On May 22nd I’m fighting my first local election as a candidate. I’ve been stuffing envelopes and knocking on doors for other people for 8 years, but with a seat on Islington Council in the balance, this time it seems a little more real.
But I’m lucky. I’m fighting – and fighting hard – alongside a councillor with 8 years experience, and an experienced campaigner who’s already fought a by-election. The ward has two Lib Dem councillors out of three, and if we all get elected, there will be two women out of three. And I also know I have Liberal Democrat Women on my side.
In fact, the newly formed LDW is here to help our hundreds of brilliant, committed women candidates.
When the new organisation was formed last year, it took the remit from the Campaign for Gender Balance to support and train women candidates and ran with it. Where CGB focused on Parliamentary candidates, LDW aims to help women in all political arenas. Where CGB spent more time on selection training, LDW wants to support women at every stage of the process, from selection to election and beyond.
When CGB was set up, it didn’t focus on local candidates for a pretty positive reason: our gender balance in local government was, and always been, much better than in parliament.
But parliamentary equality isn’t the only kind that matters, and we see no reason not to seek a gender balance in local government too. Watching women like my friend and fellow candidate councillor Tracy Ismail and other candidates in Islington up for election on May 22nd, its obvious we have many capable women invested in their local communities who would make fantastic contributions to local government.
Then there are those on roads that don’t lead to Westminster, but who still want to take steps forward. If you’re already elected whether you want to be a council leader, an MEP or an elected Mayor, women can and do excel. If I get a council seat on May 22nd, I’ll be thinking of role models like council leaders Liz Green in Kingston on Thames, and Dorothy Thornhill, Mayor of Watford, and Hull’s Abi Bell when I go for my first committee position.
Across the year, LDW offers training, mentoring, advice and support for women candidates at all levels. If you are interested in using our resources we’d love to hear from you: just get in touch at [email protected].
* Alice Thomas is a member of the Federal Board and leads the FB Disciplinary Sub-Group. She is a solicitor based in Southwark who joined the Lib Dems in her hometown of Bromley & Chislehurst in 2006, just in time for her first by-election and has been campaigning ever since.