Party adopts All Women Shortlists after Tim Farron’s plea: ‘The time for excuses has gone’

The Liberal Democrat federal party conference at York this morning passed the “Electing Diverse MPs” motion without amendment 1, meaning that the party has adopted All Women Shortlists along with a slew of other major diversity initiatives.

In her role as a member of the Federal Executive, Liberal Democrat Voice editor, Caron Lindsay, proposed the motion with a passionate and rousing speech.

Tim Farron spoke in favour of the motion, telling representatives:

The time for excuses has gone. I need you to support this motion.

* Paul Walter is a Liberal Democrat activist and member of the Liberal Democrat Voice team. He blogs at Liberal Burblings.

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This entry was posted in Conference.


  • Great News, it will now be less embarassing to come out as a Libdem.

  • Splendid news. Thanks to everyone who supported the motion.

  • One step for mankind. Hope we have got our back office diversity arrangements in place and an end to what appears to have gone on.

  • Eddie Sammon 13th Mar '16 - 1:54pm

    First of all I want to say that I respect people on both sides of the debate, even if I get passionate at times. Championing all-women shortlists, especially over the previous decades, is not something people do for an easy life.

    However I have two main concerns about this policy:

    1. Introduces gender discrimination, which, considering men can’t apply for the seats it is adopted is definitely discrimination.

    2. If we eliminate the gender gaps where men are doing better then we also have to eliminate the gaps where women are doing better and I think this provides additional challenges.

  • This policy is a tragic mistake, which I hope the party will in time come to reconsider and reject.

  • Tony Greaves 13th Mar '16 - 3:26pm

    What I find interesting (and very depressing) is that there appears to be nothing in this motion about how to prevent complete or very near wipe-out at the next General Election. People seem to be living in a party bubble unrelated to the real world.

    Tony Greaves

  • Mike MacSween 13th Mar '16 - 4:29pm

    New party member here, first time conference attendee. So I can’t claim ‘I’ve been a Lib Dem member for xx years’, I’m afraid.

    But it’s a disappointing vote, as far as I’m concerned. I stopped voting Labour because of AWS, amongst other things. I was prepared to be persuaded today, and I wasn’t.

    Luckily I won’t have any difficult decision to make at the next general election (I hope) as the Lib Dem candidate who I vote for in my constituency is a woman, and muslim, as it happens. So that’s two boxes ticked. Though I’m confident that that isn’t how she wants to be thought of.

    As the party leader feels so strongly about this perhaps Tim Farron could tell us which 4 of the 8 ‘male pale and stale’ MPs are going to resign in order to force by-elections in which only women will be short-listed. Why not? It’s a perfectly serious suggestion. Money where mouth is and all that. Oh, I think I understand. It’s other people that will have to do this.

    It’s simple really. You are either opposed to discrimination or you’re not. Yes, there are umpteen types of subtle and not so subtle discrimination. And we fight them in subtle and maybe not so subtle ways. Including national legislation that applies to everybody in the whole country. Except political parties it seems. And now discrimination has been enshrined in the party rules, with the majority of the party seemingly unable to see that that is what it is. This is the opposite of what I thought the party I joined last year stood for.

    The Lib Dems have core values that attracted me. But they’ve just abandoned one of them.

  • @John Marriott. Yes, we can and will move on, to more soical engineering and making ourselves even more irrelevant.

  • Ronald Murray 13th Mar '16 - 6:30pm

    Well said Tony Greaves.

  • Titanic……. deckchairs

  • Well said Mike. I’m really disappointed that this motion was passed, I’ve always been against affirmative action or positive discrimination and I remain so. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still a Lib Dem through and though, but I’m embarrassed by this motion passing. I’d be interested to know how close the vote was?

  • Peter Watson 13th Mar '16 - 9:00pm

    Presumably those with more knowledge of the party than me can identify individuals who are likely to be directly affected by this measure, e.g. men whose chances of replacing the incumbent MP have now vanished. Is Nick Clegg’s constituency the most likely to be up for grabs?

  • Richard Ormerod 13th Mar '16 - 9:37pm

    This is terrible news. For the first time in 22 years as a member I am wondering if I really belong.

  • This motion being passed is better late than never. We’ve tried everything else and it hasn’t worked.

  • M’lud Greaves is wrong. This motion is about Diversity. It is complementary to, but not exclusively related to actually how we win. It’s not the first time M’Lud has missed the point on this issue.

  • Mike MacSween 13th Mar '16 - 11:51pm

    You want diversity Tim. OK, let’s have it, right now. We’re not in government. As far as election results go, the Lib Dems are an irrelevance. So there’s no risk attached to this bold proposal:

    Half the ‘white’ male MPs stand down. Right now. Call a by-election and put women candidates in their place. Why not, seriously? You want bold steps. There’s one. Do it, and do it now.

    The leader has the best majority, he could lead be example. Come on Tim, give your seat to a woman.

  • R Uduwerage-Perera 14th Mar '16 - 8:50am

    Dear Colleagues,

    My faith in the Party returned yesterday when the equality motion passed with a very convincing majority.

    This is merely the start of a long process, but AWS are necessary, and in time, when the legislation has been brought in, and the evidence shows the necessity then All BaME, LGBT+, etc shortlists can be used to redress the other obvious imbalances that exist.

    It was further refreshing to hear that people are starting to realise that we have structural blocks that need to be removed, and that our policies, procedures and practices really need to be reviewed and brought into the 21st Century.

    The Ethnic Minority Liberal Democrats (EMLD) will continue to work with and encourage the Party to adopt the Equality Act, 2010 in spirit and deed so that it may benefit from such things as equality impact assessing that will be necessary to appropriately undertake the investigations of our structures.

    The last two months has been exhausting whilst many of us have been working on this motion and seeking support. I wish to personally thank on behalf of EMLD Gareth Epps for his huge contribution in drafting the successful amendment, and all of our members and supporters who supported it, albeit we within EMLD all have knowledge, memories and have personal experiences of how after the euphoria has worn off race equality is often forgotten. Let us make sure that in the excitement following this landmark decision by the Party, that equality matters do not return to a dusty shelf.

    We cannot sit back, for the hard work starts now, and we will benefit from pulling together to create the inclusive Party that we all desire. I am immensely pleased to say that the EMLD will be working far more closely with LGBT+’ LDW, LDDA and others to progress matters of equality, but in order for our shared vision to be reached we still require the assistance and support of the minority who possess the power and influence.

    For those who share in the vision of a truly inclusive society but have concerns about the appropriateness of positive action and other interventions, please remember that civil rights and equality are not the result of evolution and nature, but direct human intervention.

    So I say Vive la révolution!

    Ruwan Uduwerage-Perera
    Chair Ethnic Minority Liberal Democrats

  • Lots of (probably white, probably male?) folk saying what a tragic day this is for liberty. But my own view is that it was necessary. I would expect similar support for men if the Parliamentary party was overwhelmingly female.

  • John Barrett 14th Mar '16 - 11:34am

    GP Purnell – I think you could not be more wrong.

    There are many in the party like me (white men and others) who would not mind in the slightest if our group of MPs was overwhelmingly female.

  • John Barrett 14th Mar '16 - 11:44am

    GP Purnell – I will not repeat here my previous comments in many other strings about why I opposed the motion, but I still do believe it will not help deliver the results its supporters hope for, while probably making it harder to win back some seats.

    Only time will tell.

  • When the gender of candidates of the various Parties is compared, how winnable the seats are is generally ignored. Procedures need to be put in place to ensure that women and men are equally represented amongst ‘paper candidates’.

    This comment might seem tongue in cheek, but in terms of the broad brush message, the terms that the media so often only deal in, it is highly important. In fact as a way of preventing unfairly irrelevant criticism, it would be better if our ‘paper candidates’ were predominantly women.

  • Helen Tedcastle 14th Mar '16 - 1:33pm

    I agree with the comment made by Tony Greaves.

    While I respect the sincerity of the views of those who argued for AWS, I’m not convinced it’s a very Liberal solution.

    In fact, I would argue that this motion is the triumph of the kind of approach the Labour Party has always taken, to see people not as individuals but as representing a sectional interest. That’s why they have women’s sections, BME sections, Gay and Lesbian sections, each with their own priorities and self-identifying as a group or bloc in that party.

    As Liberalism is about the empowerment of the individual and enabling each person to reach their potential, we have always prided ourselves on rising above sectional interests or defining or grouping people mainly by their gender or race or sexual orientation.

    Furthermore, we ended up with eight male MPs because we were wiped out nationally not because of prejudice against women. Had we received 24% of the vote in 2015, the outcome for women candidates would have been different. That is the whole point.

    No doubt, Harriet Harman will be congratulating the Lib Dems today for adopting her Labour approach.

  • Ben Jephcott 14th Mar '16 - 2:35pm


  • Peter Balcombe 14th Mar '16 - 2:55pm

    As a white male of coming up for 70 I welcome strongly that Conference voted as it did. I do hope that at some time – possibly not in my lifetime – the Party might return to a situation where positive discrimination is not necessary but that time will be when women and other presently disadvantaged people are equitably represented and not before. Choosing in one’s own image does not equate to selecting the best person for the job. Being constrained to consider those who have characteristics unlike one’s own gives opportunity to those with different chataritics to demonstrate they are indeed the best person for the job.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 14th Mar '16 - 2:58pm

    Lord Greaves
    Negative as ever on these things, when now we need a better approach

    Good attitude , was not convinced by AWS but a wider positive incusive approach , yes


    I do not want a revolution but reform we do need , keep the debate and methods friendly and harmonious and we shall achieve a lot

  • David Evans 14th Mar '16 - 3:33pm

    Lorenzo – We are still going nowhere. Next to no media coverage and very few local by-election gains. As was the case under Nick, those who pointed out the disaster were continuously accused of being negative. They were right, and the fact people did not support them meant things just got worse and worse. The question I ask of you is “It is ten months after we went down to just eight MPs and eight months after we elected our new leader. When will you realise that things are still going badly wrong and more importantly when will you start to lobby for real change instead of all this inward looking navel gazing like AWS? 4 MPs in 2020? 1 in 2025? Never??

  • Simon Thorley 14th Mar '16 - 10:21pm

    @Helen: I’m catching up on LDV today and I must say it’s heartening to read your comments – I agree with every word.

  • @Helen
    Don’t the Lib Dems also have women’s and LGBT sections?

    A lot of AWS people have argued here in recent weeks that there are much better ways to promote diversity than AWS. I do genuinely hope those people will spend the next five years trying to put those better methods into practise – afterall, with AWS only being used in a tiny number of constituencies, the door is wide open for alternatives to be tried elsewhere. So how about doing that, instead of just moaning about AWS?

  • Lorenzo Cherin 14th Mar '16 - 11:40pm

    David evans

    You do not obviously know my views .I was not and am not a true believer in such things , but a pragmatist and a consensus oriented Liberal and Democrat .I am well aware the party must get real , my only time being reprimanded by Caron on here was for being too robust in that direction , so fed up was I with the bickering on AWS and such, and just the other day it was me who spoke of Austin Rathe and his , in my view , silly post , as navel gazing ! I want , though , for us to be friends and colleagues , and get on !

  • Alejandro Solà 15th Mar '16 - 11:39am

    What an illiberal concession to identify politics, for nothing. You can’t outcraze Corbyn, and with measures like this the Tories will get all the liberal vote.

  • Helen Tedcastle and Simon Thorley

    Do you accept that the Lib Dems have a diversity problem? And if so, what do YOU propose the party should do to remedy this?

  • Tony Dawson 15th Mar '16 - 7:12pm

    Actually, it would appear that the time for excuses has just started. The Party failed, in the 2015 General Election, to get a lot of women elected to ‘target seats’ including ‘incumbent replacement seats’ last year, for reasons which are/were hardly rocket science. Have those responsible held up their hands? No. Has the Party adopted processes which would stop those same mistakes being made again? No.

    Has the Party set it’s stall and strategy out so that it can make the strides to obtain (and retain!) parliamentary seats for the Liberal Democrats for the future? No.

    So, I have worked out how the Liberal Democrats are ensuring that more women are elected to Parliament. It is a cunning plan. The Party is, as now proceeding, ensuring that very few Lib Dems will be elected to Parliament. So that means those elected to the seats concerned instead may well be women of other Parties. Simples! 🙁

  • Neil Sandison 16th Mar '16 - 10:10am

    Don’t give a monkeys cuss what gender you are as long as you practice what you preach as a liberal democrat.

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