Party sets up review of culture and processes focusing on race and ethnicity

The Liberal Democrats are committed to better representing the communities they seek to serve and have voted through a raft of measures, including the Diversity Quotas and Electing Diverse MP’s motions passed by members at Federal Conference in York and Brighton this year.

As part of the party’s ongoing commitment to build and safeguard a fair, free and open society; an independent review which will focus on the issues and/or barriers faced by BAME members and supporters has been commissioned by the Federal Executive. This review should help the party determine what and where the issues are and how we take action in this specific area.

The Federal Executive agreed that the following questions should be addressed as part of the review process, but the Chairman of the Review is free to explore other relevant questions:

1. Are there barriers to participation for BAME members? If so, what and where are they?
2. Do barriers differ in different parts of the party?
3. How effective are existing mechanisms/procedures in addressing the issue?
4. Does the Party do enough to engage with BAME voters and ensure accessibility for potential BAME members?
5. What further steps should, or could, be taken by the Party to address the issues identified in this review

It is proposed that this piece of work will commence immediately [October 2016] and will report in the first half of 2017.

Lord John Alderdice, a former Leader of our sister party the Alliance Party of Northern Ireland, and former President of Liberal International is a member of the House of Lords. He has agreed to lead this review, and the relevant support structures have been identified to assist his review.

Professor, the Lord Alderdice MB BCh BAO FRCPsych

As Leader of the Alliance Party of Northern Ireland (1987-1998) Lord Alderdice played a significant role in all the talks during this period on the future of Northern Ireland and in the negotiation of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement. He was the first Speaker of the new Northern Ireland Assembly (1998-2004) and was then appointed by the British and Irish Governments to the Independent Monitoring Commission tasked with closing down terrorist operations and overseeing normalization of security activity in Northern Ireland (2004-2011). He has just completed, with two colleagues (Professor Monica McWilliams and solicitor, John McBurney) a report commissioned by the First, Deputy First and Justice Ministers of Northern Ireland, on the disbanding of the remaining paramilitary groups.

Lord Alderdice was Deputy President and then President of Liberal International (the world-wide network of more than 100 liberal political parties) from 2000-2009, and during the UK Conservative/Liberal Coalition Government was Convenor (Chair) of the Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Party in the House of Lords (2010-2014). Prime Minister David Cameron also appointed him to the UK Committee on Standards in Public Life and he served from 2010 until 2016.

Formerly a Consultant Psychiatrist and Senior Lecturer in Psychotherapy at The Queen’s University of Belfast, Visiting Professor at the University of Virginia (Charlottesville) and Liberal Democrat Spokesman on Northern Ireland, Lord Alderdice is currently the Founding Director of the Centre for the Resolution of Intractable Conflict at Harris Manchester College, University of Oxford, a Professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Maryland (Baltimore), and Chairman of the Centre for Democracy and Peace Building in Belfast.

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  • Lester Holloway 28th Oct '16 - 10:46am

    It is important that the term ‘barriers’ is not interpreted ridgedly, so as not to overlook things that are having a negative impact but are harder to pin down with evidence. A better term would be ‘factors that work against participation for BAME members’. This includes the reputation and image of the party, as well as issues of behaviour and attitudes that are easier to identify. This inquiry will need to be not just ‘aware’ of the existence of nuances and dynamics of race, but ‘conscious’ of these throughout.

    Several inquiries into race-related issues have been conducted by people who are not from a visible minority with varying success. The Swann inquiry into education was thought to be a breakthrough at the time but BAME historians looking back are more critically. The Macpherson inquiry into the death of Stephen Lawrence took as its’ starting point and measuring stick a definition of institutional racism, and is looked at more favourably even though the concept was more controversial at the time. Institutional racism has not disappeared, and should be part of the frame of reference for Alderdice.

  • Sue Sutherland 28th Oct '16 - 2:53pm

    I can’t help thinking that, although Lord Alderdice has strong credentials for this role, this enquiry should have members from ethnic minorities on a team that investigates in order to ensure that BAME members feel encouraged that any complaints will be met with empathy.
    I have supported all women PPC shortlists because of the issue of hidden bias, so very much hope that this enquiry will not only be fair but will also be seen to be fair.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 28th Oct '16 - 3:17pm

    This is excellent .

    I am a longstanding admirer of Lord Alderdice , and the Alliance Party , just yesterday , welcomed the new leader , Naomi Long , on here. We need more articles on them and by them, greater contacts.I think his appointment very sensible.

    But as wit my comments on the aforementioned, could the party not utilise the tremendous qualities of Floella , Baroness Benjamin more, she really should be in the front team on many things and certainly this !

  • Jonathan Brown 28th Oct '16 - 9:10pm

    I think Lester makes a very important point. If we don’t look at ‘factors that work against participation for BAME members’ then what’s the point of doing this at all?

  • Chris Burden 29th Oct '16 - 11:53pm

    I agree with Lester.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 30th Oct '16 - 12:55pm


    A very poignant contribution. I do not know if an internal review is such a bad thing , but do feel it must be transparent. I do know Lord Alderdice is a fine and fair man , and the man should be given a free hand , I would trust that inquiry more then. My inclination would be that , as we have had several BAME candidates and activists , but , as with our party in general, none in safe seats because we have no safe seats, we must do more to raise the profile of our terrific and vocal members across the party, present company included, Teena , do take note ! And keep at it .

  • R Uduwerage-Perera 31st Oct '16 - 11:13am

    ‘Don’t just tell me you love me. Show me that you do’

    Dear Sisters, Brothers, Supporters and Friends,

    The Rt Hon Lord John Alderdice curriculum vitae in the arena of working with, and combatting, the issues faced by marginalised communities goes back many years and predated his somewhat significant role in the negotiations that led to the Good Friday Agreement of 1998.

    The peace talks following the deadly violence during ‘The Troubles‘ has produced an environment where communities who had previously centuries of historic hatred between them could start the process of healing and talking. The process is not yet over, for it will take a significant amount of time to build trust, but the process has begun.

    In my opinion Lord Alderdice has exactly the right credentials to tackle the inequalities that exists with our Party and wider society for BaME communities and as such I commend his appointment as Chair of the forthcoming inquiry for he understands and advises the need for ‘reconciliation’ which itself requires symbolic change to peoples realities. Change will require the Party to fully review and challenge its own processes, procedures and practices and to move beyond merely espousing the usual laudable rhetoric that lacks tangible ‘outcomes’ that BaME communities are all too used to hearing, to demonstrating that BaME communities are cherished and seen as equal.

    In order to achieve the cultural change that is required, BaME members within the Party, and I would suggest external race equality interest groups will need to be fully engaged and involved, but equally for change to be truly embedded it will require the involvement and adoption by the wider Party membership as well.

    We are the Party of ‘Fairness, Equality and Justice’, so the changes that are required will be seen I believe by the majority of members as simply the right thing to do.

    I hope that the entire Party membership and especially the members of the Ethnic Minority Liberal Democrats will join me in positively looking forward to the commencement of this inquiry and equally to working with Lord Alderdice. We have a golden opportunity to genuinely create positive change so let us please enter this inquiry in a belief that the outcomes can be very positive.

    Ruwan Uduwarage-Perera
    Chair – Ethnic Minority Liberal Democrats (EMLD)

    ‘Its time to make a change: If not now, when?’

  • Duwayne Brooks 31st Oct '16 - 2:16pm

    Complete utter disgrace.

    Tim Farron has already demonstrated his intention to keep black people down in this party and reward white privileged members.

    How on earth do you appoint a blackless shadow cabinet in this time but also during black history month ?

    There is no need for another report or review. Look at the party structure. The evidence is overwhelming.

    I can see the rest of my time as a member in this party taken up by speaking out against the ‘anti black’ agenda lead by our leader.

  • Lester Holloway 31st Oct '16 - 7:11pm

    I think scepticism should be suspended until either the end of the review or if, during the course of it, concerns emerge. At this stage, I think Lord Alderdice should start with some goodwill and cooperation. Personally I have my views, not too dissimilar to Teena’s, but I hope to be proven wrong. This is an opportunity to have a comprehensive review of the BAME experience in the party. We have a mountain to climb to connect to BAME communities, and this is connected to experiences within the party. When it comes to experiences, I hope this review reaches past activits who have become inactive or left the party but who otherwise might be active today if it were not for particular experiences.

  • Simon Banks 5th Nov '16 - 10:20pm

    Teena: Someone like Lord Alderdice has nothing to fear from any disfavour he might attract from, say, the Party Leader, President or Chief Exec. He’s not an ambitious potential parliamentary candidate or an employee. Any disapproval he experienced would be water off a duck’s back. I do agree though that his team should include members of visible minorities and not all men or relatively old. And Irish is a minority ethnic group, though not usually a visible one.

    I’m glad to see item 4, even if it is awkwardly worded. At present we score quite well among some minority groups (especially if broken down by age and gender) on whether their members would consider voting for us, but very few young Asian women, say, JOIN the party and the post-2015 surge actually made us whiter than before. We won’t get very far with achieving a more diverse parliamentary candidate list, for example, if the potential candidates haven’t joined the party.

    There is also often a reluctance among local party groups to engage with the issue of race discrimination compared to disability or (to an extent) gender. Some people are frightened of the issue. We need to overcome that.

  • Mick Taylor 17th Jan '17 - 5:29am

    Well, the shadow cabinet does have one person of Indian origin in Shaz Sheehan so it’s not correct to say it is all white. Nevertheless it would be very sensible of Tim to do more to bring BAME members into the shadow cabinet.
    Dwayne is someone I respect greatly for his contribution to politics and I understand entirely where he is coming from, because I have been fighting the same fight in respect of the party’s poor record with regard to women.
    However, it’s wrong to suppose that it’s deliberate or an attempt to keep one group or another down. It’s much more a lack of conscious thought about the issue. Research tells us that unless an individual makes a deliberate effort to change, s/he will continue to go on seeing candidates for jobs or political office as people who look like them. In this case male and pale. Tim has made a concerted effort in respect of women. Now it is time to do the same for BAME and LGBT+.
    It is perhaps noteworthy that in general the people around the central party are far too heavily weighted to London and the South East and that is a further issue that should be looked at.

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