Tag Archives: diversity

All women shortlists

At Liberal Democrat Conference in York this weekend I have been told by a number of women that they would not want to be the candidate for a seat that selected from an all women shortlist.  I have some news for them, most of them won’t be.  The motion passed means that of the around 580 seats that the Liberal Democrats will contend 8 must have all women shortlists.

I will now issue a direct challenge to those women, don’t walk away from the party but instead as there are up to 572 seats not selecting on all women shortlists so choose one of those seats and get selected as a Parliamentary Candidate.  However, my challenge goes much further than that because right now we only have enough approved candidates who are women to fill a quarter of those seats so at the same time convince another woman who is capable of standing for parliament to do the same.

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Jo Swinson writes…Been there, got the t-shirt

As part of the Committee for the fabulous WOW Festival at the Southbank Centre, I find myself in London this weekend, which means I’ll miss the diversity motion in York.

Passions run high on this issue, and I hope the debate will unfold with respect and kindness on both sides.  Whichever side of the debate we are on, we should acknowledge that our aim is the same – a party where every individual can feel supported and welcome, with many more elected representatives at all levels, reflecting the diversity of our society in all ways, and making a positive impact on our communities.

In 2001, I took to the conference platform in Bournemouth, summating an amendment to a similar motion, in much the same vein as this weekend’s amendment submitted by the East Midlands.  Liberal Youth have also voiced their opposition to all-women shortlists. The group of us campaigning on this issue had t-shirts specially printed for the occasion, declaring “I am not a token woman.  Say No to all-women shortlists.” Our amendment was successful, and the Gender Balance Task Force was formed, now the Campaign for Gender Balance.

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Data: If we’d won more seats in 2015, our Commons team would still have been over-whelmingly white and male

If you don’t already get Mark Pack’s Liberal Democrat Newswire, it’s worth signing up to it. I’ve also heard he’s co-written a book on how to win elections.

In this month’s Liberal Democrat Newswire, which is number 77, Mark presents some very clear statistics on a key point which has come up in the diversity debate:

One comment often made is that the party’s current all male, all white line-up in the House of Commons is due to the party having only 8 MPs – and that if they party had done better at the last election, it would have been more diverse.

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The myth of “the best candidate”

I think it is time to debunk the myth of ‘the best candidate’.

Many people in these various threads on the diversity motion say we would end up not selecting this mythical person if we were to allow AWS.

Leaving aside for the moment the aspersion this casts on women candidates, let’s have a look at the best candidate argument and see if it holds water.

The first thing we need to consider is what wins elections at a parliamentary level? Is it the candidate or is it the campaign? I would argue strongly that it’s the campaign that is built around the candidate and the work that is put in by the team around the candidate that is most important. Of course a personable and hard working candidate is also an asset, but a new PPC will have almost zero personal vote and incumbency doesn’t kick in at all until someone has been elected more than once. Even if a local candidate has been an active councillor this will at best be in 10-15% of the seat and there is scant evidence that this transfers to the parliamentary contest. On this I speak with personal knowledge having been in just that position in 2001, where having been elected as a councillor is 1998 AND 1999, my vote in the 2001 GE was not much different in my ward than anywhere else in the constituency.

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A former candidate reflects on the diversity motion

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As a white, straight, able-bodied, British man who was a candidate last May and has aspirations to run again, I wanted to offer the perspective of one of the ‘over-represented’ as we approach Sunday’s diversity debate.

When I saw the text, the realisation that the motion would have significant consequences for me and my ilk was unavoidable.  The motion promises us training and support and that we will be ‘valued’.  But along with positive discrimination in general election selections we are also promised proposals on wider party diversity including in party structures and local government.  The feeling I experienced on reading the motion must be akin to turkey being offered training and support in the run up to a gender-neutral, multi-faith Winter festival.

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The Diversity Motion – a spring board to bring greater fairness, diversity and openness to our party

The Diversity Motion being put forward this weekend at the Spring Conference in York, is an important, necessary and long overdue motion, one that Liberal Democrats need to unanimously support. As a party we have always been committed to eliminating all types of prejudice, discrimination, inequality and privilege, and must continue to do so when it comes to the country’s elected bodies and party structures. For the myriad voices present in our society to be heard and valued, our political system must reflect the diversity that exists, not just a narrow section. This unfortunately is not case, and also is sadly not true of the Liberal Democrats.

There is wholly inadequate diversity among Lib Dem members of parliament and candidates. Despite efforts to increase diversity, in the form of the Campaign for Gender Balance and the Leadership Programme, there has only been a limited impact on the proportion of individuals elected from under-represented groups and low socio-economic backgrounds.

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Alison McInnes’ speech in the Scottish diversity debate: Positive action is a realignment to break the mould that society has been using for too long

This is the speech that Alison McInnes gave to the Scottish Liberal Democrat Conference. It’s quite direct and points out our own failings, saying that we have to take action to resolve our lack of diversity.

I’ve been a member of our party for a quarter of a century.  One disappointing constant has been the gender imbalance in our parliamentary groups.

I have had plenty of opportunity to observe the dynamics of our party, locally and nationally, and to identify through the party’s own myriad actions what it actually values and honours.

Despite being the party that claims it cherishes equality and women’s rights, its actions often reveal a clear preference for adherence to a single, male patent pattern.  And that creates a feedback loop that means members when asked to choose are most  likely to opt for what they know the party values above all, and so it goes on.

There is a societal, ingrained implicit bias that leads us all, women and men, to value a particular set of attributes above others. There is no need to be outraged or defensive – no one is saying it is deliberate or malicious, but it is real.  

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Passing the diversity motion sends out a strong signal to women

This is the speech I made to last week’s debate on diversity at the Scottish Liberal Democrat conference.

I joined the Liberal Democrats in May and have never spoken at conference before. What I am going to say is going to be quite anecdotal and general, but makes an important point nonetheless.

I grew up in a family almost entirely made up of girls. I attended an all-girls school from the age of 11 where I saw girls reaching and exceeding their potential. I never used to see gender inequality as a hugely important issue because in my life, and the lives of the people I was surrounded by, being female never seemed to hold anyone back. The women I knew had amazing careers, and the girls I knew were confident and opinionated. They seemed to have all the same things as the men I knew did. 

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All Women Shortlists – identify the problem before looking for the solution

There has been an increase in debate recently about the lack of diversity amongst some groups within the Liberal Democrat candidature, with the spectre of All Women Shortlists (AWS) once again rearing it’s head.

Whilst I am not at all in favour of AWS (or AWCS, ADS or ABAMES) I think we are getting ahead of ourselves and looking for a solution before we have identified the problem. Simply put, do we know the numbers of under-represented groups throughout the selection process? I suspect not, given that no-one has up to now used hard figures to point to the reasons behind our shortcomings. If we do – I’m sure I am about to be put right.

So I propose the party takes the time we have before the next general election to carry out a root and branch survey of the process, getting figures all the way: From the regional candidate recruitment team to the constituency committees in charge of selection. If we do not have the information then we need to start collating it in order to adequately change the process. Why should we do this? It would be rather silly bringing in an all-working class shortlist system if it turns out that only 1% of our candidate pool was from a working class background. It would be similarly silly if it turned out that we had a decent amount of working class candidates but we were failing to get them elected. So, in order to correctly identify where we are falling short Ipropose the following analysis (I will use women as an example only – I am not identifying them as more worthy than the working class or any other grouping).

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Women and minority candidates are good enough to be MPs already – it’s the party that needs the diversity motion

I understand why people dislike targeted shortlists. I don’t like them, in principle. To me, liberalism is all about giving people the greatest personal choice, and in an ideal world I wouldn’t support them, which is what I said on the stage at autumn conference in 2014.

But we don’t live in an ideal world, and that’s why I’m supporting the diversity motion at this Spring Conference.

The classic arguments just don’t hang together any more. People say we need a level playing field. We do need it, but right now we don’t have it – and our diverse approved candidate list proves that’s not because underrepresented groups refuse to put themselves up for selection.

People think it will lead to tokenism, and god knows I don’t want to be treated as the token woman. I know I’m not a token, I know if I ran to be an MP it would be because I felt I was good enough to do it whoever I was up against, and I trust that any local party that had gone to the effort of selecting me would too, which is what really matters.

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‘Electing diverse MPs’ motion is comprehensive, balanced and sensible

Reading through the “Electing diverse MPs” motion for the York conference, I was struck by how it comprehensively covers the necessary territory in a very measured and sensible way.

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Baroness Lindsay Northover writes…As time goes by

At the Spring conference we will debate a topic which has spanned my whole political lifetime.  We will be debating a motion on increasing the diversity among our future MPs.

In that election night in May 2015 we not only lost wonderful male MPs, we also lost all of our wonderful women MPs.

One of the things we must do as we rebuild our Party is to ensure that we have a more diverse group of MPs.  Like the other major parties in Britain.

I joined the SDP, new to politics, back in 1981.  I was excited by the new party, the realignment of politics – but especially its emphasis on women being as prominent in the party as men.  How could it not do so, with one leader being my beloved Shirley Williams?  Its equivalent of the Federal Executive was gender balanced – each region elected one man and one woman.  We were the first political party in the UK to insist that women must be included on parliamentary shortlists. I was selected from such a shortlist to fight Welwyn Hatfield in 1983 and 1987.  (The more winnable seats close by – Stevenage and St Albans – were of course fought by men.)

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Our failure to improve diversity has driven people away

Should I support the diversity motion at the Liberal Democrat Spring Conference in York next week? My initial reaction is, yes, this is right, but it will be a hard decision to support something that will probably hurt many within the party.

I suspect some will argue the motion is not legal. I remember at conference many years ago when an all women shortlist motion was debated and lost. I saw highly respected women speaking against the motion because they believed local party members should choose the right candidate based on skills and experience. It seems things haven’t changed and we are still a long way from being a truly diverse party.

On a personal level, I had very high hopes for a good friend who is black, a very experienced community campaigner and politician and a strong supporter of diverse communities. However he was not selected in spite of having lived in the area for some time. It is people like him who have the potential to be a future leader who are not being given a chance. They selected a candidate who barely knew the area.

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More carrot, less stick in improving diversity

I’m generally supportive of the diversity motion introducing all women shortlists (AWS) at the next federal conference in York, (this argument is particularly persuasive), but will AWS permanently solve the problem of our party being too male and pale? If the proposals are passed and are successful, we might look in the Westminster bubble like we have addressed the gender disparity, however, as a party that relies on its local activists and councillors we ought to embed this cultural change more broadly. As Mark Pack has pointed out, we don’t have enough women councillors, council candidates and local party officers (all about a third of total). And, as noted in one of the reports to conference, the percentage of female approved candidates is 27%.

The motion doesn’t address this except to say-

Conference acknowledges that: 

d) Proposals will be coming forward on wider party diversity, including in party structures and local government, as part of the Federal Executive-led Governance Review to the Autumn Federal Conference

Posted in Op-eds | 83 Comments

Jo Swinson: Why I now back all women shortlists

12496325_10207909151261642_614223791405517749_oBelow are the two speeches Jo Swinson made to Scottish Conference yesterday. The Diversity Debate took place in two halves. The first was on a constitutional amendment which would allow the Scottish Party to implement arrangements on gender balance which had been approved by conference. One amendment to that was submitted, and supported by the movers, changing gender balance to the much wider “diversity”. The risk of such an approach was that a 2/3 majority was needed for it to pass, but the working group had been advised that a constitutional amendment was vital to enable any new arrangements to be implemented.

It’s worth pointing out that in the intervening period, Jo has done so much to encourage and support women candidates, running training events and supporting so many as they embarked on selection campaigns.

Here is her speech proposing the constitutional amendment:

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What is at stake: A photo of a young boy and the US President

Obama hand

Clark Reynolds, 3 years old, greeted by President Obama, Feb 18 2016 at the White House. (Pete Souza/Washington Post)

We have been struggling with the representation issue for years. Our party leaders strongly believe in broadening the look and feel of our MPs. Our members instinctively seek parity between men, women and other backgrounds: a desire to open up opportunity should be in our blood. But we aren’t quite sure how to achieve that and so far, as Josh Dixon sets out, our success has not been much to write home about. The Elect Diverse MPs motion to be debated at Spring Conference gives us a critical chance to retake the initiative.

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We need a Lib Dem role model for disabled people

 

A couple of days ago, I found myself in quite an unusual situation. As a candidate for May’s local elections, I was campaigning in my ward’s town centre when someone flung their arms around me and gave me a great hug.

She told me she’d been watching me and was gobsmacked to see me doing what I was doing. As a visually impaired candidate, people are frequently a bit shocked to see me knocking on their doors. But this was different. She introduced me to her five-year-old daughter, who had just started learning how to use a white cane.

We had a lovely chat. The girl told me her cane was named Dora, after Dora the Explorer, and I explained that my cane had an orange handle, because that’s my favourite colour.

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Do you have questions about the Electing Diverse MPs motion?

100% of LD MPs are white menThere’s been a lot of discussion online about the Electing Diverse MPs motion that’s coming to Federal Conference in just four weeks’ time.

A lot of the discussion has centred on All Women Shortlists – but the motion is about so much more than that.

Its supporters have set up a Facebook page to answer any questions people have about the proposal in the motion and to make the case for its acceptance. Already over 200 people are taking part.

Here’s a flavour of the issues being discussed:

WHAT ARE THE PROBLEMS THIS MOTION IS TRYING TO SOLVE?

– SUPPLY: we don’t have enough approved candidates full-stop, let alone from underrepresented groups. So we want to set up a Task Force to co-ordinate efforts to pro-actively recruit more.

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Baroness Sal Brinton writes…Electing diverse MPs

One of the most shocking events of the 2015 General Election night was the loss of our top held and target seats with women and BAME candidates, which resulted in an entirely pale and male parliamentary party. Members were rightly upset by this, and there has been much discussion about what steps the party needs to take to ensure that in 2020 and beyond our party looks like the countries and communities we represent. Top seats are already beginning the process of selecting Westminster candidates for 2020. We can’t afford to delay any arrangement, hence the motion coming to York Conference.

Under our current constitution, these arrangements are the responsibility of the three state parties. We hope members will let their state party officers know their views as well as responding to the Federal consultation and debate in York.

In the governance consultation response last autumn the Federal Executive received many comments and proposals saying that ‘something must be done – doing nothing is not an option’. In fact it was one of the top topics members wrote in about. FE and the Joint States Candidates Committee has investigated possible options, and the resulting motion that will be debated at York Spring Conference sets out a wide range of proposals, including limited application of All Women Shortlists (AWS). We know members have divided views on the issue of AWS, but it is important that the debate before and at conference is much broader, because it includes support for other under-represented groups. Indeed, not every member of FE supports all the details in the motion, but there was broad acceptance that it was right for members to debate and vote on this. You can see the full motion here.

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Willie Rennie: Why I need you to back me on diversity

Willie Rennie has made clear that he wants to see a more diverse team of parliamentarians elected at all levels over the next 5 years. Today, he has emailed Scottish Party members to set out the case for them to back his plans at Scottish Party Conference in three weeks’ time.

His email is copied below:

In periods of adversity organisations have opportunities to renew, refresh and reorganise to prepare for future successes. For the Scottish Liberal Democrats that opportunity is to build a team of candidates in winnable seats that is more reflective of society.

It cannot be a mark of a system of equality and opportunity that only five of the thirty six new parliamentarians in the last twenty years were women. Yet that is what our current system has produced and I am determined to change it.

Our conference in Edinburgh later this month will have a choice. We can try, yet again, to achieve more balance amongst our future parliamentarians with the same system that has delivered white, male dominated parliamentary groups since the war (No, I’m wrong. It’s forever).

Or we can back the proposals that I have developed with a group of wise and experienced campaigners. These campaigners were sceptical but have now developed a package that will get results. Sheila Ritchie, Sophie Bridger, Fred Macintosh and Jo Swinson were all against such action in the past. In fact many spoke up at conferences against such measures. The motion we will debate has been crafted by them and has their endorsement.

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Tim Farron talks Wogan, refugees, EU and diversity on Murnaghan

Tim Farron was on Sky News Murnaghan this morning. It was quite refreshing to hear him introduced as “leading the charge” on the refugee crisis. It is actually blindingly obvious that we have been, but it’s not so often acknowledged.

The Murnaghan programme provides very helpful transcripts of their interviews, for which I am very grateful.

Terry Wogan

He was interviewed only an hour or so after the news that Terry Wogan had died and was asked for his reaction:

I am genuinely very, very upset. He formed an enormous part of my childhood, interviewing all sorts of people on his TV show but also the radio programmes, he was a peculiar and unique individual who appeals both to me – somebody who is obsessed with pop music – and my grandparents at the same time and I think that was his great strength, he spoke without arrogance or pomposity and he was a kind of warm and genuine figure in your living room and around the breakfast table and we’ll all very much miss him.

Refugee crisis

On refugees, he was asked if we should avoid creating a “pull factor:. He was clear that the way to do this was by creating safe and legal routes for refugees.

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Baroness Lindsay Northover writes…Our MPs must include women as well as men

We are an internationalist party.  We believe in human rights.  Our constitution commits us to equality, as well as liberty and community.

So how can it be that we, the Lib Dems of all parties, have absolutely no women MPs?  Zero.  0.0%.

Round the world, countries and parties have addressed the paucity of women in elected positions. Our sister parties have done so. We have a history of trying to do so – but trying is not the same as succeeding.  That must change now. I am extremely glad that our Party President, Sal Brinton, and our party leader, Tim Farron, are making clear that change must happen.

The SDP and then the Lib Dems led with affirmative action until the late 1990s.  Then Labour sailed past us with women-only shortlists.  They transformed their party – and the UK Parliament. Now their Commons party is 44% women.  Even the Conservatives are almost 21%.

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Let’s all make conference more financially diverse.

Tackling inequality is one of my greatest passions, it quite literally gets me out of bed in the morning.

It’s also quite well established now that the more representative decisions making bodies are, the more all of us benefit, no matter if we belong to an underrepresented group or not. The past decade has been a historical time in politics for minorities and activist groups have many proud achievements to celebrate in the name of diversity (yet of course, we still have so very far to go), but there’s one spectrum of diversity that’s not doing so well lately, and we don’t really appear to be tackling it head on, and that’s financial diversity.

Politics favours the rich. Not just because we aren’t doing enough to create a more fair society, but because Parliament is the most unrepresentative forum you could imagine, and by design: unless you’ve got a spare £34k knocking about, as Isabel Hardman estimated in the Spectator last year, you’d better be prepared to work 50 hours a week and volunteer maybe 20 on top of that if you want a chance of ever standing as a parliamentary candidate.

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We need to make internal selections affordable for all

What makes a great candidate? It can be an incredibly demanding job and I imagine it’s lots of things. A strong ability to communicate, to listen, to represent people effectively. To demonstrate generous leadership, to inspire and to continually learn. These are all what I’d consider the headlines.

What about fundraising? It’s certainly vital – but I’d argue that not only is it not the single *biggest* priority.  It’s certainly not more important than the above qualities. It’s one of the skills that can most often be generated truly as a team effort whilst potentially being most successful when lead by the candidate themselves.

I learnt so much during the recent GLA London List Election. As a first timer I was clearly delighted with the result and I loved the opportunity to speak to literally thousands of members. Having phone canvassed for lots of candidates as part of the Team 2015 efforts in the General Election, it was a really interesting next step to be phoning and listening to people’s concerns as the potential candidate myself.

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How can we support candidates who can’t afford to stand for office?

With the #LibDemFightback still continuing after the announcement of our new Leader and by-elections happening almost every week across the country and the party making net gains, campaigners are now planning for next year’s local elections up and down the country. We may be under 5 years away from 2020, with a new vision and a path for the party to be decided, but what about candidates who want to stand for election but can’t  because they can’t afford to?

I write in response to last week’s article by Mark Argent regarding the financial exclusion of candidates. I thought about standing in the last election, but I didn’t feel it was the right time and I thought I didn’t have the finances I would need. There may be many prospective candidates wishing to stand for parliamentary seats, but feel they could not because they couldn’t afford to run a campaign for several months.

We as a party do need to look at the wider members within the party, especially the 17,000+ new members who could potentially be the next parliamentary candidate for their constituency. But what if they couldn’t financially contribute to the campaign? How should the party help them?

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Jo Swinson writes…Dissolution honours make the contribution of women look invisible

Congratulations to all of the new Liberal Democrat Peers announced today.  They will strengthen our existing excellent team in the Lords, fighting for a democratically elected second chamber while in the meantime using their power to provide a check on the government and its worrying assaults on the poor, on our civil liberties, and on the environment.

It’s also good to see recognition for those in our party who have served our communities and our country so well – Sir Vince Cable, Dame Annette Brooke, Ben Williams OBE and others.

What is depressing and wearily familiar, however, is the missing women.

But surely our Lords list is balanced?  5 out of the 11 nominations (45%) for the peerage go to women, which is progress I suppose – of the 40 people nominated to the Lords under Nick Clegg’s leadership, just 17 (43%) were women.

And 45% women wouldn’t be so bad if the existing Lords group was well-balanced, but of our 101 Peers, just 35% are women – so we’re still far from equality.

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Candidates and financial exclusion

I’ve seen a number of comments recently about the financial cost of being a candidate. That is particularly sharp with people standing for parliament, but not limited to them.

As a party, we try to take diversity seriously. This is about justice and Liberal Democrat values. It’s pragmatic, in that we’re all diminished if we casually discard the talents of people from disadvantaged groups. There is also a bigger challenge: the changes we push for in society have to be made within the party and in our choice of candidates. Addressing problems this creates may not be easy, but is a first step to bringing change more widely. Addressing any problems this creates also helps us find ways to address barriers to change more widely.

One of the knotty points is around wealth.

The targeting of seats is unavoidable under our present electoral system, so there is no way round the fact that a high proportion of party’s resources has to be directed to winnable seats.

Away from target seats, the financial situation on candidates can be really difficult, especially when local parties are small and have limited resources. Yet it is also important to fight these seats, both to build up the party where it is presently less strong, and to be serious about being a potential party of government. I’ve seen guidance that potential candidates should not be asked what they can contribute financially to their campaign, as this discriminates against the less wealthy. But most parliamentary candidates work very hard in an election campaign and the pressure to end up putting more personal resources into the campaign can be intense — even if that pressure begins with them rather than anyone else. Anecdotes include someone saying they hoped there wouldn’t be another election soon as they had been self-funding and were more-or-less wiped out, and an agent asking the candidate to provide the deposit two days before the nomination form was to go in as if this was a perfectly reasonable request (and failing to register for their regional party’s deposit guarantee scheme).

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Two appalling examples of lack of diversity in our public services

Before anyone mentions it, yes, I do know that the Liberal Democrats’ parliamentary gender balance is horrendous everywhere except Wales and Europe,the latter being because we only have one MEP. Stuff must be done to resolve this, but that’s not the point of this post.

This week, two examples of lack of diversity in our public services have come to light. The first has been revealed by the Scottish Liberal Democrats. Only 1% of Scotland’s Police Officers identify as coming from a BAME background – and none make it to the highest grades in the force.

Figures obtained using freedom of information laws found that – despite 7.6 percent of Scotland’s population being BAME – there are no BAME officers in the top two ranks and only two across the top four ranks held by the 446 most senior officers in Scotland.

In total, there are only 175 BAME officers out of a total 17,515 police officers.

Figures for police staff showed that there are no BAME in the top five grades, and only 69 out of 5963 staff overall.

Commenting, Scottish Liberal Democrat justice spokesperson Alison McInnes MSP said:

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New access fund for London candidates – how you can help

We all know standing as a candidate involves huge personal and financial sacrifices. I’m always grateful to everyone who puts themselves forward – whether as a “paper” candidate flying the flag for the party, or even as a target seat candidate dedicating all hours of the day to the party.

For next year’s elections in London we will shortly be selecting our Mayoral candidate and 25 candidates for the London Assembly. Those candidates’ ability to lead and motivate our activists and to promote our messages is going to be critical to our performance at these elections. And the high profile London elections are an early opportunity to show the Lib Dem fightback in action.

But it is also critical that our field of candidates reflects the diversity of London in all its aspects.

We know our ability to communicate with all Londoners will be strengthened by presenting a field of candidates who reflect the city’s diversity. But we also understand the costs and sacrifices involved in attending hustings, community events, and local party campaign days.

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Opinion: Getting diverse in the arts

Last month, I was invited by my friend Danny Lee  Wynter to an event he had organised at the National Theatre called Act for Change. It’s a movement that was set up in response to a TV Advert in 2014 which trailed the upcoming season of TV but failed to feature a single BAME performer or disabled artist. AfC campaigns on a platform that the arts are for everyone, regardless of race, gender, class, sexual orientation, age or disability, and they should reflect the societies we live in. Sound familiar to problems in any other places of work?

The event at the National was wonderful, eye opening and angry all in different measures. Chaired by Shami Chakrabati with a host of interesting voices on the panel including the actor Adrian Lester who told a wonderful story about his daughter commenting on the lack of diversity among Hobbits whilst they watched together the Lord of the Rings trilogy. He tried to reason with her until she pointed out an exact passage in Tolkein’s books in which the hobbits are described as being dark skinned which had just been ignored in the casting process.

I think Phyllida Lloyd summed the situation up best in the event when she answered a question by saying:

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