Tag Archives: electing diverse mps motion

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.

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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.

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VIDEO: Watch the “Electing Diverse MPs” (incl. All Woman Shortlists) debate

You can watch today’s “Electing Diverse MPs” (including All Women Shortlists) debate from the York conference in full below. Just click on the central arrow:

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Landmark diversity change will make the Liberal Democrats look like the nation we want to represent – Sal Brinton

Liberal Democrats have embraced diversity today by voting in favour of all-women shortlists.

Building on earlier successes and designed to increase diversity amongst candidates and MPs, the motion was supported by Party Leader Tim Farron, and passed overwhelmingly at the Liberal Democrat Spring Conference in York.

In addition to introducing all-women shortlists, the motion ensures more spaces on constituency shortlists for BAME and LGBT+ members. It also means the Liberal Democrats will be the first political party in the country to implement all-disabled shortlists.

Party President Sal Brinton said: “”Over the last few months many party members have told us they think it is time we dealt comprehensively with the lack of diversity amongst our MPs, the wider party and parliament overall.

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

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

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“Electing diverse MPs” including All women shortlists – full motion and amendments

Here is the full motion, with the amendments to be debated, for “Electing diverse MPs” (including All Women Shortlists) which is about to be debated at the York conference. (Note: you can see the motion with its line numbers starting on page 57 of the agenda paper for conference here and the amendments starting on page 17 of Saturday’s Conference Daily sheet here.). A reminder that you can watch the live stream of the debate here.

The motion

F20 Electing Diverse MPs

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Watch the debate on “Electing diverse MPs” including All Women Shortlists here at 9:40

By clicking on the arrow in the box below, you can watch the debate on “Electing diverse MPs (which will include consideration of All Women Shortlists) when it starts at 9:40 this morning. Below the box I’ve shown the text of the motion, together with the amendments to be debated. (Note: you can see the motion with its line numbers starting on page 57 of the agenda paper for conference here and the amendments starting on page 17 of Saturday’s Conference Daily sheet here.).

Also here, by clicking on the arrow below, you can watch the whole conference session today from 9am until 1pm, including Tim’s leader’s speech at 11:45.

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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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For International Women’s Day: These are not token women

One of the main factors in the defeat of a proposal for all-women shortlists in 2001 was a spirited campaign by the then youth organisation. Jo Swinson led the way wearing a pink t-shirt saying “I am not a token woman.” Jo has now, after many years of putting her heart and soul  into improving the party’s diversity, come to the conclusion that all-women shortlists are a short term necessary part of the mix.

There are many myths about all-women shortlists, but one in particular is the refrain you often hear – that we need to have the best person for the job. People seem to think that positive action of this sort means that you are somehow settling for second best. When you think about it, that’s quite insulting. Do we really think that of the 111  MPs we have elected, that only 19 women were actually good enough to make the grade? Do we think that the one time we managed to send a gender-balanced team of MEPs that the women were not as good as the men? Women like Liz Lynne who had already been an MP and Sarah Ludford, who was a member of the House of Lords and went on to be a massive voice for human rights and civil liberties?

I thought it might be good to celebrate some women from around the world who have had the chance to excel nationally and internationally because of specific measures to improve gender balance. I’ve had a lot of help from Flo Clucas who is the President of ALDE’s Gender Equality Network in preparing this, so thanks to her.

Let’s start at home with Labour.They are doing best on gender balance with 43% women on their Westminster benches and have commonly used all-women shortlists since 1997.

Stella Creasy

Elected as MP for Walthamstow in 2010, Stella Creasy has shown herself to be a powerful parliamentary performer and scourge of payday lenders. She stood for Deputy Leader last year.

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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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Tim Farron MP: We must show the world we mean business on diversity

It’s International Women’s Day, when we celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women.  But, the IWD website reminds us, the latest estimate of the World Economic Forum is that, at the present rate of progress, full parity between genders will not be achieved till 2133.  Our record in Britain, while improving, is doing so painfully slowly.  The pay gap between genders has not closed in spite of legislation, and has remained relatively consistent for the past 20 years.  Britain elected more female MPs than ever in May 2015, but still sits at 48th in the world league table, behind many of our European neighbours, and behind some of the world’s poorest nations. Lindsay Northover is right to point out that had it been based on the Lib Dems, the UK would be bottom, grouped with Yemen and Qatar.

Why is that? Well, because we have no women MPs any more, just 26% of our approved parliamentary candidates are women, and women are under-represented on many of our internal party committees.  We are in a similar situation where BAME, LGBT+ and disabled members are concerned.  I don’t know about you, but I find that shaming for a party that holds equality as one of its fundamental commitments.  In our constitution, we say that we “oppose all forms of entrenched privilege and inequality.” It’s time to show that we practice what we preach. 

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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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