How I am trying to improve diversity in the Liberal Democrats

In December 2015 the ‘Diversity Monitoring Group’ was created which consisted of five people passionate about ensuring progressive change is made to address diversity. Most people are aware that diversity needs to be addressed in the Liberal Democrats. Everyone has heard Tim Farron say ‘we are a male and pale party’. Instead of waiting to see what the Party will do next we’ve decided to create a member-led diversity survey.

The results of the survey have been shared with  Liberal Democrat Headquarters,  chairs of SAOs and AOs and some Federal Executive members.

How it happened

We created a set of questions, set up a Google form, and started publicising the survey, mostly across social media. The survey was shared on social media from December 2015 to February 2016.

The results show that we had 132 responses from Liberal Democrat members, all of who are anonymous. The main issues raised were: communication, party culture, gender equality and unconscious bias.

Questions include:

  • Are there specific areas in the party which you feel men and women are not treated equally?
  • Do you feel better guidance on equality and diversity (via training) could come from diversity team HQ and ALDC?
  • Do you have any more comments regarding the party’s understanding of equality and diversity?

Conclusions from the survey include:

  • The need to take into account accessibility when communicating with members.
  • Party culture  – the “misogyny and sexism” in the Party and the “need to be educated about gender issues eg unconscious bias”.
  • We have passed on specific feedback to diversity SAOs and AOs

If you would like a copy please contact me on: ([email protected]).  I would be happy to discuss it with you.

I faced obstacles throughout this process. For example, when I complained about the lack of diversity in a local party video, a certain individual said ‘you are wasting valuable time discussing diversity during elections’. Those who have objected to my thoughts have made me persevere and demand faster change within our party.

Overall we have a long way to go to make our party look like the society it seeks to represent.

I was part of the campaigning team behind the Elect Diverse MPs motion. I have recently heard both positives and negatives about the way this motion is being implemented.  Whether things change, time will tell.

The forthcoming Governance Review will be judged on how well it addresses the structural diversity issues in our party.

Are people still oblivious to the Party’s diversity issues?  From the group that I run on Facebook I would say it’s still a matter of trying to persuade individuals about the lack of diversity and what we do next.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank my Liberal Democrat family – you know who you are.  I wouldn’t have been able to do this without you. For those individuals in my region who understand diversity needs to be addressed, thank you for always supporting me and fighting my corner.

* Dipa Vaya is a Politics Graduate Interested in working in Events Management and passionate about combatting Human Trafficking

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20 Comments

  • David Evans 8th Jun '16 - 5:07pm

    Unfortunately, if you focus mainly on social media, you only get responses from a limited demographic. The most important diversity measure we need to address is to increase the number of Lib Dem MPs from 8 back to at least 15 by 2020. If we could get a couple from the West country, some back in mainland Scotland and one or two from the South East etc we will have achieved much more for diversity and Liberal Democracy than if we have lots more women, BAME, LGBT+ candidates and still only have 8 MPs.

    It’s a tough world out there and we need to focus on what is important – Getting more Lib Dems elected. We all know who would be the best representative for all those under represented groups in our country, and it isn’t having a Conservative woman, Labour BAME, Scot Nat LGBT+ or Green disabled MP. It is having more Lib Dem MPs in Westminster, pure and simple.

  • Phil Wainewright 8th Jun '16 - 8:54pm

    Thank you for taking this initiative Dipa. It’s hugely important. Those who say we should focus 100% on getting more LibDems elected as the best way to achieve diversity have much to learn about unconscious bias and institutional discrimination. That is a doctrine of power at any price. The party must demonstrate it is truly serious about shedding outdated attitudes to diversity.

  • R Uduwerage-Perera 8th Jun '16 - 9:50pm

    Dear David Evans,

    Do you honestly believe that people of colour believe that a White Lib Dem is better than a BaME Labour or for that matter a BaME Conservative MP?

    BaME communities require fair and equitable representation, and the days of White people speaking on the behalf of BaME people is gone, for we have the knowledge, understanding, skills and ability to make very effective elected representatives if given the opportunity.

    Sadly there is a noticeable clique within the Liberal Democrat Party that simply do not know how to “walk the talk” and it is apparent from what you have stated that there still exists those who do not know even how to “talk the talk”. Thankfully you are not representative of the Party’s principles.

    It is as you say a “tough world out there”, and it is time that the Party realises this and that it dismantles the barriers of intolerance that your words highlight still exist, for we are fast becoming an irrelevance.

    Namaste,

    Ruwan Uduwerage-Perera
    Chair – Ethnic Minority Liberal Democrats

  • R Uduwerage-Perera 8th Jun '16 - 11:12pm

    Dear Simon Shaw,

    You can attempt to twist what I stated if you so wish, but unless our Party accepts that one can be a person of colour, possess different traditions and cultural norms and still be a liberal as well as a democrat then heaven help us!

    Why should BaME people vote for a Party that does not overtly demonstrate its respect for equality and diversity?

    Make BaME people feel loved and you will see a change in the voting habits of such communities, but if we continue as a Party to merely speak on belhalf and not enable such communities then we will lose even more support.

    BaME communities and members are perpetually patronised and abused, and seen as only worthy of running ‘sari, steel band and samosa’ events to add something exotic.

    Namaste,

    Ruwan Uduwerage-Perera
    Chair – Ethnic Minority Liberal Demcrats

  • Lorenzo Cherin 8th Jun '16 - 11:54pm

    David
    good ideal , lousy in reality

    Simon
    good try , lousy outcome

    Ruwan
    I agree with you here , but you must realise that many people who genuinely do feel race is the most insignificant maker of an individuals character, values , personality and all they see as deep and significant , just think they and BAME members are all rowing together regardless , in the same direction!

    Naive , outdated, idealistic clap trap , maybe , but , Ruwan , the party has never seen such daft middle class so called colour blind attitudes as negative , until realising , we have no BAME MPS ! So in as patronising a way as you and all BAME members can afford to be , allow others good intentions as that , and not the road to ruin , but togetherness !

  • “132 responses from Liberal Democrat members”
    What was the age, gender, occupation, and educational level were the respondents?

  • I can understand frustration (after all, look at how long women, or LGB people had to wait for overt representation of any sort to be achieved) but the near wipe-out in 2015 has left us where we are. In truth, the only way that diversity could be reflected in our elected members is through full-on electoral reform – could I suggest that all liberals focus on achieving that end than spending time quibbling about what folk look like, or how individuals self-define, in a party that has a great history of looking out for minorities?

  • Sue Sutherland 9th Jun '16 - 1:35pm

    I absolutely agree with the Chair of the LibDem Ethnic Minority group. We are not a party of diversity and it saddens me that the response of some of the white males here is to do nothing to change that. As a woman I do not feel that a group of male MPs can truly represent me so I completely accept that members of ethnic minorities feel the same way.
    Of course we look unfriendly and until we have more ethnic minority Councillors and PPCs we will not be expressing our LibDem values through the actions of our party. As a start perhaps we could make sure that every piece of literature that we put out includes a piece by the ethnic minority group? I was so encouraged by the vote for all women shortlists and am saddened that we are legally unable to use the same positive discrimination towards ethnic minorities. We have to use other methods to show we put our money where our mouth is.
    I would like to see all those women who have fought for gender equality put similar passion into the fight for representation of ethnic minorities. Let’s ignore those who say wait until times are better, they will not be better until we show our beliefs through our actions within our own party. Maybe the first step is to fight for a change in the law so that we CAN have all ethnic minority shortlists? I will be guided by the opinions of the ethnic minority Lib Dems group.

  • Sue Sutherland 9th Jun '16 - 2:19pm

    Simon I’m glad you did that, but I was referring to the responses to this post, some of which are rather demoralising. I did in fact say ‘some’ as you quoted so it’s interesting that you felt the need to defend yourself as I named no names.

  • #notallmen

  • I agree with what you are trying to achieve here but there are a number of points I would point out. As has been pointed out above your sample is very small, and probably not the most accurate data that could be collected, but it is something (shame that the party couldn’t have helped a bit more).

    I would urge caution about what you are measuring as has been demonstrated on LDV on numerous occasions there is reality and then people’s perception of it. People keep claiming that LGBT have been historically underrepresented in MPs yet when the issue is probed it looks different (if you break that down it is a bit different).

    Also the focus needs to be on what will actually have an impact, so many policies are basically window dressing, so people can claim that “something is being done.” So when it comes to making sure that tyou get more ethnic minority candidates elected you need to focus on turning seats where they live in to winnable seats, dropping a candidate in to a seat a long where from where they live at the last minute will not produce good results. People need to be able to build up in an area. Also what would help candidates stick with an area over multiple elections needs to be considered, it was one of the questions that was just swept under the rug in the AWS discussion on here.

  • R Uduwerage-Perera 9th Jun '16 - 4:36pm

    Dear Sue Sutherland,

    I appreciate the comments and your support.

    Dear Simon,

    Re “i.e. Action not Words”

    We need both, alas as a Party we have far too much of the latter. On the gender issue though, I for one do not expect thanks for as a male who has merrily benefited from ‘perks’ of my gender on more occasions than I am even aware of, I just see doing what is right as the appropriate thing to do, and I believe that we males need to shout from the rooftops about the inequality that exists, for we have the power to bring about change.

    With regard to the scenario that you presented a good outcome is a BaME candidate being selected. If the electorate then choose because of their own racism to block the individuals success at the ballot box there is little that we as a Party can do. We can though highlight this bigotry if this is the case and ‘out’ the behaviour.

    As a result of the apparent intransigence that has existed historically within the Party, I am now in favour of ALL BaME shortlists in order to ‘break through the glass ceiling’. In reality for many BaME candidates it is more like a reinforced concrete ceiling.

    Dear Psi,

    “So when it comes to making sure that tyou get more ethnic minority candidates elected you need to focus on turning seats where they live in to winnable seats, dropping a candidate in to a seat a long where from where they live at the last minute will not produce good results.”

    I am not aware that any BaME candidates have ever benefited from being parachuted into an area. I am aware of at lest one excellent BaME candidate who moved ‘lock stock and barrel’ to the area in which they were going to stand, became a remarkable activists for the Party and community and still this was not enough.

    Dear Lorenzo Cherin,

    “Naive , outdated, idealistic clap trap , maybe , but , Ruwan , the party has never seen such daft middle class so called colour blind attitudes as negative , until realising , we have no BAME MPS ! So in as patronising a way as you and all BAME members can afford to be , allow others good intentions as that , and not the road to ruin , but togetherness !”

    I appreciate what you have said, but we simply do not have the time to allow the ‘Good’, but naive to continue to run the show if we wish to become as a Party a genuine alternative for BaME communities.

    Namaste

    Ruwan Uduwerage-Perera
    Chair – Ethnic Minority Liberal Democrats

  • Ruwan

    I wasn’t saying that the situation had occurred but that when looking for solutions they should avoid odd outcomes, one of the criticisms I made of AWS was the perverse incentives that they can create, as people immediately jump to those solutions when presented with a problem. What works parties with safe seats does not translate to success for the LibDems. That will take different solutions.

    That is leaving aside how unfair some of those outcomes are on candidates when they do have to move “lock stock and barrel” in order to get support.

  • David Evans 9th Jun '16 - 10:30pm

    Ruwan, I suggest you look at all the Lib Dem MPs we had in 2010 and ask yourself would you have preferred to have your local MP as one of them, or one who was a black conservative or any other combination of non-Lib Dem you choose to consider. What is important about all people is what they think, not what they look like. As Liberal Democrats we all know that. Why do you say “it is time that the Party realises this and that it dismantles the barriers of intolerance that your words highlight still exist,” do you realise that this party spent five years dismantling itself trying to support diversity of all sorts? There are now next to none of us left in Westminster to do it.

    I am intollerant – Intollerant of those who think being a Lib Dem is easy with easy soundbite choices and not a hard gut crunching task of a lifetime where the experiences of the past cannot be ignored just because some of us prefer to believe we are not perfect enough.

  • Ruth Bright 10th Jun '16 - 7:19am

    Fortunately the Lib Dems don’t have to choose between winning and selecting fantastic female BME candidates. Look at Anood Al-Samerai and Lisa Rajan in Southwark. Congratulations to Lisa and her colleagues for the retention of her old seat in a by-election yesterday.

  • Ruth Bright

    Yes congratulations to both for yesterday, now we need to take what was used at make a success here and use it to take the seat. Presumably, good candidates with good connection to the area and sufficient support and help?

    Worth finding ways to using that to get more underrepresented groups in to parliament but I’m sure we will have a lot of proposals that will do nothing but will make a few feel like they have done something.

  • Sue Sutherland

    “Simon I’m glad you did that, but I was referring to the responses to this post, some of which are rather demoralising. I did in fact say ‘some’ as you quoted so it’s interesting that you felt the need to defend yourself as I named no names.”

    If you go on the internet and use Ad Hom’s against people is a sweeping way, I’m surprised that you find it “interesting” that someone who presumably would fall within the scope of your comment would respond. You could just address peoples’ arguments, then people could defend their arguments rather than themselves.

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