs leaving “a pale reflection of a parliamentary party”…. Who, in her grudging recognition of the ‘pale and male’ would she like to have traded for a female/BAME member?
    Replacing some “privately educated, Oxbridge male MPs” with “privately educated, Oxbridge female MPs” is not my idea of ‘diversity’…There have been some constructive ideas (from the male members) but, with only 8 MPs and our standing in the polls, we should pick the BEST regardless of gender/race.

  • John Barrett 10th Feb '16 - 9:58am

    English party members might be interested to to know that the similar, and in some way more radical proposals, are being discussed at the Scottish Party Spring conference in Edinburgh at the end of February, include changes to future Westminster and European elections, but not to the Scottish Parliamentary elections this May.

    The irony is that the Scottish elections are the one set of elections where the proposed changes would actually make a difference, as most Lib-Dem MSPs are elected on the lists.

    What has happened in Scotland is that the only female MSP has been replaced at the top of her regional list by one male former MSP and it is now likely that every Lib-Dem MSP after May this year will be male.

    Why is there no proposal going forward for similar radical changes for the one election where it could make a real difference immediately?

    Some cynics might think that this is because Willie himself is at the top of one list, or that his MSP colleagues on the list, who might get re-elected are also all male. Turkeys do not vote for Christmas.

    For those attending the York conference, they should take note of what unfolds in Edinburgh and if the proposal for AWS and more is passed, they should ask Willie, “if the changes are good enough for everyone else, why not for him”?

  • David Collins

    “we need to really focus on putting forward the very best candidates (completely irrespective of diversity issues) in order to get them elected”

    I would suggest the problem with this proposal is more nuanced than that. What we need is the right candidate in the right constituency, a system of AWS has the potential to divert high quality female candidates in to constituencies that are not suited just because they are regarded as ‘target’ and have an AWS.

    A system that focuses the effort on the candidates that the party needs in parliament but from a pool of realistic possibilities would mean that a female candidate could stand for a seat which is a bit further outside the ‘target’ list but not an unrealistic possibility and get support rather than have to shoehorn themselves in to a constituency that is a less ‘good fit.’

    As has been repeated over and over AWS is a system that relies on safe seats of which the LibDems have none. Copying other parties will not work.

  • Caron – I don’t think that anyone is saying that it’s ridiculous to want more women MP’s. However, there has been a massive improvement over the last 30 years with women now holding around 30% of the seats in the HofC. If the current trend continues we will soon have a reasonable male/female split and it is of course important that the trend continues. However, AWS are disliked by many – men and women – so is there really any point in introducing them in the LibDems? I fail to see how the party or women will benefit.

  • Jane Ann Liston 10th Feb '16 - 11:22am

    I do think that attacking people because of the school they attended is not at all fair – after all, apart from the extremely precocious, children have very little say in choosing to which school they are sent.

  • Jane Ann Liston 10th Feb '16 - 11:35am

    I also noticed the use of of the term ‘middle class’, but without any definition. I have read that ‘middle class’ people are those who earn over 40K, that Kate Middleton’s millionaire father is ‘middle class’, that ‘middle class’ parents send their children to Fettes College (over 10K per term), but that teaching and social work are ‘middle class’ professions (do they earn over 40K?). And for some, ‘middle class’ seems to come down to having a degree (so there can be no such thing as subsequent generations of working class families) or simply the way one speaks. Without definition this label, mainly used in a pejorative sense I note, is not terribly helpful in the debate.

  • Peter Watson 10th Feb '16 - 12:11pm

    @Jane Ann Liston “I do think that attacking people because of the school they attended is not at all fair”
    It is unfair, but no one in this thread is doing that. People are pointing out though that the party will not be diverse or representative if it simply replaces male candidates with female candidates from the same background (white, affluent, privately-educated, Oxbridge graduate, etc.).

  • @PSI
    “AWS is a system that relies on safe seats ”

    I know it has been continuously repeated on LDV, but is it really true? If you look at some of the female Labour MPs, not all off them were put in safe seats. This is also true of the Conservative Party (who don’t have AWS, but use the A List).

  • Chris_sh
    No, of course AWS doesn’t “rely” (entirely anyway) on safe seats, but selections done through it are buttressed by having a safe seat. AWS is controversial and not liked by many voters. I, for instance am aware of at least one seat where Labour imposed AWS where the female candidate was selected by AWS (she also seemed inappropriate to the seat). There was huge controversy inside the local Labour Party – and outside. She lost, not to the Lib Dem but to another party’s female candidate! I might add that the seat in question was pretty safe, or had been considered so! Being an unbiased observer / opponent, the better candidate won.

    Another feature of AWS or other positive discrimination systems is that it gives, or is perceived to give, the party machine more power over selection – again which was so in the case I describe. Reading the arguments advanced here, I have absolutely no doubt that that would happen in the Lib Dems too.

  • @Tim13
    “Another feature of AWS or other positive discrimination systems is that it gives, or is perceived to give, the party machine more power over selection – again which was so in the case I describe.”
    But isn’t it the case that the machine is going to have to do something anyway? In which case you are going to end up with more central control. I seem to recall that there was also a lot of hoo haa when the Conservatives introduced their system. In both cases the central machine decided that localism wasn’t working and that to a greater or lesser extent there would need to be more central control.

    As a footnote, (whilst trying to edificate myself 😉 ), I noted this on Wiki:
    “Labour introduced the Sex Discrimination (Election Candidates) Act 2002, which allows parties to use positive discrimination in the selection of candidates.[3][17][19] They will remain legalized until the end of 2015, due to the “Sunset Clause”.[20]”

    Was the legislation extended? If not then surely it may not even be legal anymore?

  • We have legendary women in our movement , and none of our well known figures , with the exception of the under utilised and dynamic Baroness Floella Benjamin,who is female and black , and our veteran stalwart Lord Navnit Dholakia , who is male and Asian ,none of our terrific BAME members , especially parliamentary candidates , have got anywhere .

    We have only one prominent figure with a disability .She is Sal Brinton .In support of her I support some of the comments of Caron .But as a white born and bred British man ,in my later forties , of Italian , Irish extraction , with a beard , whose life was and has been greatly affected by a car accident that almost killed my wife and I , but did not do it , yet left disability issues , and ,as a vegetarian, non smoker , non drinker, non driver, in the arts and creative industry , not left wing , not right wing , and a member of the Liberal Democrats ……….I do not like stereotypes !

    Many , including Caron , are in danger of losing the point of this , to bring people in and on , not alienate them !

  • In our local party, we tried to invite “the under-utilised” Floella Benjamin as our dinner guest. Unfortunately she was being over-utilised at the time! We have invited Baroness Kate Parminter to be our guest at the forthcoming dinner.

  • @ John Barrett “What has happened in Scotland is that the only female MSP has been replaced at the top of her regional list by one male former MSP and it is now likely that every Lib-Dem MSP after May this year will be male”.

    John, I have repeatedly voiced support for Alison McInnes on LDV since she was effectively ‘de-selected’ last year… but events yesterday changed my mind on what has been characterised as a gender issue. I now give priority to the issue not the gender.

    Yesterday Anne McTaggart’s Organ Donation Bill was lost by a mere three votes – proposed and supported by Anne and Jackie Bailey – opposed by SNP Minister Maureen Watt (all women). Eleven SNP members rebelled against their own Minister. Four Lib Dems, all men, (after a speech by Jim) supported Anne’s Bill – one (Alison) opposed it. Alison didn’t even sit in on the debate.

    Now I’m lucky. I got a transplant five years ago. Inevitably people will die because of the delay. The NHS states 49,000 people in the UK have waited for an organ transplant in the last 10 years – over 6,000, including 270 children died before receiving one. Translated to Scotland – approximately 60 adults and three children will die for every twelve month delay before the SNP bring in legislation (Ms Watt says they will). She could have adopted the Bill with full civil service support for technical amendment.

    I have to say now, if I was on a selection panel in North East Scotland I would now put the issue before the gender.

  • John Barrett 10th Feb '16 - 3:29pm

    David – I hear what you say and as a registered organ donor, I agree with the Bill too.

    I was not using the Alison example as a reason for supporting AWS, but more to expose how I feel badly let down by the double standards in my own party under the guise of this “diversity” motion, being proposed by Willie Rennie at the February Scottish conference.

    When I was in our local constituency campaign office today, the matter of the conference motion was being discussed and it was interesting to hear that the one person in the room who supported the motion, changed his mind after a brief discussion on the topic and is now inclined to speak against it at conference.

  • Thanks for that, John. I appreciate your comments.

    I have a great regard for Willie – but I would advise him to quietly drop the AWS motion now before Conference. We should trust Liberal members to select the best person (even if they have horns on their head) based on the issues and not gender equipment or orientational preferences.

  • Tim, as in above
    Nice one Tim , I am glad she is popular, yet reckon she could be put forward more nationally , and media such as Question Time could have been inviting her on more over recent years
    Its funny , the late , great Sir Peter Ustinov was often on tv , but no one ever seemed to realize he was a life long Liberal and Liberal Democrat voter , though not a member , because he was never invited on Question Time !

  • Ruth Bright 10th Feb '16 - 9:55pm

    William Summers – I can’t speak for Caron of course but I for one would be very happy to see all-male shortlists for professions where men are scandalously under represented dementia support work for example (approx 90% female) or primary school teaching (approx 80% female).

  • Ruth -doesn’t your example illustrate the flawed reasoning here however?

    Men make up 20% of Primary Teachers not because they are discriminated against when applying for Teacher Training courses or for Teaching jobs but because they do not apply in large enough numbers. Even though they are encouraged to apply because it is a good career choice for men precisely due to the lack of numbers. Similarly, as I recall the figures (and I welcome correction if I am wrong), in 2001 and 2005 around 25% of those on the LD approved candiadtes list were female and about 25% of selected PPC’s were female. By 2015 the % on the Approved List was around 28/30% and the % selected for Target Seats was a little over 40%. So the evidence is not of discrimination in selection (except for of positive discrimination by 2015) but of lower numbers of women applying to be approved candidates in the first place.

    A second flaw in the reasoning though is any belief that applying to become a Parliamentary candidate is the same thing as applying for a job. In the latter case if successfully appointed you get the job. In the former you merely get the right to contest an election where the large majority of contestants will fail to be elected -the vast majority if you are a Minor Party candidate.

  • Ruth

    I would oppose all male short lists for jobs such as primary teaching even more strongly than I oppose AWS. I would support investigation as to why particular jobs don’t attract certain individuals and look to see if there are improvements that can be made to resolve an underlying problem and encourage more to apply but not preventing female candidates from doing jobs.

    I wouldn’t want schools forced to take a candidate on the basis of their gender rather then their fit to the particular team and school.

  • Having worked for many years in the dementia field I believe that men are actively discouraged from putting themselves forward for caring roles and find themselves in a culture where they are not welcome in such roles and discriminating in their favour for a short time to restore some balance would be a welcome redress. I accept that in the future I might be the “victim” of positive discrimination in the field of work I love.

    Paul, I was one of those female candidates who was approved just after the 2001 election. I stood in 2005 but did not put myself forward again for 2010. Just off the top of my head I can think of three female candidates I admired in that cohort who were either approved and never stood or stood once in 2005 and did not stand again in any subsequent election. One disappeared because of Rennard. I stood down because I just couldn’t face any more wrangling over maternity/parental leave. I don’t know about the other two – probably no-one ever asked. The nurturing of all candidates in the party is poor (to be fair partly because of lack of resources and personnel) perhaps you have experienced that yourself. Some of the issues female candidates face, however, are unique to females and the opponents of AWS do not for the most part acknowledge that.

  • John Barrett 11th Feb '16 - 11:35am

    Good luck to those who will be going to conference to debate the topics being discussed here. Like over 95% of party members, I will not be attending either the Edinburgh or York conferences and hope the discussion and debate around this subject results in a wise decision being made by those members who vote on the day.

    Having; attended dozens of Lib-Dem conferences throughout the UK over the last 40 years, been trained in everything from designing leaflets and fighting campaigns (and have trained others to do so) been an office bearer, election agent locally and nationally, a councillor, an MP, a Member of the Federal Executive and Scottish Party Exec. and much more, I now have a life outside politics, but still find it very frustrating when I see the party pushing the self destruct button on an issue.

    Those men who managed to hold on to their seats in Parliament should be commended for not being swept away on election night. We should not see their success as some sort of failure, just because they are all white middle aged men.

    Had we ended up with eight female MPs, I doubt anyone would be calling for all male short lists. There is so much more to being a candidate than gender and every good candidate brings lots of strengths to the table. The quality of leadership and the ability to inspire a team have not been mentioned, but are two qualities without which most campaigns will fail. The experience at work, home, as parents or carers can result in excellent candidates from either gender winning support from the electorate. The sheer volume of hard work required, often over many years, is another thing which will separate good candidates from the rest. Saying to any potential candidate that they cannot apply for any seat because of their gender is madness.

    Many people, from all walks of life, have a relatively narrow range of experiences, as their work, home, family, education etc. does not often span into many different social classes or bands of wealth. Gender might stop some people fully understanding some issues, but many other aspects of life (including gender) do the same thing.

    Others can and will argue over the importance of the gender of those elected, but I think the many other qualities which make a good MP are of such a variety that the gender of the candidate, or their sexuality, is not or something that at the end of the day is that important to the constituent who turns up at the advice surgery in desperate need of help.

  • There is absolutely no evidence that s0-called ‘good’ candidates poll better except where they have an incumbency factor – and they don’t get that till after they get elected! The evidence is that what matters is a good campaign with lots of leaflets and doorknocking and one that starts long before the election itself.
    The implication of the good candidate argument – as propagated by the anti AWS brigade – boils down to women are not as good candidates as men. If a man was selected as the best candidate we would hear not a peep from those who oppose this move. Those same people refuse to accept that the people making the selection DO have a bias against women candidates [and just to be clear that bias includes both men and women] and they are almost alone in our party in not requiring training before carrying put their duties. The panel and the RO have to be trained before they carry out their task, but ordinary members get no training at all.
    The reason not enough women come forward to be candidates is because they know that the deck is stacked against them. If we had a selection process that ensured fairness and balanced selection I suspect that many more women – and minorities- would allow their names to go forward as candidates.
    I no longer believe that our party is interested in sorting out our historical failure to both select and elect people that look like the society we live in. We can’t guarantee election but we could guarantee selection. I predict that yet again the party will pass up the opportunity to solve the selection problem and will instead settle for some useless compromise that will fail yet again to deliver the desired outcome.

  • Paul Holmes 11th Feb '16 - 1:23pm

    Mick -what you say about selection is simply not true.

    2001 and 2005, 25% of Approved Candidate List female, 25% of selected PPC’s female.

    2015 approx 30% of Approved candidate list female, over 40% of Target Seat PPC’s female.

    The factual evidence is that women were selected at least in ratio to the numbers in which they applied and more recently better than that. Had 2015 been an election like 1997, 2001, 2005 or 2010 then we would now have a much increased ratio of female MP’s.But ‘The Party’ does not elect MP’s -only the electorate do that and in 2015 they comprehensively trashed our candidates across the board.

    You are though right that Campaigns need to start long before the date of the election and in a Party with virtually zero ‘Safe Seats’ that has usually meant a candidate building up a profile over a number of years spanning more than one election. Women are just as capable of doing that as anyone else as my good friends Patsy Calton or Annette Brook did. But even long term hard work does not guarantee success for anybody as other good friends of mine such as Jill Hope and Carol Woods know despite their campaigning hard in Target Seats in 2005 and 2010. Exactly the same applies to male candidates.

  • Paul Holmes 11th Feb '16 - 1:48pm

    Ruth -I can’t speak from direct experience about a career in Dementia Care but I can about education, where men are under represented in Secondary Education and very under represented in Primary Education not because they are discriminated against at the point of selection but because they don’t apply in greater numbers. How would an All Male Shortlist in either Dementia Care or Primary School selection change that?

    You are correct about the still poor support given to PPC’s (and newly elected MP’s) although I saw it improve quite a lot (especially for women) over the last 15 years. But I too could recite cases of male PPC’s who only stood once or twice and would not do so again just as you have of female PPC’s. I could also quote questions that were put to me when I ran for selection as a PPC which women would say were discriminatory when put to them.

  • Jonathan Hunt 11th Feb '16 - 5:05pm

    Ethnic Minority Liberal Democrats (EMLD) is opposed to Sal Brinton’s establishment motion, having jointly submitted a shorter, straightforward version that provides a simple solution. That is for Conference, as the highest policy-making body in the party, to fully accept and implement the Equality Act,2010. Its provisions permit positive action to choose all-women, all-black and all-other of the nine Protected Characteristics which are named.

    Positive action (not positive discrimination, which is illegal –Andrew Marr please note) allows radical measures to address and correct previous discrimination. Once we have adopted this Act as policy, it is then up to local parties to go ahead and pick their shortlists, safe in the knowledge they are acting lawfully if the candidates they choose are all-black or all-women.

    This whole discussion can be dismissed as yet another good attempt by WLD to monopolise the term “diversity”, delivering what many people of colour regard as another insult.

    EMLD and Camberwell & Peckham local party would like many other SAOs, regional and constituency parties to support this amendment. It will be circulated in good time.

  • Mick Taylor

    “There is absolutely no evidence that so-called ‘good’ candidates poll better”

    Well as no-one is claiming men = good; women = bad this argument appears irrelevant.

    There will be excellent female / EM candidates who should get the full effort of a target seat but who may be local to a seat that is outside the “target list” it is better they get the resources concentrated on them. If the alternative is to shoe-horn them in to a “target seat” with an AWS that is a significant distance from where they have to live, what will that entail? Probably the expectation of at least 10 years of very demanding traveling to campaign, or uprooting family and moving (if possible), being attacked by opponents as “an outsider,” having the fact they were selected via an AWS used against them to suggest they were inferior.

    There are many excellent candidates have the effort follow them. This effect is even more pronounced in terms of looking where EM candidates are based. The LibDems have been weaker performers in areas where more LibDem EM members live, this results in those areas not making it to a “target list” that in-tern harder to get EM candidates elected. If you live in Lewisham are you going to be a great candidate for North Devon? So perhaps the targeting needs to be focused on effort near to where great candidates live and where they have a chance (even if they were in 3rd/4th place in 2015).

    “good candidates” is not the same as “candidates with a good fit”

  • Meral Hussein Ece 11th Feb '16 - 11:26pm

    Sal Brintons is to be commended for setting out very coherently why we need to support this motion, which will send out a clear message that we, the Liberal Democrats are not going to ignore the appalling lack of diversity, but are prepared to take affirmative action to address this. Reading through this thread, of (mainly) male contributors, I’m reminded of how the Labour Party went through a similar process, & arguments & by pioneering AWS have changed the face of the Commons. Who now points to any female MP elected through AWS as somehow inferior? No One. There’s nothing liberal or progressive about a party that has no women (52% of the population) or BAME MP. Here’s a sobering statistic: 450 women have been elected to the House of Commons since 1918 – 9 less than current number of male MPs. How is the fair, liberal or in anyway enhancing democracy?

  • Meral Hussein Ece
    Only 450 women may have been elected to to the House of Commons since 1918, but the fact that we currently have 191 women MP’s – nearly 30% of the total – shows that things are moving in the right direction.

  • Suspect we are in danger of going around in circles on this thread, but the stats suggest that women who put themselves forward for selection have at least as much chance of becoming the chosen candidate as men. It follows that women have no reason to be pessimistic about their own, personal chances of selection. So the problem becomes one of perception, rather than justice. It looks bad for the party so we have to act, even if there isn’t really a problem for individual women wishing to get involved. Hmmmm…..

    @ Johnathan Hunt
    Protected characteristics include age and religion. All Christian/Jewish/atheist shortlists ? Only over 60s or under 30s need apply for this seat ? Is this really what we want to see ? I can’t believe that Lib Dem members are the kind of people who would reject a good ethnic minority prospective candidate if they had one.

  • Meral Hussein Ece 12th Feb '16 - 6:20pm

    @malc – ‘Moving in the right direction?’ – Aren’t you just a teeny bit concerned that we have none, and even when we had 57 MPs, just 7 were women? Hardly progress. The other parties have made real progress precisely because they’ve grasped the nettle and taken affirmative action- that’s progress!

  • David Evans 12th Feb '16 - 6:48pm

    Meral, women Lib Dems have been given huge amounts of bespoke training, help and guidance in the party, they are being selected for the best seats in higher proportions than men, but sadly they are not getting elected. In 2010, none of the women selected for held seats won. In 2015, it was carnage for all new candidates and most standing MPs as well. In 2020 it will be even tougher for Lib Dems to even hold what we have this time. I don’t know what you really think the problem is, but to me it isn’t too few Lib Dem women MPs, it is too few Lib Dem MPs period. And that isn’t going to be solved by AWS or anything similar.

  • @Merel – “Aren’t you just a teeny bit concerned that we have none”

    However, I am very concerned that it seems for every parliamentary constituency the LibDems are wishing to contest, there isn’t at least one woman on the final shortlist of candidates. I think until there is a good supply of able candidates (ie. at least as good as an average male) coming forward, there is little point in getting too worked up about the absence of women in the ranks of LibDem MP’s.

  • Meral, can you explain how AWS or any other kind of all Diversity shortlist actually gets more LD Diversity candidates elected to Westminster under a FPTP electoral system?

    Unlike Labour/Conservatives we never had huge numbers of ‘Safe Seats’ (over half of all Constituencies have not changed hands in half a century but these are almost entirely Labour or Conservative fiefdoms). Do we have any at all since the debacle of 2010-2015? Between 1997-2010 we had a few where a candidate with no local record at all could move into a ‘Safe seat’ and win -David Laws inheriting Yeovil from Paddy in 2001 and Nick Clegg inheriting Sheffield Hallam from Richard Allen in 2005 being two examples. Susan Kramer inheriting Richmond in 2005?

    Mostly however our successful MP’s have a track record of local connections and local campaigning and profile building before they win -as with Patsy Calton, Annette Brook or Lynne Featherstone. Post 2010/15 the already restricted chance of quick fixes, with chosen candidates parachuted in to choice seats later in the day, are gone. Winning candidates, Diverse or otherwise, have to look at the long haul.

    PR elections, especially large scale MEP contests fought across 2 Million households, are a different matter as the contribution of an individual candidate is less central in such a contest. Zipping worked well in the 1999 Euro elections and now we are back to an almost blank slate since 2014 can work well again for 2019 -always assuming we are by then starting to recover ground from the successively disastrous elections of 2011-2015.

  • Merel
    I was commenting on the point you raised on how few women have been elected to the HofC’s since 1918. As you know in the last 20 years or so this has improved massively and we now have – I think – 191 female MP’s. So yes the country is going in the right direction. As for the sex of the MP’s of a party with only 8, I couldn’t really care if they were all male or all female. I’m far more concerned why 100,000’s more women voted UKIP at the GE that LibDem, it certainly wasn’t because they had more women candidates.

  • John Barrett 13th Feb '16 - 10:36am

    Paul Holmes – You could add Edinburgh West in 2010 to that list, where a “safe” Lib-Dem seat was available, when I stood down in advance of the 2010 election. The 13,600 majority in my old seat was the second largest majority in the UK in any Lib-Dem held seat – after Charles Kennedy’s.

    What was surprising was that very few women even applied for selection. Not one woman from outside the area even put their hat in the ring. It was as near to guaranteeing the selected candidate a job as an MP as possible.

    It was also one of the reasons I stood down at that election – to ensure we held the seat, as I had seen many MPs hang on for one election too many, which made holding the seat for their successor much more difficult. If more MPs had thought about this in the past I suspect we might not be down to eight now.

    There is no guarantee that even in the 8 seats we hold that many women will apply when the sitting MP stands down.

    We must not rule out and talented people from putting their name forward in any seat just because they are men.

  • Richard Underhill 13th Feb '16 - 12:20pm

    Caron Lindsay 8th Feb ’16 – 11:06pm
    Tunbridge Wells Liberal Democrats is chaired by a woman, her deputy is a woman and the secretary is a woman.
    A female PPC was also a Surrey County Councillor and seriously interested in becoming an MP.
    We have had several female group leaders on the borough council. None of them were prejudiced against women candidates.
    Currently all our borough and town councillors are male.
    Try a question from a training course in the Civil Service. The insurance companies say that female drivers are safer than male drivers, particularly female drivers aged 17-25 are safer than male drivers aged 17 – 25, but all the Formula 1 drivers are male.
    Although the instructor allowed plenty of time for debate, no one on the course offered any explanation.
    One of the team managers is a woman. There are female journalists.
    Driver safety in Formula 1 has improved greatly since the days of the late Jim Clark. Further improvements are being discussed this year.

  • Richard Underhill 13th Feb '16 - 12:23pm

    Caron Lindsay 8th Feb ’16 – 11:06pm
    Why are women not voting for Clinton?

  • Meral Hussein Ece 13th Feb '16 - 12:56pm

    Its depressing, but i detect from the last few contributors that its somehow the fault of women for ‘not coming forward’ Ask yourselves why? I took part in a (successful) cross party Govt task force nearly a decade ago to bring more women from minority backgrounds into local govt. I met hundreds of women who were keen , but had never before been approached or felt that women were welcome, or that politics was accessible for them. You wouldn’t open a business and sit back waiting for women to enter a male dominated environment. If we’re really interested and want change then there is a mountain of research, including one conducted by Dinti Batstone for FE, as to so why so many women were dropping out as PPCs. Makes sobering reading.

  • Ruth Bright 13th Feb '16 - 1:57pm

    Meral – yes, there is also research on this by Dr Elizabeth Evans.

  • Meral
    but i detect from the last few contributors that its somehow the fault of women for ‘not coming forward’
    Are you talking about the Libdem’s specifically or UK politicial parties in general here?
    I think Ruth, with her reference to Dr Elizabeth Evans work, is on the ball, the concern must be why, given the recent history of women in UK politics and the publishing of Dr Evans work in 2011, the LibDems are still so far behind in having a good pool of capable women candidates to draw upon. As it does seem that even with AWS, the LibDem’s will sit back and not wonder why there are no women applying…

  • John Barrett 14th Feb '16 - 12:29pm

    It is not the ‘fault’ of women for not putting themselves forward to use Meral’s word, which implies those apposing AWS believe this to be the case.

    Many in the the party need to understand more why some elected women at council level, including council group leaders and council leaders decide that standing for Westminster is not for them. Many issues relating to support and childcare have been used as a reason, but there are many others.

    As I have mentioned before, when I have asked women in the Lib-Dems if they would go forward to be parliamentary candidates, the single most common reason for saying “no” was that they did not want to give up their chosen career outside of politics for a risky alternative.

    It is not, as Roland says, that we do not have a good pool of capable women to draw on that we have no female MPs. The women who were sitting MPs and those others in key seats were all good candidates.

    It is because the public chose not to vote for them.

  • Paul Holmes 14th Feb '16 - 8:23pm

    Meral, I find it depressing that since last May barely a week goes by without someone using LDV to demean and insult our few remaining MP’s because of the Chromosomes they were born with. If anyone wrote in the same way about female LD politicians they would quite rightly be criticised for doing so.

    By now the Party should have carried out -and published -a thorough study of any common factors that explain why this handful survived electoral meltdown. Of course it goes without saying that being male is not one of those factors.

    Can you, as I asked two days ago, explain how Diversity shortlists will solve the current problem -when, for example, having over 40% of Target Seat candidates female in 2015 did not? Being an MP is not something that is in the gift of the Party/Leader in the way that being a member of the House of Lords has been. We never had many ‘Safe Seats’ where selection more or less automatically meant election and now we have none. ‘We’ do not elect MP’s -the voters do.

    The need to “be seen to do something” should not over ride the need to actually “do something” that works. Especially when 2010-2015 took us to the verge of electoral oblivion.

  • Paul Holmes 14th Feb '16 - 8:34pm

    @Caron Lindsay. Caron -you wouldn’t answer this question in your Dunfermline thread but said you would here.

    Whenever you write about Willie Rennie you (rightly) say how excellent he is. Another contributor to the Dunfermline thread noted how popular he was in that by election because of his local connections. So would it have been better for the Liberal Democrats to have banned him from standing (because he was male) in order to select from a list of Diversity candidates?

  • Paul Holmes
    How many of the 57 Lib Dem seats had a female candidate in 2015?

  • A Social Liberal 14th Feb '16 - 11:18pm

    In my opinion the party should use the time we have before the next general election to carry out a root and branch survey of the process, getting figures all the way from the regional candidate recruitment team to the constituency committees in charge of selection. If we do not have the information then we need to start collating it in order to adequately change the process. Why should we do this? It would be rather silly bringing in an all working class shortlist system if it turns out that only 1% of our candidate pool was from a working class background. It would be similarly silly if it turned out that we had a decent amount of working class candidates but we were failing to get them elected. So, in order to correctly identify where we are falling short I propose the following analysis (I will use women as an example only – I am not identifying them as more or less worthy than the working class or any other grouping).

    First we need to know how many women are applying to become candidates, how many return the application forms and how many are successful in becoming prospective candidates. If too many are not returning their application packs we need to know what is putting them off, similarly if too few women are applying in the first place. If too few are successful in navigating the process then we need to know what is going wrong and how we can put this right.

    We also need to know how many women are in the pool of candidates in order to identify if the problem starts here.

    Second. We have to find out how many women are applying for seats, if not enough of those successful in getting into our pool of candidates are applying for them then we need to know and we need to know why. If it turns out that this is the reason for the shortfall of women MPs then we have to devise ways of encouraging those women to come forward and submit applications for constituencies. If enough are applying then we need to know the figures to understand if this is where we are falling down and work out how we can change it.

  • A Social Liberal 14th Feb '16 - 11:18pm

    Third, shortlists. We have to know how many women are being shortlisted. If not representative, why not. Is there a valid reason for the shortfall and how can we aleviate the problem.

    Finally, we have to know how many women are successful in representing the Liberal Democrats in parliamentary elections. If not enough then we need to understand what went wrong and again, what we can do to change it for the better.

    Until we know that everything is being done to identify and correct the reasons for shortfalls in under-represented groups we should not be looking at limiting shortlists. There is a saying in the forces – Prior Planning Prevents P. Poor Performance. Let’s do the groundwork and get everything in place so that our candidates more poperly represent the country at large.

  • R Uduwerage-Perera 15th Feb '16 - 4:22pm

    Dear ‘A Social Liberal’,

    I agree with many of the points that you raise, but not doing anything until we have collated all of the information and then undertaken a scientific analysis of the results is simply too slow. We need a resolution, not evolution.

    We have a problem in that underrepresented groups covered by what is know as Protected Characters, within the Equality Act, 2010, are known to be even more underrepresented within our Party when it comes to both internal and external elections.

    The Equality Act, 2010 offers up some solutions such as positive/affirmative action following reviewing and redeveloping policies, processes, and procedures that are a barrier to the recruitment, retention, progression and election of people with Protected Characteristics.

    There is no need to hold things up for these results, for many organisations have undertaken such review since 2010. We need only acknowledge that we have a problem and seek solutions. We are after all the Party of equality, fairness and justice, so I ask on behalf of all people with Protected Characteristics, “can some of us have some equality, fairness and justice please?”

    Ruwan Uduwerage-Perera
    EMLD – Chair

  • John Barrett 15th Feb '16 - 5:46pm

    I agree that equality, fairness and justice are required.

    The problem is that the current proposals will deliver none of the above.

  • A Social Liberal 15th Feb '16 - 5:53pm

    Thank you for your comment Ruwan.

    Like you I come from an under represented group – two actually given that I am both working class and disabled. However, I disagree with your last point. Going off half cocked is not necessarily going to gain fairness for us. If, for instance, no disabled candidates are are in the candidate pool then how could we possibly have All Disabled Shortlists, similarly if there is a scarceness women applying to become candidates then we know the bottleneck will not be broken by having AWS.

  • A Social Liberal
    All Disabled Shortlists could be a nightmare. Would a disabled person need to have a certain level of disability say 40% or would 10% be enough or would they need to be 80% disabled? Would someone like ATOS be required to confirm the level of disability, would people be able to appeal if it was decided their level of disability was too much or too little to be selected? Would medical help be available to judge if some candidates were up to the demands of campaigning? I’m sure the people who are submitting the motion have the answers, but I’m guessing many disabled people would prefer going through the current selection procedure.

  • Ruwan Uduwerage-Perera

    Before we head down a rabbit hole, the concern is mainly with specific (not all) Protected Characteristics. As I understand it: disability; gender reassignment; pregnancy and maternity; race; religion or belief and sex.
    Others have hinted at claims of issues with age and sexual orientation. But has been pointed out here repeatedly the Liberals and LibDems have not had an issue with selected or getting elected people of different sexual orientations or ages. I have yet to see any one claim that there is discrimination on the basis of marriage and civil partnership.

    “can some of us have some equality, fairness and justice please?”

    Well it depends on what you consider “equality, fairness and justice” is some tokenistic approach that make it look like something is being done or do you want something that has a good chance of achieving the desired outcome?

    “We need a resolution, not evolution”

    So if we had AWS and AEMS then that would be the matter resolved? Even if it resulted in no candidates from those minorities being elected? Whatever happens it will be evolutionary.

    At various points in the not too distant past people would have said that three seats that would be “safe” would be Montgomeryshire, Yeovil and Ross, Skye & Lochaber. Recent elections have shown that to be a dangerous assumption.

    If you were to take an excellent candidate who was born and grew up in London, an ethnic minority, female, and worked in something like TV or Investment Banking this person would have little connection to the constituencies I listed. It may be this candidate is better suited to the constituency close to where they grew up or one where their careers was more common (if TV then near Salford). To refuse them additional support for running in a constituency where they would have the best advantage and expect an AWS/AEMS to constitute “fairness” seems odd.

  • Malc ” I’m far more concerned why 100,000’s more women voted UKIP at the GE that LibDem, it certainly wasn’t because they had more women candidates.”

    You are right of course but I think you are missing an important point. The thing is, women in UKIP were far more prominent in the media than Lib Dem women. Suzanne whatshername from UKIP was always popping up on all the politics shows and a few other women too, all very articulate. In contrast, we rarely saw Lynne, Jo et al. We mostly saw Nick, Paddy and Tim. If you ask people around here about Lib Dem women, they will remember Shirley Williams and the group of women who left because they were being harassed.

  • Ok I’ve read through this whole thread now and also the other one.

    I have been one of the most vociferous posters on here regarding the lack of diversity in this party and urging something to be done akin to Labour’s massive leap in women MPs in 1997.


    A policy of AWS is, it seems to me, wholly contradictory to the ethos culture and principles of the LIb Dems. On here alone, we see men and women saying that the individuals should be taken on merit and not lumped into categories. This goes to the heart of the Preamble – none shall be enslaved….well you all know the rest.

    LIb Dems, you are not Labour, you are not Conservatives, you are not SNP ~ you cannot be something you are not and what works for them and what those parties can live with, will not work for you, because to support AWS for expediency goes against what Lib Dems stand for, viscerally.

    Instead, do what Lib Dems do best. Through rational argument and hard work, change the culture of your party so that the sort of sexism described here and elsewhere becomes a thing of the past so that women candidates will apply for selection and will win. Genuinely become a party which welcomes diversity! Anything less will be transparent to everyone as merely window-dressing. Nothing is more powerful than authenticity – your USP before May 2010. AWS will drag you back down because everyone will realise you are doing it out of expediency.

  • A Social Liberal 16th Feb '16 - 7:35pm


    You misunderstand my position. I have long argued against the imposition of AWS and would similarly argue against ADS.

    If we did carry out the work and found a shortfall of, say, left handed people then perhaps the best way to get more left handed MPs would be to recruit so many left handed candidates that shortlists would be inundated with LH applicants. What I do know is that at the moment, because we don’t know where our underrepresented groups start to be underrepresented we cannot make things better in a way which is liberal.

  • Bravo Phyllis for seeing past Bigendianism, unlike almost everyone else on this thread.

    Bigendians as described by Swift turned a tiny issue into a massive argument of bogus principle. For Swift, it was whether to open the egg at the big end or the little end. He was satirising his generation of politicians. Clearly his message did not filter down to most of us.

    For Labour, Bigendianism was whether or not to accede to Cameron’s motion allowing bombing of ISIS in Syria – which has hardly happened at all, despite being passed. Clearly Cameron just wanted to divide Labour into Bigendians versus Little-endians. It worked.

    Now here are the Lib Dems, hiding away from their real problems, instead fighting each other about another Bigendian conundrum. On one side, the inaliable principle of democracy against the gerrymandering of AWS. On the other side, the inaliable demand of “true liberals” for sexual equality no matter what it takes. Two high principles, in total disagreement, collapse of Lib Dems.

    There are many compromise options for positive action which would promote women while avoiding a gross gerrymander. Being principled Bigendians, very few Lib Dems are at all interested in practical compromise. Which is why the party will probably vanish. It will be the fault of the Bigendian Lib Dems.

  • Sometimes, the perfect is an enemy of the good.

    I risked losing the will to live as I scrolled down the various arguments for and against, as they waxed and waned from arcane to reductionist.

    Individuals should be taken on their merits, but selection committees and voters rarely do. No-one is wiling to adopt a Rawlsian veil as part of their selection process, and voters usually want to see their candidates before they vote for them.

    However, I subscribe the maxim of never letting a good crisis go to waste, so if we can use this current situation to put in some firm structures that will radically shift our party’s trajectory them I’m willing to embrace them, perhaps as has been said, with sunset clauses attached as political stabilisers.

    The world is not perfect, and despite our efforts to make it so it appears unlikely to comply in the near future, so let’s take the political world on it’s own terms, and do a bit of rigging to ensure that we are better equipped to grab the opportunity to make it perfect when it next comes around.

    And let me declare an interest: I don’t eat eggs.

  • What’s that got to do with it Sal. For heavens sake we only held Grimonds legacy seat by less than 900 votes so stop making some kind of sense based on a gender balance hobby horse.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 19th Feb '16 - 11:41pm

    @Paul Holmes Given that Willie is championing the cause of all women shortlists in Scotland, I think he would have been happy to. He lives his principles. And it wasn’t his local credentials that won him that by-election. It was his energy, hard work, amplified by the kitchen sink that was thrown at it by the Campaigns Department. And, obviously, you coming up and helping.

    Sorry it’s taken me so long to answer this, btw. I hadn’t seen you had posted it and I’ve been as sick as a pig all week.

  • Richard Underhill 20th Apr '16 - 7:25pm

    Sal Brinton was on Channel4 News 20/4/2016 on the election expenses issue.

  • R Uduwerage-Perera 22nd Jul '16 - 4:18pm

    I am truly saddened to read many of the comments within this thread from people who simply do not get it that so long as we are not reflective of society, the chances of winner greater support is diminished.

    Baroness Brinton is one leader within the Party that has genuinely tried, and continues to seek change to the culture of the Party, and I for one applaud her actions. I would suggest that more ‘leaders’ within the Party follow Baroness Brinton example rather than seek to thwart the work that she is trying to achieve.


    Yours sincerely and fraternally,

    Ruwan Uduwerage-Perera
    Chair – Ethnic Minority Liberal Democrats

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