Tag Archives: diversity

Isabelle Parasram on how she’s working with the English Party to improve diversity

Over on the party website, the Party’s Vice President BAME, Isabelle Parasram, writes about how she is working with the English Party to improve diversity and our party’s engagement with diverse communities.

For example, when I attend high profile events, wherever possible I also invite BAME members and supporters to attend with me.  One such event was the launch of the Commonwealth 8.7 Network at the Australian High Commission.

Through the Commonwealth 8.7 Network, over 60 civil society organisations will work together to push for greater action across the Commonwealth in eradicating modern slavery and achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal Target 8.7.

At my invitation, Michael Bukola, one of our London Assembly candidates, and Dr Victoria Shownmi, an academic specialising in race relations who has been supportive of the work that I am doing, both attended with me.

Not only did they support me that evening, but they built connections and represented the Liberal Democrat brand in a way that I could not achieve on my own.

In terms of community outreach, I met the outgoing Cypriot High Commissioner at an event hosted by the National Federation of Cypriots in the UK.  Stemming from the discussions I had that evening, I will be arranging an event that will build further links between the Cypriot community and our Party.  Recognising the unique needs of our fellow EU citizens and seeking to meet those needs through political policy is part of my broader goal of ensuring that our Party adequately reflects the communities we serve.

She described a visit to Hackney after the murder of a teenager:

I also work with key figures within the Party to raise issues, seek their help in pursuing the cause of race equality and ensure that diversity remains at the top of the agenda for our Party.

Jo Swinson, Pauline Pearce and I went to Hackney following the tragic murder of 15-year-old Tashaun Aird and met with some of his schoolfriends who were on study leave preparing for their GCSEs.  We also visited the local community, observing for ourselves the knife amnesty bin – inaccessible due to building work – the community buildings – either run down or closed down – and the high-rise buildings, with few open spaces or facilities for young people.

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Let’s talk about something else … diversity in film and theatre

I did enjoy the film Yesterday, not least because the songs of the Beatles have threaded through my life.

But I was struck by one thing – the fact that the lead actor was BAME even though the part did not call for it. That is still quite rare in film these days. Danny Boyle has said that he chose Himesh Patel because he could both act and sing, and his voice had soul. “I wouldn’t have cast him if I had found someone better”.

I go to the theatre a lot and these days it is so refreshing to see colour blind casting, as well as casting that ignores gender, sexual orientation, age or disability. Of course, the key difference between film and stage is the latter’s appeal to the audience’s imagination.

In a theatre the actors invite the audience to conspire together to imagine that a minimal set is a desert, a country house, a ship at sea or a street in New York. The prologue to Henry V captures the essence of theatre: “And let us … on your imaginary forces work”. Similarly we all suspend our disbelief and go along with the idea that an actor is really a king, a social worker, a prostitute or a politician.

On the other hand, most movies aim for verisimilitude, so scenes are filmed in realistic settings and the actor is transformed with make-up, prosthetics or CGI to match the character’s appearance. It is noteworthy that, because Yesterday was a film and not a stage play, Boyle cast, as the parents, the wonderful Sanjeev Bhaskar and Meera Syal – two actors who look as though they could have produced Himesh Patel. In contrast, on the stage any ethnicity might have been encountered.

However, there is a dark history of institutional prejudice within the theatre.

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Our #BollocksToHate campaign is for everyone

One question we have to address as a party, locally and nationally, is how to allow grassroots energy to contribute to coherent and effective campaigns.

Energised by the EU election result, the Islington LibDems are in top form. We did extremely well last May and there is a palpable sense of optimism and determination in the borough. Local activists led by chair Pierre Delarue and deputy chair Katherine Pollard have been holding lots of events, drinks, brainstorms and sessions to discuss next steps. How do we harness this power and start to get on a general election footing?

One of their first ideas was to do something about a series of pernicious stickers that had started to pop up around the borough, North and South, promoting racism and Hate. We spotted them and decided to print up some stickers to stick over them, with the simple message Bollocks to Hate. To be honest they looked very strong…and they covered over the vicious messages others had put there.

It sparked an idea. Why don’t we do an Islington values campaign on Hate…and Pride 2019 would be a perfect place to launch it.

We felt we needed buy-in from HQ, and we got Lord Tim Clement-Jones and Baroness Jane Bonham-Carter on board. They loved the idea and got very enthused over tea at the House of Lords. We showed them some sample graphics and they said go for it. Then we met with LibDem Creatives Charles Brand who advised us on the right imprint for the materials and crucially that we should ask everyone who appeared in the photos to sign consent release forms, giving us permission to use their photos in our campaign online. Lib Dem deputy CEO Emma Cherniavsky gave us her blessing and advised we focus it as an Islington campaign, and if it worked, HQ would consider taking it wider. She agreed this is a values campaign.

As this was Pride weekend in London, we decided in the first instance to focus on LGBTQ+ rights even though Hate and hate crimes are much wider than this. More of that later.

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Isabelle Parasram writes…How proud am I?

How proud am I of being Vice President of a party that’s sending no less than 16 MEPs to Brussels!

I look forward to working with them all on increasing the diversity of our Party.

We now have 2 BAME MEPs – Dinesh Dhamija and Shaffaq Mohammed – brilliant role models for all and particularly for the candidates who’ll benefit from the new Racial Diversity Campaign mentoring and training currently being set up by Sarah Yong, Arfan Bhatti and Anood Al-Samerai.

I have no doubt that Roderick Lynch, Chair of the LDCRE (Liberal Democrat Campaign for Racial Equality) will also soon be in touch about how our new MEPs can support its work.

Women also make up over 50% of our MEPs – something that the Chair of the Campaign for Gender Balance, Candy Piercy and the Chair of Lib Dem Women, Flo Clucas, will, no doubt, be thrilled with.

In the meantime, many congratulations to:

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Addressing our lack of diversity

It’s long been accepted that diversity in the Liberal Democrats is patchy at best. 

Often our lack of diversity is compounded by a lack of understanding of what causes it, and how we work to make sure we better reflect society in an inclusive and meaningful way.

Diversity comes in many forms, and this often makes it difficult for us to develop strategies to expand our membership in a diverse manner.

In the Young Liberals we’re acutely aware of this issue and want to ensure that we are doing everything we can to help make us more accessible, understanding and mindful of people from diverse backgrounds.

In 2018 the Alderdice report delved into this issue and found that, on all levels of the party, racial diversity often fell so far down the priority list that it often got forgotten about completely.

The report’s findings, endorsed by Federal Board, placed a responsibility on the party, and all it’s constituent parts, to draw up a strategic response to it and its findings. 

Indeed, the Federal Party has recently created a Vice President BAME role to help shape our interactions with the BAME community.

That is why we’re working with LDCRE (Liberal Democrat Campaign for Race Equality) to try and fix this issue. 

We’re working to develop a new “BAME Officer” role and overhaul our existing diversity system to ensure it encompasses and represents all liberation groups. 

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You have to understand intersectionality to break the vicious circle of disadvantage

This is the first in a series of articles commissioned by the Diversity Sub Committee of the FPDC (Federal People Development Committee) and a group of Party campaigns and SAOs on intersectionality – examining how different layers of diversity, discrimination or disadvantage combine. Ray Lewis is our first contributor. He joined the Party earlier this year and runs the Eastside Academy in London.

Disadvantage ruins lives. I live and work in East London, running a Leadership academy for young people from local disadvantaged communities. I have seen for myself the difference that can be made when we can break the vicious circle that condemns so many of our young people.

But there are differences in the disadvantage that people face. When I first set up the Eastside Academy, the primary concern among politicians and educators was for young black boys from poor areas. There was a feeling that they were being left behind and being born into a future of exclusion. 

Then society’s focus shifted onto the wider BAME agenda, which included an acknowledgement of the hardships that so many young girls are faced with. From specific issues like FGM and breast ironing through to the daily challenges of just being female – lower wages, lower prospects and harassment.

Now society is recognising the many layers of intersectionality. In particular we are starting to have the challenging conversations around the meeting point of religious belief and the importance of acceptance of people who identify as LGBT+. Some BAME communities struggle to reconcile their devout faith with acceptance of their LGBT+ friends and relatives. These individuals have the struggles that all BAME people face, of racism and discrimination. And then they also have the struggle for acceptance of their sexuality or gender identity. This is intersectionality.

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Eradicating race inequality

At Conference last weekend, my maiden speech as Vice President was in support of a Motion on a race equality policy paper: Eradicating Race Inequality produced by Merlene Emerson, Baroness Hussein-Ece and the Race Equality – Policy Working Group. 

I talked about my experience, as a young barrister, of seeking to comfort a Caribbean grandma who couldn’t bear to watch her young, black grandson being sentenced for possession of a knife. 

A knife he’d felt forced to carry to protect himself from gangs. 

I assured her then that her grandson would be treated fairly, but had no idea that my words were as hollow then as they would be if I said them now, some twenty years later. 

The statistics are shocking:

  • BaME people are the most likely in our society to become a victim of crime or to fear becoming a victim* (leading to disproportionate numbers of BaME people feeling forced to carry a knife for protection)
  • rates of prosecution and sentencing for black people are three times higher than for white people **

It is clear that our criminal justice system, like politics, is broken.

I am glad that the Motion was passed and that there was such overwhelming support for it. It provides an excellent blueprint for our policy work in this area going forward. 

Registered supporters’ scheme

I later had the chance to speak in support of a registered supporters’ scheme. 

I acknowledge that there were many aspects of the Motion that were controversial and I will leave it to those better qualified to address those particular points. 

My viewpoint was in relation to attracting more BaME voters, members and candidates to our Party.

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Could you head up the new Lib Dem Racial Diversity Campaign?

The Party is finally starting to get its act together on racial diversity. Last week the Federal Board decided to properly set up the new Racial Diversity Campaign which aims to improve Lib Dem BAME representation in our various Parliaments.

So, the party has advertised for a Chair and two Vice Chairs of the RDC. Applications must be submitted quite quickly, by a week tomorrow and the Federal Board will meet the candidates on 28th January and make their choices shortly thereafter.

Here’s some more detail:

The Racial Diversity Campaign (RDC) will be the vehicle within the party which finds, trains and supports BaME candidates through to their selection and beyond to successful election.

Its principal aims are to increase the number of ethnic minority MPs, MSPs, MEPs, Assembly Members, elected Mayors and Police and Crime Commissioners and. It would also work alongside ALDC to increase the number of ethnic minority Councillors and Council Leaders.

The Chair and Vice-Chairs of the RDC will be experienced in training and mentoring and have a deep knowledge of the party’s processes for candidates, from assessment through to fighting a campaign.

The successful candidates will be elected to serve until 31 December 2019 on a ‘casual vacancy’ basis. Fresh elections (for a number of posts including these) for a full three-year term will be held after the new Federal Board meets early in 2020.

Applicants for the roles of Chair or Vice Chair must be nominated by two members of the Federal Board, membership of which can be found here: www.libdems.org.uk/federal_board. You should send your nomination to the Party Governance Officer [email protected]

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Don’t leave it to someone else

At the end of last year, the local party in Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk chose Jenny Marr to fight the seat at the next General Election.

She’s written about the importance of getting involved in the political process by voting and beyond for the Scot Women Stand website.

It’s another thing to add to the to do list, isn’t it?

And of course first you have to register to do it.

Then there’s the wading through of manifestos, trying to understand policies, which are not exactly the work of Shakespeare. Then there’s the appeal of Love Island or similar which are just too all-consuming to consider anything else.

Been there, got the t-shirt. Trust me, I understand.

But what is the alternative? Be left out? Let your voice go unheard?

I know its certainly true that many politicians need to be better at keeping in touch. But don’t allow the laziness of some to block your participation.

Your voice is worth so much more than that.

Women have the right to tell their story, and have fought for that right – some are still fighting. And part of that is through putting a cross on a ballot paper in the privacy of the polling booth.

It’s your school, it’s your health centre, it’s your money. And it goes deeper than that. It’s your grandma who can’t get her flu jab this year, it’s your child whose classroom is too small, or their resources too few. It’s your hard-earned taxes.

Don’t exclude yourself from the narrative. Don’t overthink it. Don’t leave it to someone else.

Sometimes someone in your life is a bigger influence than they were ever able to know.

My Grandad, who died when I was just eight, was a Cllr in the North of England.

He was an advocate for, and passionate defender of, local democracy and local government.

He believed in “parish pump politics”, of chewing the fat in the Market Square and fixing problems as a community. Before local government was reorganised, and Councils became much bigger, he said “We have our grumbles and grouses, but at least the system had a soul.”

More than that, the community had a voice, and used it.

They used it by voting.

Politicians are like everyone else. They have their strengths and weaknesses and certainly none of them are perfect.

And if you want to make sure the right ones are hired and fired coming polling day, you can.

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Looking beyond Brexit

The sense of things going horribly wrong is likely to get much worse as 2019 gets under way and #BrexitShambles becomes #BrexitFarce.

In the probable chaos of the coming months the country needs us to articulate our hope for the future.

Putting some flesh on those bones, in no particular order:

  • Improve Benefits. Universal Credit could have been a good idea, but under-funding has hit it hard and people are suffering. Improving the funding is a good place to start. We also need to go further. It is a scandal to have people needing to use food banks or losing the roof over their head because of the way the system works. I’ve spoken with people struggling to live on benefits, who voted Leave in the desperate hope that things would improve.
  • Wealth inequality. Back in the autumn, Vince Cable put forward a raft of tax reforms to make the system fairer, especially around inheritance and investment income and pensions. Univeral Basic Income has been on the edge of discussions for a long time. It is time to take it seriously — it can’t be done overnight, but it is time to start the conversation as a way to pick up where we are, and fears around the way in which technology is reshaping the world.
  • Brexit has pushed climate change from the top of the agenda. People have every reason to be worried. That means is that it is high time to turn that worry into action — around renewable energy, carbon capture and storage, nuclear power, zero carbon housing, improved public transport, and more.
  • The Blair government had some good ideas on devolution, with elected regional assemblies and pulling government offices and development to the same boundaries. The imbalances around devolution to Wales, Northern Ireland and particularly to Scotland would look very different if there was meaningful devolution in England.
  • It’s time to talk openly about federalism. Too often it’s a dirty word in British (or at least, English) politics. It’s time to dispatch the myth that it is about centralising power and put the case for doing centrally only what needs to be done there and pushing decisions as close as possible to the people they affect. That applies as much to devolving power from Westminster as it does devolving it from Brussels.
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Payday politicians, please!

If you haven’t been in this situation, you do not know at all what it feels like for your four walls to start crashing in on you, the poignancy of your little girl, leaving her pocket money on your desk because she wants to help and heard you crying in the night over the bills. People who have not ever had to picture for themselves the reality of no money, no job, no home, cannot easily appreciate the paralyzing terror, the feeling of time and hope slipping through the cracks leaving you trying not to vomit as you brightly slap …

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Candidate selections: How are we doing on diversity?

Not that brilliantly, to be honest. Of the fifteen seats we’ve selected so far, just 6 have selected women and 9 have selected men. When you add in the 4 women and 8 men who will be defending their seats, you get 10 women and 17 men. That’s not an impressive record.

More worryingly, there is only one non-white face in there.

Vince talked the other day of the importance of getting more BAME candidates not just selected but elected as MPs. He told The Muslim News:

Sir Vince Cable acknowledged that his party was not “yet fully representative of modern Britain.

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My first year as Director for People

It’s been just over one year since the Snap General Election was called on my first day e as Director for People. It was one heck of a start and it’s been a heck of a year. Out of the window immediately went my careful plan for membership development, training for volunteers, online fundraising and candidates. The roadmap to 2020 was suddenly obsolete. It was terrifying, but fast paced and fun.

This job is not dull. Working for the party is challenging and can be frustrating but ultimately rewarding.

One year in and …

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International Women’s Day – #AskHerToStand

100 years since women got the vote, and Parliament still woefully lags behind in terms of gender equality.

Whilst there are more women in Parliament than ever before, we are still on 32% of the Commons. We languish at 49th in the world for the number of women in Parliament. At this rate it will take 50 years to achieve gender equality in Parliament. 100 years after women won the right to vote 50:50 are aiming to achieve better gender balance in Parliament sooner than this.

I was thrilled to

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The Diversity Approach

Welsh flagEquality and diversity should be at the heart of everything that we do. Whilst anecdotally I have heard from people who, on hearing our policies, have joined the Liberal Democrats because our party is more open and tolerant, our party doesn’t always consider equality and diversity in the way that we work. I myself joined the Party because I felt, that although there is much still to do, people within our party are willing to learn and adapt to become more inclusive.

The Welsh Liberal Democrats have recently approved a Diversity …

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We must deliver upon the Alderdice Review

Before I discuss this report I want to put it into perspective:

  • An article in the Guardian, some time ago now, stated that there were 159 seats where the winning margin in 2015 general election was lower than the number of Muslims in the constituency;
  • Of Sikhs and Muslims, over 70% of them vote Labour;
  • Newspapers reported in the elections following the Iraq war over 20% of the voters originally from Pakistan and Bangladesh voted for the Liberal Democrats and in 2010 and 2015 general elections Runnymede points to this same voting group going down to 2%;
  • In the 1960s 13% of the

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FINAL REMINDER for Future Women MPs weekend

This is a reminder that applications for the Future Women MP’s Weekend are still open and will close on Monday, so if you’re thinking about applying please make sure you get an application to us in time!

The training is run in collaboration with the Campaign for Gender Balance and is designed to support female talent within the party.

Layla Moran MP is a former attendee, you can hear her experience of the weekend here

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Post-Christmas musings on the R word

The Queen has in her Christmas speech welcomed new members into the royal family in 2018.

Prince Harry will soon have a mother-in-law who is African American and the young couple’s future children will be of mixed race heritage. The society pages lap up the fairy-tale love story and we all cheer ourselves on how liberal we have become as a nation.

Vogue Magazine has a new editor-in-chief, Edward Enninful, and we can’t help but notice the change in the complexion of many of the supermodels that grace the glossy pages. Sir Mo Farrah has not only been knighted but has also …

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Vince Cable calls for all BAME shortlists to tackle Parliament’s lack of diversity

Speaking to an audience of 4000 people at the Grand Mawlid Conference in Birmingham today, Vince Cable called for all BAME shortlists to tackle the lack of diversity in Parliament.  Currently, the law only allows exclusive shortlists for women and disabled people and the party elected MPs in both categories this year. Stephen Lloyd was selected from an all disabled shortlist in Eastbourne and Christine Jardine was selected on an all-women shortlist in Edinburgh West.

Vince said:

There remains a serious lack of diversity in Parliament.

There are just 51 BAME MPs. Despite being a record total, they represent only 7.9% of all

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Election diversity – as if by magic

The Conservative Government has called a General Election for 8 June 2017 after its leader Ms May repeatedly said she would not do so.

We have responded with the truncated General Election process to ensure a full slate of candidates are in place by June 2017.  This has seen candidates up and down the country engaged with internal applications and shortlisting processes in a bid to become the PPC candidates for this election.

As if by magic, we may well see our biggest ever selection of visible ethnic minority candidates making it to PPC status – fulfilling a personal pledge of our Leader Tim Farron, who openly seeks diversity for both internal and external political positions.

Mr Farron has frequently articulated the importance of diversity and our party’s credibility.  No doubt he will be pleased with the current wave of candidates being announced as PPC  candidates who are also known as ethnic minorities.

So far we have in first name alphabetical order: Alexander Cunliffe for Ruislip Northwood and Pinner, London; Anita Day for Grantham and Stamford; Anita Prabhakar for Mansfield;  Amna Ahmad for Sutton and Cheam, London; Brian Haley for Tottenham, London; Dave Ravel for Hackney South, London; Dawud Islam for Middlesbrough; Gitanjali Gordon for South Shields; Glanville Williams for East Ham, London; Hina Malik for Feltham and Heston;  Humaira Sanders for Ealing North, London; Irfan Ahmed for Blackburn, Manchester; Joe Naitta for Derby South; Joyce Onstad for Hammersmith, Marisha Ray for Chipping Barnet, London; London; Michael Bukola for Camberwell and Peckham, London; Nigel Bakhai for Southhall; Rabi Martins for Luton North; Sarah Cheung Johnson for South Cambs; Suzanna Austin for Kettering; Tahir Maher for Milton Keynes South; Ukonu Obasi for Walthamstow, London; Zuffar Haq for Harborough Oadby and Wigston; and Zulfiqar Ali for Huddersfield.

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Fancy being a Lib Dem candidate? Our webinars show you how

The Candidate & Diversity Team will be hosting a series of webinars on the candidate process; covering aspects of approval, selection and candidacy.

The sessions will be led by some of the party’s most experienced candidates and trainers. Full details below:

Becoming an Approved Candidate |Thursday 13 April, 6.30pm| Trainer TBC

Covering:

  • The candidate application process
  • Assessment day preparation
  • Understanding the candidacy competency framework

Successful Selection |Monday 24 April, 6.30pm| Trainer: Lisa Smart, PPC for Hazel Grove 

  • Winning your selection campaign
  • Selection Literature
  • Communicating your message
  • Engaging local members
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Come to the future women MPs weekend!

The Campaign for Gender Balance (CGB) and the Diversity & Talent Support Team are pleased to announce that this year’s Future Women MPs Weekend will be held on Saturday 4 – Sunday 5 March 2017 at the Jurys Inn Hotel in Milton Keynes.

Future Women MPs weekend is an intensive residential training weekend for any aspiring female MPs within the party; whether you are already an approved candidate or are yet to take that initial first step, this is the perfect way to kick start your journey to Westminster. Jo Swinson, Tessa Munt and Jenny Willott all started their successful quests for a seat in Parliament at a FWMPs Weekend, and so could you!

As well as expert advice on your political career you will also receive:

  • Information and advice on all aspects of the process from selection to standing for Parliament
  • Personalised advice and guidance from top party trainers and representatives
  • A chance to ask any burning questions and address any concerns you may have
  • A fantastic opportunity to network and make useful contacts with other aspiring women within the party
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January Training for Trainers – book your place now!

The Diversity Team is delighted to announce that it will be organising a two-day Training for Trainers Course, from Saturday 7 – Sunday 8 January 2017 in London at Lib Dem HQ.  The course is designed to accredit new trainers who can deliver training courses on behalf of the party.

This course is part of our ongoing effort to increase the amount of diversity training (ethnic minority, gender balance and unconscious bias) available within the party, therefore priority will be given to those we who can demonstrate a commitment to diversity training.

The course will cover a range of essential skills including:

  • How to develop your presentation skills
  • How to deliver effective presentations
  • How to design engaging training material
  • How to give and receive feedback
  • Understanding how different people learn and absorb new information
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Two ways we are addressing diversity

If there is one thing that we can all agree on is the need to encourage a greater degree of diversity within the party. Although our figures on diversity are far from where we want them to be, it is clear that we have begun to make some considerable strides towards adequately addressing this issue. There is an increasing recognition that if we are to herald ourselves as the defenders of equality and tolerance, then those values should be reflected within every aspect of our party. An important step towards this goal was the passing of two diversity and equality motions at Autumn Conference this year on Combatting Racism and Diversity Quotas, put forward by Pauline Pearce and Dawn Barnes respectively.

Summaries of both motions are outlined below:

Conference Motion Diversity Quotas

The motion has been put in place to increase the representation of those with protected characteristics on federal committees and bodies. The party will endeavor to ensure that:

  1. 40 % of those elected to a federal committee identify as men or non-binary, women or non-binary
  2. 10% shall be from minority backgrounds
  3. 10% shall be people from under-represented sexual orientations and gender identities including non-binary identities

Places on these bodies will be filled if the diversity requirements cannot be met or if an insufficient number of candidates with the required characteristic are nominated.

Both men and women will have an equal opportunity of participating at every level of the party in accordance with the Equality Act 2010, however the Act maybe amended to permit positive action to ensure that those from underrepresented groups are adequately represented within internal party bodies.

The full text of the motion is available here.

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Building more diverse council groups

I’ve seen a lot of posts on Facebook and heard questions at Lib Dem socials about how to recruit more women and diverse candidates for council elections. There seems to be a real willingness to do it but not always a clear idea of how. Here are my three top tips – I’d be interested in what others have done.

  1. SET TARGETS. Look at the demographics of your area and propose that your local party Exec or campaign team buy into the idea of taking some action and agreeing targets. You could decide that 50% of target council seats will be held by women; and/or 50% of all council seats. You can adopt targets for BAME /LGBT+ and people with disabilities too. Telling potential council candidates that you are taking positive steps to better reflect the local community you want to serve is a very strong recruitment message.
  2. TARGETED RECRUITMENT. Filter your ‘strong Lib Dem’ data on Connect by gender, and approach the women on the list first – of course you need to have a conversation to check that they really do ‘live our values.’ Look at the local residents’ associations, Parish Councillors, and residents who are vocal on local Facebook forums etc, and those who are involved in civic campaigns that overlap with our values (for example local Amnesty groups, Transition Towns etc), identify the people you know to be from under-represented groups and cross-check them with your canvass data, or go and canvass them.
  3. DON’T PUSH FOR AN IMMEDIATE ANSWER. For all sorts of reasons, men are more likely to say ‘yes’ to standing or even put themselves forward without being asked. Statistically, women are more likely to be care-givers (for children and/or ageing parents), and women and people from BAME backgrounds are more likely to be in lower-paid jobs (which can require night-shifts / unusual hours) so unless they immediately rule it out (and by this I mean they say “no way, not a chance, never”), their thinking might jump ahead to ‘how can I fit it all in?’ They are also more likely to want to discuss the idea with friends and family to gauge their reaction too. In short, you may have to ask, then give them a few days to think about it, offer to give them the chance to speak to someone with similar circumstances and agree to give them a follow up call a few days later. Even inviting them out for a ‘taster session’ of door knocking. You’ll need to be prepared to change campaign sessions around their lives. If there’s no-one in your area with similar circumstances, you can post on here and I expect someone will volunteer to speak to them.

It does require more effort but consider it an investment of time that will help you find under-used talent. I’ve been part of a team that has done this and just this year we found two brilliant new by-election candidates who gave it everything.

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It was time to fight for liberal values

Helen Belcher 2I joined the Liberal Democrats a couple of weeks after the 2015 General Election. David Cameron’s awful statement on human rights was the final straw. For a peacetime Prime Minister to threaten innocent people by saying “for too long we have been a permissively tolerant society, saying to our citizens that, as long as you stay within the law, we will leave you alone” – well, quite frankly, that was extraordinary. It made me realise that it was no longer enough to passively support liberal values, but that it was time to fight to protect them.

The last year has been a whirlwind of activity. Balancing family life, running a growing company, campaigning and learning some of the political ropes has been exhilarating, although difficult to manage at times. After a couple of speeches at the Bournemouth conference, and a very close result in a town council by-election which seemed to come out of nowhere, I was persuaded to apply to join the list of approved parliamentary candidates. That session Ben Sims wrote about, I also attended, as did Thornbury and Yate PPC, Claire Young.

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How I am trying to improve diversity in the Liberal Democrats

In December 2015 the ‘Diversity Monitoring Group’ was created which consisted of five people passionate about ensuring progressive change is made to address diversity. Most people are aware that diversity needs to be addressed in the Liberal Democrats. Everyone has heard Tim Farron say ‘we are a male and pale party’. Instead of waiting to see what the Party will do next we’ve decided to create a member-led diversity survey.

The results of the survey have been shared with  Liberal Democrat Headquarters,  chairs of SAOs and AOs and some Federal Executive members.

How it happened

We created a set of questions, set up a Google form, and started publicising the survey, mostly across social media. The survey was shared on social media from December 2015 to February 2016.

The results show that we had 132 responses from Liberal Democrat members, all of who are anonymous. The main issues raised were: communication, party culture, gender equality and unconscious bias.

Questions include:

  • Are there specific areas in the party which you feel men and women are not treated equally?
  • Do you feel better guidance on equality and diversity (via training) could come from diversity team HQ and ALDC?
  • Do you have any more comments regarding the party’s understanding of equality and diversity?

Conclusions from the survey include:

  • The need to take into account accessibility when communicating with members.
  • Party culture  – the “misogyny and sexism” in the Party and the “need to be educated about gender issues eg unconscious bias”.
  • We have passed on specific feedback to diversity SAOs and AOs
Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 20 Comments

Disability is nothing to hide, so let’s not act like it is

Henry and Natasha campaignAs a candidate for my home town in May’s local elections, I’ve helped residents fight for repairs to roads, I’ve lobbied for more action on dog mess and I’ve campaigned to prevent closures to residential homes.

As a blind candidate for my home town in May’s local elections, I’ve done all this while helping changing a few attitudes along the way. I spoke here about a mother who was delighted to see someone like her visually impaired daughter standing for election but a lot more has happened too – I’ve even received messages from young disabled people saying that me standing is a confidence boost for them.

I’m sure many readers will agree with me that standing for election is a mix of emotions – there are ups and there are downs.

But after the diversity debate, there’s a particular part of being a blind candidate that needs to be tackled head on – and so I turn to Lib Dem Voice.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , and | 24 Comments

Still waiting for true diversity

Conference must be congratulated on passing the Diversity motion on Sunday. But contentious issues and some mysteries remain. One is why have we taken 14 years to get round to all-women short-lists for constituency selections, when they became the law of the land in the 2002 Sex Discrimination Act?

In theory, any local party could have operated all-female short-lists at any of the three general elections since then, safe in the knowledge they were legal, passed by Parliament. Had that happened,  the battle for all-BME (now BaME) lists could have begun at least a decade ago.

Perhaps before Parmjit Singth Gill, only our second ethnic minority MP in 120 years, could have been given proper support in the general election of 2005. The party gave the impression of not giving a tuppeny bowel movement about full diversity or wanting BAME MPs. They hung him out to dry, with the self-fulfilling prophesy that he would lose.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged and | 13 Comments

The science behind diverse shortlists

During the debate on diversity the speeches on all sides were so moving that I felt compelled to share some of the science behind WHY we needed this motion and why I am so proud of everyone who spoke in that debate.

Studies show that from birth, girls lose out to boys. In the ‘Baby X’ trials where a baby is referred to as ‘Dana’ or ‘David, or dressed in pink or blue irrespective of their gender, adults treat the babies differently.

At the age of 11 months, in studies where mothers are asked to estimate their infants’ crawling ability on a sloped walkway, mothers of boys over estimate and mothers of girls under estimate how well their child will do. Parents’ beliefs about what their child is capable of influences what parents expect of their children.

The reason for this, according to Professor Virginia Valian in her book ‘Why so Slow‘ is due to gender schemas and the accumulation of advantage.  Gender schemas are cognitive constructs that lead to over-valuations of men and under-valuations of women.This misevaluation occurs despite the intention to measure actual achievement. Most people sincerely mean to be meritocratic, and ignore gender, ethnicity, or disability, when making judgments. But the data suggest people overrate some groups and underrate others.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 38 Comments
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