Opinion: Time to address our “Woman Problem”

Two out of four candidates for the UK Labour leadership are women. This remarkable fact has arisen with little comment. It seems normal and there is no suggestion that either Yvette Cooper or Liz Kendall’s names on the ballot are tokenistic.

In contrast, no women are eligible to stand for leadership of the Lib Dems as we have no female MPs. We have two strong candidates for leader in Tim Farron and Norman Lamb. I feel, however, that it’s unacceptable to have got ourselves into a position where there is no possibility of voting for a woman leader.

The front-runner to be next Labour leader in Scotland is a woman. The Scottish First Minister is a woman, as is the leader of the Scottish Conservatives. The Scottish Greens have Co-Convenors with a man and a woman jointly holding the post. So it is likely that in Scotland we will soon be the only party not to have a woman leader. Indeed, unless there is a considerable change in our fortunes  before the Holyrood elections next year we will soon have no women in the Scottish Parliament either. Our current sole female MSP, Alison McInnes, has been voted number 2 on the North East list and there is only 1 region, out of 8, where we have a woman at the top of the list.

How has it come to this for a party so committed to equality and opportunity? As a party, the Lib Dems have been strongly wedded to the principle of local parties having the right to choose whoever they deem most appropriate as their candidate. In the 1990s, Labour went through heated battles for all women shortlists. It was painful for the Labour movement and went against the principles of many. The outcome, however, is that  there is a generation of women who have been in parliament for a long time and are credible potential leaders of their party.

We have shied away from this tough decision and now have no women at all in Westminster. Our approach of requiring at least one woman on shortlists and mentorship of female candidates has been laudable in its aims. We must accept, however, that it has failed to achieve the goal of a greater proportion of women in our parliamentary parties.

I am delighted that Willie Rennie, our Leader in Scotland has recently come out in favour of Women 50:50. This is a cross-party organisation calling for legislation requiring 50% female candidates for Parliament, Councils and Public Boards in Scotland. I believe that, at this juncture in history, these types of temporary measures are required to shift attitudes, opportunities and ways of operating.

Across the UK, we have disproportionately lost female votes and look increasingly out of step with modern Britain. There is a huge amount of female talent in the party which needs to be harnessed for the Lib Dem fightback. I look forward to the day when a majority of our leadership candidates are women and nobody bats an eyelid.

* Siobhan Mathers is a former Policy Convener of the Scottish Liberal Democrats and a former target seat candidate.

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50 Comments

  • Antony Hook Antony Hook 24th Jun '15 - 1:21pm

    2 out of 4 Labour candidates isn’t it?

  • Eddie Sammon 24th Jun '15 - 1:44pm

    Diversity shortlists, not all women shortlists. This is important because some groups, such as ethnic minority men, already receive a lot of discrimination and all women short-lists increase it. I also think it is hard to argue that wealthy white women are less privileged than, say, poor disabled men. We can’t just look at things in a binary fashion.

    I’ve been a big supporter of Yvette Cooper and when she brings up feminism I listen. But some feminists in Labour I don’t listen to as much, because I think they are too ready to talk about quotas and the obvious problems too much of it can bring.

  • Every time this topic comes up I ask the same question – what is the membership breakdown by gender? I never get an answer – does anybody know?

  • Stephen Howse 24th Jun '15 - 2:06pm

    “I feel, however, that it’s unacceptable to have got ourselves into a position where there is no possibility of voting for a woman leader.”

    We didn’t do it ourselves – the electorate did. We stood women in many of our ‘winnable’ seats where we’d lost in 2010 or a sitting MP was retiring, and we lost in all of them as we had no incumbency effect.

    Hopefully in 2020 we will be on an upswing, not a downswing, and we will see some women being selected and then elected in seats we lost this year.

  • I really wish voters, including female voters of course, had voted in enough numbers to keep Lynne Featherstone and Jo Swinson as MPs.

    They did not. If your analysis of why that is fits your narrative please tell us how. You write that we ” have two strong candidates”, but had Lynne and Jo still been MPs the field would have been incomparably stronger.

  • John Tilley 24th Jun '15 - 2:15pm

    I live in a constituency where the only two Liberal Democrat MPs I have helped get elected (so far) are women.
    A woman is leader of my local council Liberal Democrat group and most of the group are women.
    The only Liberal Democrat MEP that has ever been elected here was a woman.
    There are in The House of Lords, two women Liberal Democrats who have been active in this borough (in addition to the two former MPs).

    Does the party have a woman problem?

    In the general election we had a number of women MPs across the country who lost their seats, we also had a significant number of women candidates in those seats where male MPs were retiring but one of those women were elected.

    Can I suggest that we did not have a women problem in the general election, we had a “getting any Liberal Democrat elected problem”. It was a problem of politics not gender.

  • (Matt Bristol) 24th Jun '15 - 2:15pm

    Siobhan, Stephen — I think the exclusion of non-MPs from the leadership elections has something to do with the narrowed field we are looking at. I do wonder if – had we we had spent the last parliament in opposition – we might have seen the trend against national party leaders having to be MPs coming and made a change to the rules earlier?

  • Jane Ann Liston 24th Jun '15 - 3:25pm

    Speaking as one deselected in favour of a man, I agree with Siobhan, but then perhaps I’m biased!

  • Theo Butt Philip Theo Butt Philip 24th Jun '15 - 3:25pm

    Just because some places have a decent record on getting women elected in the past, doesn’t mean there isn’t a wider problem across the country. What’s the highest proportion of female MPs we’ve ever had? 10/62? The numbers do really speak for themselves. The only Lib Dem MP I’ve ever had was a woman, but I don’t think that means there isn’t a problem nationally. You’re right that we’ve run into a “getting any Liberal Democrat elected problem” but we also have a woman problem and we’ve had one since long before the “getting any Liberal Democrat elected problem” arose. The latter problem does, of course, make the former problem even harder to address – it doesn’t mean it’s not a problem.

  • Theo Butt Philip Theo Butt Philip 24th Jun '15 - 3:29pm

    david – who have you asked in the past? Mark Pack has a figure (supplied by LDHQ in May2015) of 46% female. See his post here: http://www.markpack.org.uk/122620/lib-dem-membership-gender-balance/

  • The fact that Clegg did not appoint a single woman to the cabinet during the 5 years he had the opportunity to do so speaks volumes for me. He even managed to allow Laws, someone forced to resign for expenses issues, to attend cabinet after his brief period out of Government whilst both Lynne Featherstone and Jo Swinson never got the opportunity.

    The fact there are no female MP’s in this parliament may well be down to the electorate, the fact none made the cabinet in the last is down to the leader. Perhaps if he had done so it would have helped?

  • This won’t be a popular view but I really do believe the Party is institutionally sexist.

  • Thank you for this Theo – and the link. I am surprised at the figure – i thought it would be much less than this. Certainly whenever I have been to party meetings there are always a lot more males than females – perhaps we need to look at why women are less active then men – and i would suspect this still has a lot to do with society’s expectations and continuing split in gender roles around the home.

  • Malcolm Todd 24th Jun '15 - 4:31pm

    Steve Way
    “The fact there are no female MP’s in this parliament may well be down to the electorate, the fact none made the cabinet in the last is down to the leader. Perhaps if he had done so it would have helped?”

    The statement is quite correct. The answer to the question is pretty obviously “No”, as Vince Cable and Ed Davey could tell you.

  • Lester Holloway 24th Jun '15 - 4:38pm

    I was pleased that Tim Farron is calling for 50:50 in selections for target seats for women, at 10% for BAMEs (although last population census had BAMEs at 14% and projections are more than 20% by 2020). I think there should be such measures for all under-represented groups that want it. I know that EMLD are keen on it for BAME candidates, and I would hope that other SAOs follow suit, but clearly its’ up to them.

    Of course its’ not just the selection proceedure but everything that goes on in the years before it. Nick Clegg brought in an ‘A list’ in the form of the Candidate Leadership Programme for all under-represented groups. This was originally proposed by EMLD at conference for BAME groups but was extended, which I welcome. However this involved a very small cohort of preferred hopefuls which was, by its’ nature, somewhat elitist. Either the scheme needs to be dramatically expanded to take in much larger numbers or replaced with something different.

    The Candidate Leadership Programme was for training and polishing. There are other things the party can do as well. Getting potential PPCs working in potential seats well before the selections is one, so they get to know the issues and people much better. Talent spotting for people not yet in the party but who hold our values and would make excellent MPs is another. Making much greater use of talent in the media between now and the election, fully briefing them to represent our party in TV and radio debates on particular issues is yet another. Having a series of small working groups of potential PPCs and current parliamentarians and party officials to work on different national campaigns is yet another.

    I’m sure you can all come up with a whole raft of other ideas. There are simply loads of ways to develop talent before we get to the selections, but certainly I believe that quotas are necessary at the end of the process to change the image of our party with the electorate.

  • paul barker 24th Jun '15 - 5:31pm

    Our present measures for getting decent numbers of women/bame/disabled elected would have been fine in 1990 but the world has moved on. Lester Holloway makes some excellent suggestion but we still need quotas & we need them now.

  • Whatever the problem is – and I do not think lack of women candidates in target seats can have been it, given the number we put up this time, including a batch of respected defending incumbents – I am quite sure that rigging selections is not the answer.

    Any attempt to ‘fix’ the gender balance of our candidates would create a ‘loser’ for each and every ‘winner’; who is to say that the loser on the receiving end of what is in effect discrimination wouldn’t have ‘balanced’ our team in another way, for example by being BME, disabled, young, LGBT, or from a non-political-class background? Why should being a woman – which by definition includes white straight middle-class middle-aged former political advisers – deliver any special privilege and advantage over all these other groups?

  • @Ian
    I think you’ll find that it’s the men who have been benefitting from special privilege. While I’m sure many Lib Dems sincerely believe that all-women short-lists amount to overt discrimination of an unacceptable kind, what I don’t get is why so many of them seem willing to accept the even worse tacit discrimination that undoubtedly goes on.

  • John Tilley 24th Jun '15 - 6:08pm

    Ian 24th Jun ’15 – 5:35pm
    You have hit the nail on the head. It does not improve diversity or make a step toward equality to give one currently under-represented group a privileged position over all the others.

    What’s more it matters not one jot how brilliant our system of selecting candidates is if we only get 8 elected on less than 8% of the vote.

    Last month 5 out of 6 of our candidates came in 4th place or worse.
    If every one of our more than 300 lost deposits had been lost by a woman candidate would we be patting ourselves on the back and congratulating each other on have the most female group of losers in history? I hope not.

    What I find frustrating is that within the party we still have some people who know how to win elections and get people in as MPs and Councillors. If you want more women Liberal Democrat Concillors and MPs listen to the people who know how to get people elected. Don’t go off down cul de sacs following formulaic quick- fix solutions which always fail in practice.

  • @Malcolm Todd
    My point is quite different to Cable and Davey. Perhaps if he had promoted women the appearance of a white middle class male party would have been different. We just don’t know whether that would have made a difference by encouraging more support among women.

  • Ruth Bright 24th Jun '15 - 7:12pm

    Ian – it all depends what one considers a discriminatory fix. There is no provision for maternity leave for candidates I therefore (when a had a young baby and a toddler in tow) vacated a seat where I was replaced by a white male from an all-male shortlist.

  • Eddie Sammon 24th Jun '15 - 7:30pm

    Ruth has a good idea by suggesting maternity leave for candidates. I know this puts some women off setting up businesses and it is probably doing the same in terms of candidates. Maybe we need to boost statutory maternity pay too.

    I’d much prefer an approach based on things like increasing maternity pay and childcare than mainly quotas.

  • Sammy O'Neill 24th Jun '15 - 8:21pm

    Personally I think the attitude of some members is really the biggest barrier for female members. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve seen (or been on the receiving end) of female members being shouted down, patronised or just dismissed as irrelevant by some of their male counterparts. Don’t even get me started on things like openly hearing members making childish jokes about the menstrual cycle or criticising someone for not attending when they know full well they have difficult childcare demands as a single parent. I’d like to see this culture challenged more. I don’t really think female shortlists are the answer, rather some of our members joining us in the 21st century would probably be most effective.

  • Antony Hook Antony Hook 24th Jun '15 - 8:35pm

    In 2015 and 2010 I felt no shortage of women candidates I could campaign for, which I did.

    Is it worth some serious study into why Lib Dem female incumbents lost in an even heavier proportion than male incumbents?

  • Tony Dawson 24th Jun '15 - 9:33pm

    @Antony Hook :

    “Is it worth some serious study into why Lib Dem female incumbents lost in an even heavier proportion than male incumbents?”

    Not really, What point is there in discussing how many angels you can get on a pinhead when the pin has been thrown into the haystack and you haven’t got a magnet?

    What we need to do is get behind people like Ruth Bright and Vicky Slade and don’t allow the powers that be in the Party to foist candidates of either gender who tick lots of boxes but do little else.

  • If we had a policy of no male candidates at all except for sitting MPs, there would be a reasonable chance of achieving an equal balance in Westminster at the next election

    I am not saying that is what we should do, but it does depend on what our priorities are.

  • As I said on another thread recently:
    “One thing that is often forgotten is that there is no such thing a s a safe LibDem seat, this idea seems to pass people by in most discussions any assessment of strategy need to accept this fact. Have a read of:
    http://www.conservativehome.com/thetorydiary/2015/06/the-computers-that-crashed-and-the-campaign-that-didnt-the-story-of-the-tory-stealth-operation-that-outwitted-labour.html
    “Liberal Democrat supporters were more amenable to voting Tory than others realised” You have to accept that many LibDem voters are thinking voters not tribal voters”

    Suggestion of following Labour’s approach of selecting safe seats and implementing all female short lists are not going to work.

    Lesters point about the small exclusive nature of the Candidate Leadership Programme is worth taking up. There needs to a significant number of people you feel are under represented who get support.

    Also trying to drop a candidate who ticks a box in to a seat the party deems a “target” will often be a waste. Find the great candidate and then find a seat that is a good match for them, providing resources regardless of whether it makes the cut under an old measure of “targets.”

  • Phyllis

    “I really do believe the Party is institutionally sexist.”

    I’m never quite sure what those labels are supposed to achieve.

    Ruth Bright’s comment about maternaty leave is much more useful as it is something that should be addressed. Vague labels don’t seem to offer solutions.

  • Before I forget to reference the origional article:
    “Our current sole female MSP, Alison McInnes, has been voted number 2 on the North East list”

    That is a disaster Alison can’t be lost as an MSP and there really needs to be a solution found.

    The existence of Lists is one area where previous action has been good zipping is not a bad idea so there should be movement on this area.

    The Westminster issue is different because it uses such a broken system.

  • Meral Hussein Ece 24th Jun '15 - 11:49pm

    Yes we do have a serious woman problem. Lester Holloway puts his finger on the problem, and like him I’m pleased Tim Farron supports positive action. It also highlights how ineffective the Leadership programme as a top down approach, was always going to be. Genuine diversity across the party at every level is what’s needed to ensure we headhunt and attract more women, BAME people, and importantly, people from working class & non public school backgrounds. As pointed out, It’s not unusual for women to be talked over and shouted down- its happened to me by a senior male colleague, who got short shrift. Let’s not hear anymore talk of how ‘illiberal’ all women short lists are. They’ve worked for Labour, who have succeeded in changing the face of the House of Commons. It may not work for us, but we need radical ideas and solutions to address our complete lack of diversity.

  • Steve Way

    “We just don’t know whether that would have made a difference by encouraging more support among women.”

    I think you are being too narrow. The immage of no female cabinate members looks odd to men too.

  • Sammy O'Neill 25th Jun '15 - 12:09am

    @AntonyHook

    I think it’s mostly quite simple when you look at the relevant seats:

    East Dunbartonshire: inevitable in light of SNP tidalwave, vote held up remarkably well I think.

    London/Cardiff seats: Lib Dems got absolutely killed in urban areas. Partly demographic shifts, partly lack of the previously guaranteed protest vote, partly due to implosion of local parties in some instances. The only places we have seats left are rather leafy suburban/rural seats or very rural ones.

    Mid Dorset/Wells: Always going to be a tough holds even in the best of times, relied really on the “anyone but the tories” approach. We did well to hold Mid Dorset for so many years and to win Wells at all.

  • I’m uneasy at the criticism of the MPs for being all-male: they are the survivors of an electoral tsunami, and we should not attack them for having survived.

    Rebuilding has to be based on diversity, which is about a Liberal belief in equality and opportunity, but we need not to attack our MPs.

    I am particularly conscious that in Sal Brinton we have an excellent President, who has done a brilliant job in ghastly circumstances. One way to address the present imbalance is to give her the credit she deserves… In the very near future we will have a super leader (whether that is Norman or Tim) and a super President… one man and one woman… Though it has not come about in the way we would have hoped, that can be experienced as modelling equality and be a place to build from.

  • How is it a criticism of the MPs? Certainly not as individuals. It is, however, a fact about the current composition of the parliamentary Party, and a fact which, even if unavoidable, can easily be used to reflect on the Party itself. The best way to respond to such likely reflections is to take some action that shows that the Party understands the need for internal reform.

  • I am a white middle-class male and I would happily see some positive discrimination brought in to fix this problem. Can we have female candidates for all by-elections this Parliament?

  • Siobhan Mathers 25th Jun '15 - 12:19pm

    I’m happy to see my piece bringing about a spirited discussion. Yes, it’s a difficult time for the party as a whole. But I do think that it’s all the more important to harness the talents of women in the fightback. And for that to happen something has to change.

  • Stephen Howse 25th Jun '15 - 1:26pm

    “What we need to do is get behind people like Ruth Bright and Vicky Slade and don’t allow the powers that be in the Party to foist candidates of either gender who tick lots of boxes but do little else.”

    Indeed. One diversity that’s never mentioned is diversity of thought. Another one is diversity of wealth. Both matter just as much as gender diversity. We need to open up our processes to ensure as wide a range of people as possible are encouraged to (and do) stand for election under our banner.

  • Julian Tisi 25th Jun '15 - 2:42pm

    Before we start saying how much of a failure we are in terms of the diversity of our MPs, let’s acknowledge that we tried hard to address the problem and put forward a reasonably diverse list of candidates in “winnable” seats (where winnable was defined on what we thought were winnable before the election) – particularly in held seats vacated by retiring MPs. Let’s also acknowledge that all-women shortlists would have made absolutely no difference to the number of women elected in 2015 – they would have lost like all the others.

    The only thing that might have made any difference would have been an enforced selection of a woman in a held seat where the MP was NOT planning to retire – but I suspect that such an approach would more likely lose us votes and seats.

  • I find it telling that everyone, other than “(Matt Bristol)”, has missed the crux of the issue: namely the criteria, voluntarily set by the LibDem party that restricts candidates for party leader to sitting MP’s!

    Hence the question LibDem’s should be asking themselves is whether this criteria is strictly necessary and if not change it!

    Personally, I see no reason why the leader of the party in the HoC need also be the leader of the UK party. If you need an example where this is the case then you need to look no further than the SNP… Also the current criteria does seem to presume the LibDem’s will always have at least one MP who wants to stand as party leader…

  • Roland

    “everyone […] has missed the crux of the issue: namely the criteria, voluntarily set by the LibDem party that restricts candidates for party leader to sitting MP’s”

    I just assumed everyone though it was a good idea to get rid of this requirement, but timing wise it would take a while so would be changed after the new leader is elected.

  • (Matt Bristol) 25th Jun '15 - 5:27pm

    Roland,

    I’d personally be in favour of a situation in future where the nominating body for Leader and possibly Deputy Leader is all MPs, Lords MSPs, AMs, MEPs London Assembly members and council group leaders, and the Leader and Deputy could be a member of any of the above elected bodies (possibly excepting local councillors as their electoral systems make them more vulnerable?).

    It needn’t be exactly like this; I think in various places I’ve described variations on the main theme.

    I regard the current rules as a legacy of the ‘2-party transitioning to 3-party’ years of the 80s and 90s before there was significant devolution. We saw ourselves as unique in our ambition

    This would have the posititive benefit of making possible (although not inevitable) an increase in possible routes into leadership for a wider range of men and women. It wouldn’t be a magic bullet, but it would prevent us being vulnerable to sudden restrictions in our leadership choice by landslide defeats such as this, and would decrease the risk of accidental (or semi-accidental) white male dominance in the MP group preventing members from choosing a female or ethnic minority leader if they so choose.

    The HoC would only be led by the national leader if they were in that chamber; if the Leader or Deputy were not there, they would need to elect their own group leader. (Another different solution, would be to have instead of a national Deputy, an English leader elected by OMOV, but I still feel similar processes should apply).

    But liink my point again to the main issue of female influence in the party, if we take three key female ‘leaders’, I don’t understand why Sal Brinton, Kirsty Williams or Caroline Bearder have as much formal say in the leadership election process, as I do as an ordinary member. That’s daft. We have a wealth of talented men and women but their access to public leadership is restricted.

    These key people should have a role in the leadership nomination process that they do not have at present, and they should be eligible to lead the national party if they wish, from outside the HoC.

  • Lester Holloway 25th Jun '15 - 7:32pm

    @ Julian Tisi – I’m not sure exactly how many women were standing in winnable seats, but there were only two BAMEs – Pramod Subbaraman and Layla Moran. Two others were selected but then stood down (Sarah Yong and Ibrahim Taguri). From memory there were about 6 in 2010 in what were then winnables. Even if we’d had 4 we’d have gone backwards. In the event we had 2. That’s pretty poor. Worse, we haven’t put up an African or Caribbean candidate in a real winnable… ever. We have never had an African or Caribbean MP, Assembly Member, MSP or MEP. Again, ever.

  • Lester

    “Worse, we haven’t put up an African or Caribbean candidate in a real winnable… ever. We have never had an African or Caribbean MP, Assembly Member, MSP or MEP. Again, ever.”

    How many were on the Candidate Leadership Programme? Is the issue the lack of initially putting themselves forward or is it getting selected?

  • Peter Sigrist 26th Jun '15 - 2:23am

    As a new (white, male) party member, I’m struck by how patrician the party feels. What’s worse is a seeming lack of self-awareness, which I have no doubt holds us back from solving this and other problems. This comment thread is a perfect example of the very issue Siobhan raises. There are 24 male commenters; only 6 female. Of those 6, 100% agree with the proposition of the article. Yet of the 24 male commenters, 13 quibble with it! If we can’t suspend our supposed better judgment even in the face of such irony, what hope do we have? Siobhan you are right, this problem is real. Excuse me while I suspend my appeal to faux-liberal refusal to accept the obvious and say: I hope we have the good sense to tackle this problem head on and flush it out for good!

  • Eddie Sammon 26th Jun '15 - 3:59am

    Peter, it is honourable to stand up for the disabled, other diversity groups and merit, as well as women. Quibbles should only be criticised when they are the wrong quibbles. 🙂

  • Peter Sigrist

    I think you misunderstand I don’t see anyone disagreeing there is a problem in Women’s representation but two posters also (rightly) highlight the issue that other groups are under represented and should be included in the attempts to broarden diversity.

    Most of the other “quibbles” are about what to do not whether something needs to be done. If everyone just said “it’s really bad” that does’n really help.

    The complex bit is making sure more women, BAME and disabled candidates.

  • Peter Sigrist 26th Jun '15 - 4:09pm

    Hi Eddie. You are right but when someone takes the time to raise an issue about the representation of women, one has a choice. One can say: “Yes this is true. And there is a deeper problem.” What many commenters here wrote, effective, was “This may or may not be true. But there is a deeper issue.” It may sound like an academic distinction but it suggests the commenters feel some kind of discomfort in admitting the problem originally raised. I’m saying this to you with all due respect but I fear I may be onto something.

    Psi
    I could not disagree more. Everyone really ought to say “it’s real bad” and then propose solutions. That so many choose to beat about the bush speaks volumes, I’m afraid, like it or not. Remember, I’m a total outsider here. I’m simply telling you what it looks like.

  • Peter Sigrist

    “Everyone really ought to say “it’s real bad” and then propose solutions.”

    By proposing solutions people are accepting that the situation is bad, there is no point spending time changing a democratic approach if it is already wonderful. Given that of the 8 MPs the make up should include 4 women and at least one ethnic minority, the current make up is so obviously a problem it doesn’t need to be stated by every contributor. Your expectation is the sort of thing you see on TV discussion shows like Question Time where panel members send so long waffling off topic it is s complete turn off, better we get down to business than spend time ‘getting our credentials in.’

    The quality of the proposal should be what matters not the person making it, sadly too many think the opposite is true.

    “That so many choose to beat about the bush speaks volumes”

    Who is beating about the bush? Lester who is making that very important point that the ethnic minority representation is also terrible? People pointing out that certain approaches tried by other parties will be counter productive, so suggesting an alternative? People pointing out some basic parameters; that a party has to be an attractive prospect in general and then have a candidate that is appealing to the voters?

    I will disagree with many suggestions for what action will be effective and others will disagree with action I think will be effective but none of us will go anywhere if the whole discussion is filled with people having to demonstrate how bad people ‘feel’ about the situation, then it is much harder to see the wood for the trees.

    The current make up is so bad that it looks like the last chance to put it right, so whatever action is taken has to be good, that requires robust sensible discussion of solutions not waffling about what anyone can see.

  • Peter Sigrist

    “I’m a total outsider here”

    I’m not sure there are many ‘insiders’ on here, most commenters posting would probably be considered ‘awkward’ by anyone in a position of influence in the party. So you will be right at home.

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