Inspiring Lib Dem Women: The women who chair our state and federal parties

For the first time in our history, women are at the helm of all three state parties and the federal party.

Of course, Sal Brinton is our federal party President. I am constantly in awe of her seemingly endless patience as she has to navigate all the different interest groups in the party and bring them all together to agree on a way forward.

I shudder to think how many hundreds of thousands of miles she has travelled in her two an a bit years as President through a General Election, Welsh and Scottish elections and visiting every by-election. She spent a few days in Cornwall the other week boosting their county council campaign and then popped up in Stoke several times – including the gruelling all night shift.

As well as all this she puts in some considerable work in the Lords. Watch her speak here on the effect that Brexit will have on health and social care.

On International Women’s Day, it is appropriate to recognise her work in protecting her students from harassment by introducing considerate conduct contracts for construction workers.

In Scotland, the party convener is Sheila Thomson. A former councillor and parliamentary candidate, Sheila is now the Scottish Party’s spokesperson for children and young people. As a mature student, she obtained a degree in Politics and Women’s Studies in 2003. She worked for then Lib Dem MP Sir Robert Smith for some years and now provides training and support to health professionals.

North of the border, we also have a female President, Eileen McCartin, who has been a Councillor for almost 30 years. In the 80s, she helped get a young Willie Rennie into shape when he studied in Paisley.


In Wales, Carole O’Toole became Chair of the Welsh National Executive Committee this year. She is also a Councillor in Wrexham and was awarded an MBE in 2014 for voluntary service to education and the community in North Wales for her work as Chair of Governors at Yale College, Wrexham. At the time, she said:

I’m delighted to receive the award and, whenever you’re recognised for achievements, it’s part of a team effort.

I do feel anyone’s education is crucially important and it was a privilege for me to be involved with Yale College as it was always excellent.

It was a fantastic college to work with and I had a wonderful team around me, both from the point of view of the governing body, the principalship and the college.

I think life chances are conditioned by education and absolutely everyone deserves the opportunity to reach their potential.

And of course there is our star by-election candidate from Witncy and now chair of the English Party leading it through a much needed period of reform, Liz Leffman.

Liz fought an amazing by-election campaign in Witncy – she really connected with the local people. I spent a day canvassing with her fairly early on in the campaign and she had already made a brilliant impression.

When I was there I also managed to grab some time with her for an interview. Six months on and I can still feel her passion and authenticity when talking about the effect of Brexit on the area:

The thing about this area is, 54% of people voted to Remain, and that’s quite important, because that means an awful lot of the Tories here voted to Remain. And, I think they recognise that if we come out of the EU, and we are forced to renegotiate a trade deal with the EU, that is going to have a major impact, not just on F1, which is very big round here. The teams here will suffer.

But the really important thing is it’s not just those sort of jobs that will go – we’ve got Siemens in Eynsham, for example, a high-tech company, there are a lot of high-tech companies round the area, and they’re dependent upon that relationship with Europe to survive, and I think that the people who are negotiating Brexit for us don’t really understand the ramifications of what they’re doing. They really do not understand. And I fear very much that unless we’ve got powerful voices in Parliament on our side, I think we’re going to be in real trouble.  I’m happy to say that Nick Clegg is a very powerful voice, and is making the case for continuing membership of the single market.

This is one reason why I’m very keen to be elected. Because I think I can add to the weight of our team in Parliament in making the case.



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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • Alisdair McGregor 8th Mar '17 - 6:47pm

    Well, LDV has done what I haven’t yet managed to and abolished the English Party! know I’m generally in favour of abolishing it, but it’s kinda unfair to miss Liz Leffman off the list here…

  • Jennie Rigg 8th Mar '17 - 6:53pm


  • Katharine Pindar 8th Mar '17 - 6:53pm

    Great to read about some of our inspiring Lib Dem women, and of course there are others of them in the House of Lords. But can we not know who the probably inspiring woman Lib Dem is the ‘I’ of this ‘Voice’ report? Or if it’s a man, good on him!

  • @Alisdair: Anyone reading this now will wonder what on earth you were talking about.

    This is what happens when you get distracted in the middle of writing stuff and your brain tells you that you have finished it and you press publish.

  • Alisdair McGregor 8th Mar '17 - 9:12pm

    @Caron Hahaha. I was quite amused by the abolition of the English Party by LDV.

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