John Pugh MP writes.. Diversity now: Words into deeds

8 Lib Dem MPs were elected in 2015 – all male, all white and myself the oldest. This was despite the party having put a lot of effort and energy behind some absolutely superb female candidates in seats where sitting MPs had stood down.

So monochrome were we until the Richmond by election that when we were caricatured as pale, male and stale I felt almost apologetic at being elected. However it wasn’t really our fault; it wasn’t the party’s fault. It was all down to an electorate spooked by the possibility of a Miliband/SNP government ….oh and a little bit of mishandling coalition.

However, the party pressed on with all-women short lists- particularly when any of the 8 stood down. It was contentious and some contend it still but with the battle ahead there are better things to do.

Those who fought for AWS and fought with passion need to turn that passion into meaningful action- not on the conference floor not in some committee but where it matters- in the general election.

My successor Sue McGuire the only woman defending a Lib Dem seat held by an incumbent man.

In Southport we are all backing Sue with all our resources – including both her male predecessors- myself and Lord Fearn.

What we need is for all those who want a more diverse parliamentary party to help us.

We do not want and we cannot afford to have Sue endure the dreadful disappointment that so many brilliant female candidates suffered in held seats.

If everyone who backed AWS at conference, if everyone who care about diversity in our party made a few calls for Sue – which you can do here or by volunteering via [email protected]  If everyone in hailing distance made a visit to Southport -35 Shakespeare St ,PR8 5AB at least once…. if anyone free next Saturday comes to our next action day (Tel 01704533555) it will make an impact, a real time effect.

We do not want to re-visit 2015 in any other place. Nothing changes through conference motions; nothing changes through worthy task force deliberations. Something changes when Southport gets its first ever female MP and you, dear reader, can be part of that. Incidentally even if you were agin’ AWS come anyway. What the hell- Sue’s a Liberal !

* John Pugh was Liberal Democrat MP for Southport until 2017 and was elected as a Councillor for the Dukes ward of Sefton Borough Council on 2 November 2017.

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  • A Social Liberal 27th Apr '17 - 2:17pm

    Except, of course, there is little diversity in the present setup. How many candidates in target seats are working class? How many disabled?

    As I have said before (probably ad nauseum) diversity doesn’t stop at Race and gender.

  • Leekliberal 27th Apr '17 - 7:37pm

    Well said John Pugh!

  • You are right, A Social Liberal, that diversity doesn’t stop with gender and race, but it’s a particularly visible weakness, and how can we encourage those from less obvious minorities that they are welcome if we are struggling to get a representative of 50% from the population.

    I hope everyone can work hard to encourage people they know from those less well represented groups to get involved, and if it looks like it might suit them, to take the next towards becoming a candidate.

  • I was and am vehemently against AWS; that said, I might still pop over to help out for Sue 😉

  • David Pocock 28th Apr '17 - 12:03am

    I’m against them really. It is a patch not a cure. We need to grow the base, get more people in from more back grounds and then let the best stand.

    I’m working class, I would not want a shortlist for me really. In fact the whole idea is bad IMO anyway. I vote liberal every election no matter the candidate. The logic of identity politics would suggest a labour or Tory white guy would represent me better than a liberal democrat woman. Even though mine and her politics might be identical.

    Idk, I feel at times we do this kind of stuff and all it is is labour light. Are we not the party of thinkers and problem solvers? How does this fix anything.

  • Jennie – we would love to see you in sunny Southport.

  • `Pale, male and stale` *wince* – enough of this self-lacerating sexism and racism! It is this type theatrical humility that looks like a parody of liberalism- and turns everyone off.
    `Affirmative Action` – or inverse discrimination, to give it its proper name, is an Inherently illiberal practice because it prioritises abstract social groups over the individual. The widespread practice of it in the States has caused immense problems over there and, I believe, has done much to fuel the Trump vote.

    The best way to get a diverse membership is to have policies and campaigns which attract a diversity of people. A good example of this is the campaign against F.G.M. Perhaps this might have inspired (say) women of certain ethnic backgrounds to become involved).

    (No disrespect to any candidate chosen by A.W.S’s, by the way: I am sure they are all very capable people and I would vote for them without a qualm.)

  • My view on all-women shortlists and other kinds of positive discrimination (as opposed to positive action such as making particular efforts to offer training and encouragement to underrepresented groups) has long been that it’s a last resort if other actions have clearly failed. I went into the debate at Conference on this issue not totally decided, but was just about persuaded to vote for the modest package of measures proposed to address imbalances. In response to David, AWS alone would be a patch, not a cure, but it isn’t a stand-alone measure. Moreover, there is evidence that such measures, applied for a limited time, have an ongoing impact beyond when they’re withdrawn.

    In respect of other equality issues – and race too has had a low profile in our party compared to gender – the main solutions probably lie in looking at who we sign up, encourage to take responsibilities and encourage to apply for the parliamentary shortlist and maybe also in the shortlisting procedure: all these things may conceal indirect discrimination or unhelpful stereotypes. So we could start by being cautious about Connect-driven social profiling of electors to receive our messages. Any analysis which starts with picking out the kind of people most likely to support us will tend to exacerbate imbalances.

  • David Pocock 28th Apr '17 - 5:49pm

    I honestly think the problem is reach.

    I do not believe the party is sexist or racist ect. I don’t think it is classiest either. Just needs to reach out to a wider membership.

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