Race equality survey of presidential candidates

Forms Diversity / SML.20121107.IPH5 / @lifecelebrates #diversityWhat do the candidates to be president of the Lib Dems think should be done to make the party more racially-diverse? I sent them a short six-question survey to find out.

The full survey results can be found on my blog here. Sal Brinton, Daisy Cooper, Linda Jack and Liz Lynne all agreed on many issues, with Sal and Linda proving the boldest in embracing new solutions to increase BAME (Black, Asian, Minority Ethnic) diversity, Liz being the most cautious and Daisy somewhere in between. But there wasn’t a whole lot to pick between them.

On the question of whether the party should deliver equality and diversity training to local parties where they are, not just at party conferences, all candidates agreed. Sal noted that this process had already started but was ‘too slow’.

Should there by ‘zipping’ or quotas for BAME members on key committees along the lines currently being proposed by the Federal Executive for women? Linda and Sal both agreed this should be extended to BAMEs, with Linda and Daisy favouring a consultation with all under-represented groups including those with disabilities and LGBT+. Sal noted “we can’t do one under-represented group and not others. Federal Executive will have to decide the proportion (of BAME places), but as they want it for women, now is the time to extend it.” Liz was the only candidate who did not favour mechanics to lever change. She noted: “I have never agreed with zipping or quotas for anyone as it can lead to tokenism, I would rather try and change the culture within the Party.”

Should Ethnic Minority Liberal Democrats have a place on the Federal Executive in the same way that BAME Labour sit on their party’s ruling National Executive Committee? Linda agreed, but Sal was more cautious noting: “Federal Executive is already a large body, and if zipping is introduced, there will be BAME members on it. The current allocation of liaising works as well as the Federal Executive member doing it, so not always adequate, but some Federal Executive members take their link role v seriously.” However Sal believes the Federal Executive should co-opt a BAME member if it is all-white. Liz opposed the idea of reserved places for SAOs (Specified Associated Organisations of the Liberal Democrats), believing all Federal Executive members should be elected on merit. Daisy said: “I would like protected groups to be represented, but not necessarily automatically by SAOs”

In response to the statement “Lib Dems would have more appeal to BAME communities if…” All four candidates believed the party would be doing better if we already had BAME MPs, which we don’t – yet! Linda and Sal believes the party can improve on the way we sell our current policies to BAME communities. Daisy, Linda and Liz believe we need better policies to specifically tackle racism. I have only counted the top three preferences of candidates in a seven-option multiple-choice.

On the question of all-BAME shortlists for prospective parliamentary candidates, if and when legislation allows, both Sal and Linda agreed there should be but that it should not be imposed. There could be regional targets for the selection of BAME PPCs in held or winnable seats. Sal noted that if no progress was made (electing more women MPs) “party must debate all women shortlists again”, adding “I want to see BAME added to that”, but was mindful that unlike Labour the Lib Dems don’t have any safe seats. Liz opposed all-women and all-BAME shortlists on grounds that all PPCs should be elected on merit. Daisy liked the idea but believed it would be unworkable, favouring instead local parties “required to ensure that selection short-listing panels are as representative of its community.”

Finally, I asked the candidates what policy solutions best deal with disproportionate race discrimination. Linda was the only contender to pick the radical option of affirmative action in her top three of this multiple choice question. Sal, Liz and Linda all All four candidates gave top preference to the idea of empowering and properly funding the Equality and Human Rights Commission, giving them new Audit Commission-like powers to investigate and if necessary sanction (fines / prosecutions) for failure to address inequality.

All three candidates Sal, Liz and Linda also believed Britain needed a new Stephen Lawrence / Macpherson public inquiry should be held to assess how far we have come. Sal and Liz believed it is the job of the Equality and Human Rights Commission to monitor and offer advice in this area.

* Lester Holloway is a former councillor and member of the Equalities Policy Working Group, and a member of the Race Equality Taskforce

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  • Well, THAT’S not changed my mind any about what order I shall be putting my vote in, but has rather confirmed it. Thanks for phrasing this so dispassionately, Lester, I know you have strong feelings about some of these things.

  • Joshua Dixon 17th Sep '14 - 11:49am

    It does amuse me that Liz thinks candidates are already selected on merit.

  • Simon McGrath 17th Sep '14 - 11:54am

    @Joshua – can you show us your evidence that candidates are not selected on merit – ie that BAME candidates are statistically less likely to be selected in winnable seats/ for party committees when they apply ?

  • Eddie Sammon 17th Sep '14 - 12:01pm

    Liz Lynne sounds the strongest, followed by Daisy.

    A left wing approach of introducing material discrimination against white men is not fair. We should be tackling discrimination and taking a hard look at diversity, which includes class and skills.

    Please don’t ask me questions on this, I’m trying to spend less time debating on here.

  • Eddie,
    You really should getoutofthe habitnofndescribing anything you disagree with as “left wing”.
    There is nothing left wing about the sort of discrimination you find so objectionable.

    Not a good way to make friends and influence people. 🙂

  • Daisy Cooper 17th Sep '14 - 1:01pm

    “Sal, Liz and Linda” should read “Sal, Liz and DAISY” 🙂 in this paragraph –

    Finally, I asked the candidates what policy solutions best deal with disproportionate race discrimination. Linda was the only contender to pick the radical option of affirmative action in her top three of this multiple choice question. Sal, Liz and Linda [REPLACE WITH DAISY!] all gave top preference to the idea of empowering and properly fund the Equality and Human Rights Commission, giving them new Audit Commission-like powers to investigate and if necessary sanction (fines / prosecutions) for failure to address inequality.

  • As the Equalities and Diversity Officer for the Local Party in Portsmouth, I am only too aware of how much a ‘back seat’ these issues are. Since I started this January I have at least tried to push though some terms of reference to the role. As a party, nationally and locally, we need to do more to reach out to all sectors of society, to make ourselves as inclusive as we can. We should not be following an agenda here, we should as Liberal Democrats, be setting the agenda.
    I am no fan of quotas per se, in this regard I tend to agree with Liz Lynne – I fear the ‘tokenism’ label. It would not only be perceived as such by many members but also by opposition and media. I do think though, much more should be done to promote the benefits for all local parties in attracting as diverse a membership as they can. We also need to promote some of the initiatives that are already available: such as the mentoring and support through Lib Dem HQ.

  • jedibeeftrix 17th Sep '14 - 1:12pm

    Linda wants no zipping but does want affirmative action….?

  • Simon McGrath 17th Sep '14 - 1:12pm

    @lester “the debate about measures to improve diversity is about combating existing discrimination in favour of white men ”
    Can you please let us know the stats to back this up? For example the % of women and BAME PPcs applying for good seats and the % which are selected?
    On party Committees the data is very readily available on the number of votes in the different election and I have no doubt you will have done a very thorough analysis before making a statement that our party members are biased. could you share it with us please ? Here is the link to the party election results

  • Sadiq Khan and Chuka Umunna are not a result of any zipping/bame shortlist, they’re locals in areas with a large BAME population (I live in the former constituency and 300 yards away from the latter’s).

    What can work for women doesn’t for BAME for purely statistical reasons: women are half the population, BAME, particularly outside cities, are a small minority, so finding good candidates is harder (made all the more by the under-representation of bame in the membership, THAT needs to be addressed most of all) and so tokensim (or at least perception of it) more likely (also in many areas would mean parachuting candidates, never appreciated by either local Paris or the voters ).

  • Hi Lester,
    I appreciate that point. My concern though is that we should balance all those within the ‘label’ of Equalities and Diversity in the same way, otherwise it is not really equal, is it? I must admit I find myself very much undecided as the best way forward on this issue: I see pros and cons with all the arguments.

    In response to Pegasus, to avoid ‘parachuting’ nationally and locally we should be doing all we can to make us more inclusive to ALL in society, and making it more than likely to have a range of talents within the local area to run for candidacy.

  • Simon McGrath 17th Sep '14 - 3:08pm

    @lester – thanks – we all agree we need more BAME and female MPs. But your point was that the reason we don’t have them is discrimination – can you give us the evidence of that very serious allegation?

    Presumably looking at the people who write for LDV in which there are usually a majority of men and few BAME people you would, on the same logic, conclude that LDV discriminates as well ?

  • “…. we all agree we need more BAME and female MPs”

    Or do lots of people mouth those words without having the slightest intention of doing anything about it?

  • Simon McGrath 17th Sep '14 - 3:44pm

    @john – you tell me. The local party of which I am chair had two excellent BAME approved candidates applying to be our PPC last time .

  • Jonathan Brown 17th Sep '14 - 11:41pm

    Thanks for this survey – and article – Lester.

    The answers have definitely made me reconsider my views about the candidates. If I’d read this first, I’m pretty sure I’d have answered the recent LDV survey differently.

  • @lester I am like others unsure about the best way forward for a truly representative party, that represents the whole nation. I believe that true equality is when this issue no longer exists. One thing I don’t support is parachuting candidates in to a constituency. I think that whoever the candidate is they must live in the area. I must add that a
    Though in principle, I’m against all women or BAME short lists, I think it could be used as a short term solution, by engaging a more diverse people to get involved with the party, we will evolve, as a party a become more appealing to a wider electorate. We are a party in a tough place, the most important thing is working together and ensure that we are not forced in to in fighting, we must all work to a common goal, I want the lib dems to be the party of all, for all.

  • R Uduwerage-Perera 18th Sep '14 - 7:41am


    This is an excellent article and I suspect will influence the thinking of all of the candidates, and hopefully the wider Party.

    As you have highlighted the lack of diversity within our Party is a cause of much embarrassment, as our stated ethos’s by far the most inclusive amongst mainstream political parties, and the reason why many of us joined and remain.

    I hope that all of the candidates do not shy away from not only seriously looking at the advantages of positive/affirmative action programmes, but when successful, the future president actually applies the most appropriates ones to redress the current obvious imbalances. The Party is now long overdue in my opinion in needing to dismantle the real and perceived barriers that exist and improving the recruitment, retention and progression of under-represented groups which are already represented by SAO’s, but as Lester highlights these lobbying groups are themselves not automatically represented in the ‘corridors of power’.

    I personally genuinely believe that we have a great opportunity through these elections to develop to become more progressive as a Party which will in turn lead to increased diversity throughout the Party and therefore make us far more attractive to a wider selection of the electorate, but as John Tilley has identified we need to move beyond laudable rhetoric and actually do something.

    Ruwan Uduwerage-Perera

  • Jayne Mansfield 18th Sep '14 - 5:53pm

    I believe that all candidates should be selected on merit. Unfortunately they are not, and that is why there are so few Bame people in positions of power in this, as in every other party.

    I find the references to tokenism and affirmative action profoundly depressing. We don’t have a level playing field, and the only reason I can think that anyone believes that we do, is that like myself they are white and belong to the majority ethnic group. Racism is deeply embedded in every aspect of our culture but because it is something that we do not experience, we think that it does not exist.

    I have to agree with John Tilley. I don’t think people have the slightest intention of doing anything about the status quo. That would be far too radical for a party of the ( small c) centre.

  • R Uduwerage-Perera 20th Sep '14 - 3:22pm

    Jayne Mansfield, although I respect your opinion totally, those of us from minority ethnic backgrounds that suffer from marginalisation cannot actually afford to remain without hope otherwise we might as well ‘pack up and leave’, which I appreciate some may desire, but it would not achieve the aims of those of us who actually wish to create a fair and equitable Party and Society.

    I do though share the frustration that you have expressed and the belief that racism is deeply embedded in every aspect of our culture, and as such at times I do far too often wonder whether the ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ is daylight or an oncoming train.

    The Ethnic Minority Liberal Democrats and its many supporters will though continue to assist our Party to find a way to overcome its ‘unconscious biases’ and a start in my opinion would be to actually have dedicated seats on ALL committees for the equality ‘interest’ SAO’s. The Leadership Program, which was and remains an excellent concept has unfortunately failed to win over the hearts and minds of the wider membership, so personally I feel that the leadership needs to be far more forthright and prescriptive in making its desires known to the membership, and specifically the ‘movers and shakers’ at all levels in our Party that they expect candidates to be far more ethnically diverse.

    I truly hope that the next President of the Party is someone with not only a vision, but the burning desire and ability to dismantle the old elitist barriers that have propagated in our Party for far too long and leads/drags/pushes it into the ethnically diverse 21st Century society that exists outside. Unless we as a Party radically change our look, I fear that we will ultimately be seen as an irrelevance, which would be tragic as I honestly believe we have the ability to positively influence society in the least divisive manner, so Jayne, John and all of the other people who are “on the side of the angels” please keep the faith and keeping plugging on for we will ultimately win through.

    Ruwan Uduwerage-Perera

  • Jayne Mansfield 20th Sep '14 - 4:18pm

    @ R Uduwerage – Perera
    I have never been a member of a party just a voter, so as someone who is and who is trying to make changes from within the party, I defer to your knowledge of how best to do that.

    However, as a mere voter with like- minded friends and family , I think the best way we can make a contribution is by putting your political party on notice that we want to see change or you wont get our vote.

    Voters like my friends and I, now approaching our seventies have been vocal in our belief that discrimination on grounds of race, gender or sexuality was wrong , wrong, wrong. We didn’t go into politics, we practiced what we preached. Our values are obvious to anyone who cares to look at how we behave, not what we say. Its time political parties caught up and we could say the same for them.

    I wish you well.

  • The most frequent objection to all BAME/women shortlists is tokenism, but consider proportionately how representative any one PPC is. Firstly, they’re party members, so that’s a 1 in 1600 people (40k->63m). Next, they’re wealthy enough in time and money to be able to fight a reasonable campaign, Iain Dale put the cost to a candidate around £41k, putting them in the top 10% of earners (just to scrape by), so by now only 1 in every 16000 citizens are eligible to be a Lib Dem PPC, and we haven’t really started on the criteria. I live in an area of about 40k, so maybe the 2 candidates for PPC were the only 2 possible (and one of those was parachuted in). Maybe sex and skin colour is the least of the prohibitive factors – the real thing keeping candidates back is not coming from a very wealthy and established family, who happen to mainly be white and traditionalist.

    MP’s in this oligarchy are mainly from one of the minority ruling groups, such as the “super wealthy elite” or “Oxbridge”. Once the selection process has been worked through we’re usually left with citizens from middle class backgrounds that never did anything wrong, that never experimented and often, who barely lived. Surely that’s not the only kind of person we want running the show? If you’re a 24-7 warrior of the people, you’ve probably made little money and have next to no chance of getting elected. More fool us.

    It sounds like most of the candidates for president are running on “more of the same”. It’s time to do something different – we can change it if we really try, but we haven’t made the effort yet and it shows. We need more diverse representation, and we’re going to have to become more militant if we’re going to get it – just being loving and inclusive simply hasn’t worked. If we can’t achieve internal equality, how can we demand it of society at large?

    If you’re still worried about tokenism, why don’t we run a general election where we field BAME and female candidates everywhere? As a middle aged male white voter I feel like I’ve had more than my fair share of representation – I could live with 5 years of no old white men if it showed everyone we’re 100% committed to equality; plus I think we’d wind up with better MPs for it. Of course, it won’t happen because we’re not 100% committed to equality. 🙂

  • Matthew Winnington 25th Sep '14 - 12:36pm

    This is a vexing issue because it comes down to boiling down everyone to what sex they are or what ethic background they are.

    But what proposed positive discrimination as proposed does not address is LGBT+, family background, age, religion or disability and we have to ask ourself, do we want to go down that route? Look at Labour’s supposed success with expanding diversity in their party. It is an utter failure, not because of visible differences (they have indeed massively increased their numberof BAME and women MPs), but because their candidates are almost all from comfortable middle class backgrounds who come through that process (Chuka Umuna is a classic example of this). Positive discrimination is also based on the fact that people in the party will accept it, especially among those who it is aimed to ‘help’. I have spoken to young, aspirational women in the party about this issue and they are vehemently opposed to any women only quotas or shortlists to the extent that they will consider leaving if they are introduced. They are not those who will go on programmes aimed only at women but they are at the front line leading us in local areas and doing what it takes to embed themselves in their communities and are our futures leaders. So maybe more should be done to support our members of all backgrounds who are doing this rather tham compartmentalising everyone to the extent that by favouring one group over another you will inevitibly discriminate against other equally underrepresented groups.

    I don’t have al the answers but I do think we should be looking beyond the colour of someones skin or their sex to truly have as diverse a representative party as possible.

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