Candidate selections: How are we doing on diversity?

Not that brilliantly, to be honest. Of the fifteen seats we’ve selected so far, just 6 have selected women and 9 have selected men. When you add in the 4 women and 8 men who will be defending their seats, you get 10 women and 17 men. That’s not an impressive record.

More worryingly, there is only one non-white face in there.

Vince talked the other day of the importance of getting more BAME candidates not just selected but elected as MPs. He told The Muslim News:

Sir Vince Cable acknowledged that his party was not “yet fully representative of modern Britain. We don’t yet have enough MPs, Councillors, and others from the ethnic minority. We have a lot to do to put that right.”

He added that his party should be fighting for diversity. “We got to value diversity and make the party more diverse. We have to work within the law to promote BAME representation.”

There are just 51 BAME MPs. They represent only 7.9% of all MPs, against 14% of the British population.

Sir Vince said the legislation needs to be changed so that all-BAME shortlists are allowed for selecting Parliamentary election candidates.

“Although advances in gender balance have been made partly through all-women shortlists, we still have this loophole that all-BAME shortlists are not allowed.”

This far out from an election, we can, by choosing where we invest our resources, give our candidates from under-represented groups the best chance of winning. By offering incentives to those areas which select diverse candidates, we could realise that ambition to make our parliamentary party look like the people it aims to serve.

Here are the formerly held seats we have selected so far:


Sheffield Hallam -Laura Gordon

Mid Dorset and Poole North – Vikki Slade

Chippenham – Helen Belcher

Hazel Grove – Lisa Smart


Southport John Wright

Yeovil – Mick Clark

Cambridge – Rod Cantrill

Cheltenham – Max Wilkinson

St Ives – Andrew George

Taunton Deane – Gideon Amos


Seats we haven’t held before


Totnes – Caroline Voaden

Welwyn Hatfield – Barbara Gibson


Hitchen and Harpenden – Sam Collins

Stratford on Avon – Dominic Skinner

Mid Sussex – Robert Eggleton


There are still plenty seats left to select so if you fancy putting your name forward, you need to be approved frrst. You’ll find all the information you need about that process here. 





* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • Arthur Bailey 28th Apr '18 - 12:11pm

    I understand your comments, but not necessarily agree with them. We need the best candidates in every seat, not selected because they are black, white Asian or whatever, nor if they are men or women!!

    Each selection committee, must take each and every candidate on not only their presentation and colour/sex, but also their acceptability to the voters of that seat!

    I would genuinely like to see more momen, and non white MPs, but what I want to see more than that is more Lib Dem MPs, and to do that we need to listen to the voters, what they want to have from their MP and that includes Brexit! It is no use standing for something that the voters will not agree with!

    There should be no need for the proposed new centre Party, as we are the centre Party, so when will the leaders of our Party ask why are others who want to be where we are ,not joining us?

  • @Arthur et al. who will no doubt follow…

    Sometimes the best candidate for a seat is e.g. a person of colour *specifically because* of their ethnicity, or cultural background – which may a) help them understand the people of their constituency better and b) help them engage communitues previously underserved by Lib Dems / politics in general.

    This is true for the party as a whole – where LGBTQs, Disabled people, BMEs etc. all deserve a Lib Dem voice in parliament – and whose trust and votes we can win by showing that not only do we “talk the talk” but we also “walk the walk”.

    It’s not tokenism – yes, Norman Lamb or Vince Cable may well be able to sympathise and represent a young black lesbian immigrant – but perhaps not as effectively as those with shared / similar experiences.

    And our desire to adequately represent the electorate is as Liberal as our historical support for “Home Rule”, or our principled commitment to “localism”.

  • Unfortunately, Caron’s OpEd shows a lack of understanding of statistics. If we assume that eventually 50% of constituencies will select women, and it is random which constituencies will do so, then the sample of nine out of fifteen that have selected so far represents only a 40% confidence level. The usual minimum level of confidence for a result to be considered valid is around 80% in social sciences (where you are sampling a population) and 95% in natural sciences (where you can repeat an experiment).

    Of course, if the number of female approved candidates is less than men, and they are of similar calibre, then you would expect an objective process of selection to lead to a similar proportion of selected candidates to approved candidates.

    In other words, it is too early to tell how candidate selections are going on the basis of evidence.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 29th Apr '18 - 11:50am

    Ah, that old “best candidate” chestnut again. That only works if you actually think that white men are the best candidates, which is surely against our values as Liberal Democrats.

    There are barriers to women, BAME and other marginalised groups in this party that many of us are trying to address. The playing field is not level. Those barriers are part of the reason for the disparity in numbers on the approved list. Making sure that we look like the country we seek to represent is vital at every single level of the party. Policy and decisions made by a majority of white men is not going to take into account the needs and views and experiences of women, BAME, disabled, and LGBT people, so our parliamentary group needs to be made up of all of those people.

    It is perfectly legitimate to express concern that we are not selecting a diverse group of candidates in winnable seats for the next election. It is vital for our credibility as a party that we do.

  • Maurice Leeke 29th Apr '18 - 1:45pm

    Or ….. we could treat people as individuals, recognising that the talents and life experiences that they have, rather than discriminating for or against them based on their ethnicity, gender, gender orientation or anything else.
    What does the preamble say again ?

  • Peter Watson 29th Apr '18 - 2:33pm

    @AM “This is true for the party as a whole – where LGBTQs, Disabled people, BMEs etc. all deserve a Lib Dem voice in parliament”
    Often it appears that social or socio-economic diversity is overlooked in these discussions where the party risks giving the impression that it is very much in favour of equal opportunities for all sorts of posh people! 😉
    For example, for want of a better measure, in the list of candidates above is there a representative split between those educated in the private and state sectors, and what about the current parliamentary party?

  • “Ah, that old “best candidate” chestnut again. That only works if you actually think that white men are the best candidates,” – that’s quite a big leap isn’t it Caron?

    I’d agree that its clearly too early to make any real judgement on diversity amongst our candidates anyhow – unless someone wants to compare it to the first 17 non-held seat selections made in advance of the 2015 and 2010 elections and see if they can infer anything from that, and even then.

  • Laurence Cox 30th Apr '18 - 1:53pm

    I agree with Caron. Even though the statistics so far are not significant, it is the most winnable seats that select early, so whoever are selected in these seats are most likely to become MPs.

    On a related issue, yesterday Greg Foster in Membership at HQ sent out an email to members with an invitation to take part in a survey on diversity, with the aim of discovering the diversity of Party members. However the first question on the survey asked for one’s date of birth. As we have about 100,000 members, any member would share their birthdate with only a few other members (my wet finger estimate came up with an average of five/birthdate) so that there is a real danger of being able to identify individuals from this information. If anyone else here is responding to this survey, I recommend only putting in the year of birth which should be quite sufficient for the purposes of the survey.

  • Ruth Bright 30th Apr '18 - 8:21pm

    Peter Watson – how do you define “posh”? Or do you just know it when you see it!

    Andrew Page – it is not “narrow” to emphasise female representation when women make up 52% of the population. Not that you’d know it here in Hampshire where men outnumber women on our county group 17-2.

  • Christine Headley 30th Apr '18 - 10:19pm

    Three of the seats with male candidates had women standing in them last year. Is anyone finding out whether they are going for (even) better seats, whethey they put themselves forward again and were defeated, or whether they have given up, temporarily or permanently? I wouldn’t expect the results to appear in a LibDem Voice post, but I do think ‘someone’ should be collecting the information.

  • Peter Watson 1st May '18 - 12:59am

    @Ruth Bright “how do you define “posh”?”
    It can be tricky. Apparently the ability to pronounce Surrey in a single syllable is a clue. 🙂
    When it comes to a politician I have not heard or seen speaking, the “Early life and education” section of their Wikipedia page is possibly the first place I look for a sense of their background.
    “Posh” is probably a poor word to sum up a lack of diversity around the top of the Lib Dems in recent years, but when prominent figures like Clegg, Laws, Huhne, Browne, Hughes, etc. opened their mouths, it was hard to avoid, and despite being another white man in a suit, Tim Farron was refreshingly different.
    Ultimately though, regardless of gender (and ethnicity, sexuality, disability, etc.), Lib Dems seem to come from a relatively narrow range of socio-economic circumstances which risks making the party appear unrepresentative of wider society no matter how much effort it puts into tackling the classic problems of diversity that members talk about so often.

  • @Peter & Andrew – you are right, socioeconomic background is also overlooked. And it is an unfortunate fact that being a candidate is financially demanding – e.g. having to put work on hold for a month during elections with no guarantee of return, even with party support.

  • Ruth Bright 1st May '18 - 2:58pm

    Christine is spot on about following up in detail what has happened to previous candidates; especially ones in high profile seats.

    Peter Watson – I remain intrigued by your definition/description. It might explain why no-one ever knew where to place me as a PPC – someone with a degree and a southern accent but also the ninth child of a Romany speaking bricklayer who on occasion (Dad that is!) had been detained at her majesty’s pleasure!

  • Peter Watson 1st May '18 - 8:25pm

    @Ruth Bright “It might explain why no-one ever knew where to place me as a PPC ”
    It seems telling that social background would dictate where a PPC should be placed.

    “Posh” is probably a poor choice of word and not necessarily a derogatory term (I’ve met some frightfully nice frightfully posh people), and it detracts from my real concern that the Lib Dems in general, and its prominent figures in particular, are unrepresentative of the people they want to represent in several ways. When it comes to diversity, it strikes me that Lib Dems get very hot under the collar about candidates and members lacking variety when it comes to genitalia and skin colour, but don’t seem to mind drawing overwhelmingly from relatively affluent and well-educated sections of society. This aspect is picked up in a parallel thread which considers what the party offers to working class voters (e.g.

  • Ruth Bright 2nd May '18 - 8:58am

    Peter, I completely understand the very valid concerns you raise. The point I was making is that assumptions are made about people’s class heritage by people who don’t know them. Most of us are a bit of a mix of class and socio-economic factors.

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