Tag Archives: equality

Women stand to lose a lot from Brexit

One of the amazing innovations with modern technology is being able to watch half forgotten programmes and films from bygone ages. Gainsborough Pictures conjure up an England of sunny summers, tea on the lawn and Saturday sing-alongs at the local theatre.

It is a charming, national picture of how things used to be – for a few. The power of cinema, however, gives the impression of life being like that for everyone. It most certainly wasn’t.

Along with many , I remember what it was really like in the 1960s and early 1970s. The three day week, when electricity was rationed. Or the strikes, dole queues, poverty wages, unsafe working conditions, slums and crumbling schools which were more the norm for most. Women had little status in society and many worked in poor, part time jobs, to keep the family fed.

For some, it was worse. Rented accommodation was the norm. The infamous ‘No Blacks, No Irish, No Dogs’ sign on a London property was recorded for one television programme and not considered unusual.

Change began in the 1970s. That was when we finally joined the European Economic Community. It marked a change in our realisation of who we were as a nation and the creation of new opportunities – economic, social and civic.

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Should I jump into a debate with transphobic “feminists”? No.

Imagine for a moment that a group started up in your local area wanting to ban you – just you, personally –  from the local post office. You would probably find it odd, a bit unnerving, but you would probably shrug it off. The campaign grows and now they’re banning you from the local supermarket, then the pubs, then the town centre as a whole – except for one hour a week when you’re permitted to enter. You start to get hate mail and threatening messages on your phone from the campaign group. Then your local Lib Dem Executive starts talking to this campaign group, to get to the bottom of the problem. Your local party Chair says that the campaigners seem to be sincerely worried about your presence in town, and the local party are going to debate the issue.

How would this make you feel?

Something similar is happening.

The Government has begun its consultation to amend the Gender Recognition Act. The proposed changes would allow transgender people to amend the details on their birth certificates more easily. This would probably be done by a process involving a statutory declaration like the ones that exist already in countries like Ireland, Norway and Malta. At the moment, if you want to change your gender on your birth certificate you enter a bit of a bureaucratic nightmare where a panel that you don’t even meet decides whether to allow your application, with no right of appeal. 

This consultation has kicked off a wave of controversy that is deeply unpleasant.

Of course there are the normal bigots and hate-filled rants filling the internet. That’s sad, but hardly out of the ordinary. What’s new this time is the much more seductive approach of the “feminists”. (I’m putting that word in quote marks because I do not buy into the idea that these people are feminists at all.)

These faux-feminist campaign groups say they are concerned about the unintended consequences of changing the Act. They are worried that non-transgender men will somehow abuse the new legislation to argue their way into women-only spaces. They say that they are concerned about how the needs of cis women and trans women intersect. (Cis meaning that your gender identity matches the gender you were assigned at birth.) And some of these groups add on other concerns about gender roles and protecting children from misguided gender confusion or hormone therapy.

A fundamental belief of Liberal Democrat philosophy is the right to free speech and the right to question things. But our belief here needs to go hand in hand with some common sense, sensitivity and caution. Because this is one area where engaging with people’s concerns can actually cause harm and hurt.

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Lib Link: Alex Cole-Hamilton: We still don’t value women in public life

If you wander round Edinburgh, you might think that men were the only people who ever did anything important.  Alex Cole-Hamilton has reflected of the lack of recognition for women in a post for the Women 50/50 campaign’s blog:

Well, because all told, statues of animals outnumber statues of women in the city by about 5:1. Walking down the Royal Mile, you couldn’t swing a dead Great Auk around your head for fear of hitting the stone effigy of a bloke who was big during the enlightenment – but there is no sign of the women who built so much of this city and its legacy.

A number of city MSPs and I from all parties have recently taken up the campaign to see Elsie Inglis commemorated on the Royal Mile. Elsie was a leading Suffragist in the late 19th century and was close friends with Millicent Fawcett. As a doctor, she established the Women’s Hospitals Movement which took mobile field hospitals to the bloodiest battlefields of World War 1. She was one of the only women ever to receive a state funeral and there are statues to her in Serbia and in France. Her only recognition in the capital is a small plaque in St Giles Cathedral.

The commemoration of important and trail-blazing women matters. It matters because if we don’t do it then the subliminal impact of public art is to cement the patriarchal view that only men can ever achieve greatness. I want to be able to walk up the Royal Mile with my daughter, Darcy, from the palace to castle, and ignite her ambition by pointing out famous female lawyers, politicians and authors and walk her through the steps she’ll need to take if she wants to be like them. The same is true for TV; modern political dramas, whether it be House of Cards or Designated survivor, idealise the rise of men and show the lead character using his male resources to grasp the reins of power. I don’t know about you, but I would like to see a TV adaptation of the life and career of Mary Esslemont, Barbara Castle or Shirley Williams.

I have a slight quibble with his conclusion, though:

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Equal Power, and how you can make it happen

I think Equal Power is the first book I have ever pre-ordered. I started reading it the day it came out. When I tweeted about that, Jo Swinson replied, and I promised her I would review it as soon as I finished reading it.

Several months later…..

My post hoc justification for my tardiness is that, to coin a phrase, a review is something best tasted cold. And I find that my opinions about the book have not changed since I first read it.

I found “Equal Power, and how you can make it happen” very powerful indeed. Not because the material was new to me – most of it was not – but because of the way Swinson treats it. She combines statistics and research evidence, other people’s stories and her own experience in a compelling way. The trick with such material is always in the way the combination is made. Statistics are devoid of life and stories lack width in applicability. Swinson combines the two admirably well in a very readable style. She then delivers much of the punch in the book through recounting her own personal experience. And, very importantly, every chapter ends with a summary of actions that everyone can take to improve gender equality.

She gives herself the space to lay out more than simple arguments. She discusses some of the underlying ideas and languages behind many of our attitudes. She notes in particular (around p31) the use of the word “illiberal”, something I have experienced myself, particularly in discussions about gender issues, being used with the evident purpose of closing an argument. “I’m against all women shortlists because they are illiberal.” Of course they are, but you cannot end it there. You have to show why they are more illiberal than the current system which routinely and significantly discriminates in favour of people like me.*  (Jo does not favour all-women shortlists, but for better reasons.)

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Jo Swinson on sexism, making space for learning and how equal power benefits us all

There’s a really good interview with Jo Swinson in online publication The Debrief. She talks about her book, Equal Power, and about how to combat the polarising culture we find ourselves in. Making time for learning is something she has found useful. Perhaps men who feel threatened by feminism might wish to approach the subject the way she approached the issue of racism by reading up and empathising with those who experience it. That, by the way, is something we should all think about in the wake of the Alderdice Review.

In our Twitter age…in this very polarised time where everything is painted in a very extreme light. It’s made to seem as though it’s one thing or its polar opposite but there has to be space for learning’. The truth is that the continuing fight for true equality between men and women is not, as Parris kept suggesting, about ‘winning’. Women’s equality will not be ‘won’ at the expense of men because a truly equal society will benefit us all.

A good example for the benefits of creating space for learning as opposed to polarising opposition, Swinson tells me was the impact of Renni Eddo-Lodge’s book Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race. After reading it, she says she is ‘much more aware of the privilege’ she has ‘as a white skinned person’. Reading the book did not make her defensive or protective of her privilege but instead made her think ‘oh my goodness have I been blind to injustice’. She explains ‘in the same way that I’ve not experienced discrimination or discrimination about my sexual orientation, I have to listen and learn to people who have and realise that privilege – it’s similar for men – they might get it, or they might not get it, but they want to – we need to speak with them, so they can learn – this is what I suggest in my book – talking to your male friends and colleagues about your experiences’. Even individual conversations within a personal circle of trust can be powerful, she says in helping people to understand power dynamics because ‘when it’s your friend, sister or daughter telling you it’s harder to dismiss and easier to understand.’

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Floella Benjamin on trouser suits, pioneering pregnancy at work and fighting for gender and race equality

As recently as 1981, Floella Benjamin was a trailblazer at the BBC. It wasn’t the done thing to be pregnant and be a tv presenter. She did it. In a fascinating speech in the Lords on Monday, she talked about her life and various careers and campaigns. I actually can’t believe where she started off her working life. Enjoy.

My Lords, I rise to speak in this important debate and declare an interest as a woman who, like other noble Baronesses speaking here today, has had a long journey to reach this Chamber. Many of us, as we stand on the summit of life’s mountain looking down at the valley of experience, think, “Who would have thought?”.

In 1966 I started my journey as a lowly clerk in the chief accountant’s office of Barclays Bank, a place dominated by men in grey suits and bowler hats. At that time it was my ambition to become the first black woman bank manager in the country. Sadly, it did not take me long to realise that there is a difference between ambition and fantasy. I did, however, cause uproar when I dared to go to work wearing a trouser suit instead of the obligatory skirt. Many of my female colleagues soon copied me, much to the consternation of our male counterparts.

In 1981, at the height of my career as a regular presenter on BBC children’s programmes, getting pregnant was considered a serious error of judgment. In those days it was almost certain that it would be the end of your career, as you were expected to disappear gracefully, with babe in arms, to a life of wifely domestic servitude. Pregnant women were certainly not to be seen below the waist on television when their pregnancy started to become evident. Fortunately for me I had a visionary producer, Cynthia Felgate, who at one time was in the Guinness book of records for producing the most television programmes in the world. She allowed me to continue working and presenting until I was eight months pregnant. This was unheard of and made national and international news. I was seen by millions of viewers fully pregnant, and once I even stopped mid-dance to declare, “I can feel the baby kicking”—the children watching loved that moment. Other female presenters were grateful for this pivotal moment, because they, too, could become pregnant and carry on working onscreen throughout their pregnancy.

It was around 1968, living through the civil rights movement and the race riots here in Britain, when I started to become conscious that more women’s voices were needed in politics. So I organised political meetings and events for fellow Caribbeans in London who felt excluded from society—something that the legendary Claudia Jones had earlier fought against by establishing the West Indian Gazette and the creation of what we all know now as the Notting Hill Carnival. Because of these influences, over the years I began to speak out more and more: I wrote letters to political leaders and campaigned on issues such as seat belts on school ​buses, diversity in publishing and in the media, and, for 20 years, for a Minister for Children—until we finally got one. It is such a shame that that position has now been downgraded from a full ministerial post. I hope that the Government will reconsider this change and correct this short-sighted mistake.

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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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More women in elected office will help tackle harassment and bad behaviour

Women have faced sexual exploitation and harassment since time immemorial. But today, something different is happening. Sex pests, gropers, untamed rapists, physical and mental abusers are being ‘outed’ and exposed by media outlets as they are named and shamed.

So, Michael Fallon has fallen on his sword. If all of the gossip is to be believed, then more will follow. It brings not only the individual into disrepute, but the system too, that allows those individuals to behave as they do, with impunity.

He says his behaviour of ten years ago is not acceptable today. I have news for him. It wasn’t acceptable then, either.

The abuse of women is a deep seated problem in our politics and our society. It is no wonder that so few women choose to stand for elected office at any level, as a recent report by the Fawcett Society pointed out.

Parliament, the centre of law making designed to protect the innocent, the young, the vulnerable from sexual  abuse, has shown itself incapable of protecting those within its own walls. The Westminster Village, where power and access to power seems able to protect perpetrators and where  party whips seemingly refuse to take action to curtail inappropriate and sometimes criminal, behaviour, has to change.

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The Fight for Equality Goes On!

I have been inspired by Paul Walter’s excellent series on this site for Black History Month. If you have as well, I encourage you to write a blog for Black History Month and send it in.

American by birth, I am guilty of unconscious bias which permeated through my upbringing. Many people don’t recognise the racism which lies beneath the surface in the way they relate to one other. Of course overt acts of racism make the news, but it is the little interactions and assumptions which bother me, as they are …

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Visibility of Women (or lack thereof)

‘Their heads are full of cotton hay and rags’, according to Prof Higgins.

Walk in any British city or town and see if, as you walk, there are any commemorative works of art. War memorials you will almost certainly see. Royalty you will almost certainly see. Famous men you will almost certainly see.

Then, look to see how many women are commemorated. Queen Victoria and the Virgin Mary apart, few places have statuary of real women.

The statue of Millicent Fawcett, which will shortly be sited in Parliament Square, is, therefore, highly unusual and hugely significant. Of some 925 commemorative pieces in Britain, …

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The Fight for LGBT+ Rights: An Unfinished Rainbow?


This past weekend, Kiev, Ukraine hosted the Grand Final of the Eurovision Song Contest, an event referred to by some as ‘Gay Christmas’, with the theme ‘Celebrate Diversity’. In celebration of this theme, the Friendship of Nations Arch was to be redecorated to form a rainbow as a symbol of equality. Unfortunately, due to protests from far-right groups, the arch was never fully covered in a rainbow, and yet somehow has become, I feel the most poignant and apt depiction of the state of Equality in our society.

On one side, the one facing the city of Kiev, the rainbow is about half complete, the bare steel a reminder of the distance left to travel. On the other side, less visible, there is much less rainbow and much more steel, a great reminder that under the surface there is much further to go, with many people here in the UK still suffering from Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia at home, at work and in the street.



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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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Baroness Celia Thomas writes…Disability rights and Labour wrongs

Who would have thought that a valuable addition to the Licensing Act which would have made life better for disabled people had been scuppered by Labour Peers?  And yet that is what happened on Wednesday evening.

The amendment, which sought to improve the accessibility of licensed entertainment premises (pubs, clubs, restaurants etc.) for disabled people, was tabled by the Chair of the Lords Equality and Disability Committee, Baroness Deech, a crossbencher, and signed by me, as Liberal Democrat Disability Spokesperson, a Labour Peer and another crossbencher.

The Committee, which was set up last year at my suggestion, to look at how the Equality Act was working for disabled people, took evidence from, amongst many others, local authorities and from the National Association of Licence and Enforcement Officers. They were keen to help make premises more accessible but said they needed a small addition to the licensing objectives in the Licensing Act to be able to take action. Without the amendment, a licensing authority can only ‘suggest’ the provision of a ramp, for example, or that a restaurant should not store toilet rolls in the disabled toilet thus making it unusable.  With the amendment, the licensee would be told that if no reasonable adjustments were made, the licence would be in danger of being lost.  

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Maria Munir chosen as Girls’ Champion for BBC’s 100 Women

Lib Dem member Maria Munir, from Watford, won widespread global respect and admiration when they came out as non binary to President Obama at a town hall meeting in April this year. Let’s remind ourselves of that moment:

They spoke to the BBC here about their experience:

I just felt this moment of euphoria that finally I would be able to raise and highlight the issue that non-binary transgender people face.

If anyone has the power to change things for people like myself across the world, it is President Obama.”

Maria said their family history made the situation even more poignant.

“I started to feel the tears well up. My parents are immigrants. My granddad did manual labour in Pakistan. My dad worked as a manual labourer in Saudi Arabia before coming here to start a business with literally nothing.
“For me, aged 20, to be sat in front of the President of the United States, leader of the free world, to be able to pitch to him social action…

Maria has now been named as one of eight Girls’ Champion as part of the BBC’s 100 Women series. They will be able to use their voice to highlight issues that affect girls and non binary and transgender people.

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The role of education in creating a fairer and more equal society

My daughter recently turned four and we had to start thinking about schools for her. Not that you actually have to remind yourself of that as I sensed an almost obsessive attitude with schools and what school you would chose for your child around me.

I always felt myself getting very upset in a lot of the school conversations and I had to think for a moment why that was. To me, it is that this talk about needing to get into “the good school” always seems less related to any real knowledge of what the school actually teaches or how they relate to children, but that “the good school” will prevent a child from ending up in a lower social class. This deep-seated fear of downward social movement is something that worries me greatly when it comes to promoting a fairer and more equal society, and yet the competition around schooling and the Ofsted regime seem to do a great job keeping the anxieties going. While I understand very well that we all want our children to find a good job and be financially comfortable, I simply cannot stand for the idea that this is the only determinant in making a good life and promoting a strong society.

There is so much talk about needing to value nurses and social workers and teachers and the like more, that these professions are overworked and under paid. The government resents the fact that it is losing good lower level medical staff to countries like Australia.

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WATCH Jo Swinson launch action plan on maternity discrimination

Yesterday, Jo Swinson, as chair of Maternity Action, helped to launch an action plan aimed at tackling maternity discrimination.

If you think that this stuff doesn’t go on any more, take an hour out to watch the video of the event and you will see that it very much does.  A woman called Amelia tells the shocking story of what happened to her when she told her employers she was pregnant.

The video is available on Maternity Action’s You Tube channel here. Unfortunately, it’s not embeddable here, but do go and watch it.

Here are some tweets from the event:

The number of women adversely affected each year is staggering:

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Jo Swinson to speak at event launching Action Plan on tackling maternity discrimination

This Saturday, an alliance of groups including Maternity Action, chaired by former Lib Dem Minister Jo Swinson, launches an action plan aimed at tackling maternity discrimination. The event takes place at the excellent Resources for London venue in Central London, where the Social Liberal Forum Conference was held last July.

No matter where you live in the country, you can take part on Twitter by following #maternityrights and by watching the live stream here.

If you are able to go, you can still register here.

Here are some more details about the event:

Please come and join us as we launch our Action Plan to tackle pregnancy and maternity-related discrimination. Working together with a number of other organisations, under the group name the Alliance for Maternity Rights, we have developed a list of all the things that Government needs to do in order to tackle this shocking form of discrimination.

This issue affects women, children and their families, so bring your partners and your children and babies. We will have space to park buggies, a craft table for kids and refreshments for both children and adults.

The event will include a panel session with speakers from Maternity Action and NCT as well as hearing from a woman about her experiences of discrimination.  We will hear from:

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Two reports highlight ongoing need for feminism

Two reports today show that feminism’s work is far from done.

A worrying analysis from the Children’s Society says that 1 in 7 girls are unhappy with more than 1 in 3 being particularly anxious over their appearance.  Given the massive media pressure on what constitutes beauty, it’s hardly surprising that body image remains such a strong trigger of unhappiness.

Girls suffer significantly more unhappiness than boys and this feeds into greater rates of mental ill health.

It’s not difficult to see why if you look at the SRE Now tag on Twitter and read Laura Bates’ and Sarah Green’s recent Telegraph article which highlights the issues of sexual harassment girls face in school. Even in primary school, damaging attitudes about gender roles and consent are prevalent. Green and Bates say:

The evidence is not just anecdotal. A recent BBC Freedom of Information request revealed that 5,500 alleged sexual offences, including 600 rapes, were reported to police as having taken place in schools over three years. That’s an average of almost exactly one rape per school day. Meanwhile, a YouGov survey for the End Violence Against Women coalition revealed that almost one in three 16-18 year old girls experienced unwanted sexual touching at school.

Against this backdrop, we desperately need to educate children about concepts like consent, respect and healthy relationships. But at present, there is no requirement for schools to teach anything apart from the basic biology of sex.

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What would you do if you were Mayor of Nice?

Nice is still in shock. It’s just about a month and a half since the appalling attack which killed 84 people. That sort of carnage happening on your doorstep takes some getting over. People experience a huge range of emotions from anger to fear. What should the authorities be doing to help people through this time?

They should be reassuring people. They should be helping the whole community stand together in solidarity.

Instead, their headline response has been to pick on innocent women because of their attire on a beach. I have rarely been more annoyed by anything than the sight of a sleeping woman on a beach being surrounded by armed police and being forced to remove clothing. All this in the name of protecting women from oppression. I’m not quite sure how that works as a logical explanation.

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Sal Brinton on the change of attitude needed so that disabled people can start to live their lives

Sal Brinton was part of the House of Lords Committee which produced today’s report which reviewed the impact of the Equality Act 2010 on disabled people. Its conclusions were pretty damning. It’s worth setting out in full the five major themes that they identified:

First, in planning services and buildings, despite the fact that for twenty years the law has required anticipatory reasonable adjustment, the needs of disabled people still tend to be an afterthought. It is time to reverse this. We are all living longer, and medical advances are keeping us alive where in earlier years it would have failed to do so, but not necessarily in good health. We should from the outset plan for the inevitability of disability in everyone as they get older, as well as for those who suffer accidents and for all those other disabled people who are the subject of our inquiry.

Our second theme, closely related to the first, is the need to be proactive, rather than reactive or process driven. Many of those involved—Government departments, local authorities, the NHS, schools, courts, businesses, all of us—wait for problems to arise before, at best, attempting to remedy them. We should be planning so that disabled people can as far as possible avoid facing the problems in the first place.

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Scratch and sniff: The reek or alluring scent of our values

The medium is the message. So often as people it’s not so much what we do as how we do it, that leaves the greater impression.

The passive aggressive person makes you regret asking even when they help you. So it is important to reflect not just on are we doing the right thing but are we doing it in the best way.

As Liberal Democrats we signed up to three core values Liberty, Equality and Community – how are we building these or indeed communicating these values? The twist is that most people prefer to talk about real things they can …

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So why shouldn’t MPs breastfeed in the House of Commons?

There was a very sensible debate on the family friendliness or otherwise of the House of Commons earlier this week. The press seems to have latched on (sorry) to the issue of whether women MPs should be allowed to breastfeed their babies in the Commons chamber itself, although the debate was much more wide ranging – and we’ll have more about those other aspects later.

The debate was brought by Jess Phillips ,the MP for Birmingham Yardley who recently took such a battering on Twitter for daring to suggest that Parliament might have more important priorities than have a special debate for International Men’s Day. The irony of her being the only woman on the Committee that decides Commons business was not lost on many people.

At any debate on these issues, you get the odd Tory turning up whose only purpose seems to be to make themselves look ridiculous and to basically troll the proceedings. On this occasion it was Sir Simon Burns, the MP for Chelmsford. Early in the proceedings he suggested that the House of Commons did not have an overwhelming majority of white men when asked by fellow Conservative Maria Miller:

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LibLink: David Laws: George Osborne needs to prove his cuts won’t stall improvement in education

As Schools Minister, David Laws introduced the Pupil Premium, extra money for disadvantaged kids in school to help close the attainment gap.

He has written for the Independent to say that the Government needs to do more to ensure that people have a route out of poverty:

The Government also needs a new drive to raise educational standards, and to keep the focus on improving attainment for young people from disadvantaged backgrounds – those who are much more likely to end up in poverty and on benefits. We are not going to address poverty and create opportunity while 60 per cent of young people from poor households fail even to achieve the old and unambitious target to secure five GCSEs at C grade or higher, including English and Maths. This figure is a national disgrace.

The last Government had a strong record on education – with the introduction of the Pupil Premium, swift action to tackle failing schools, and the clean- up of English’s discredited qualifications system. But there is nothing at all to be complacent about. If the country’s main anti-poverty and pro-opportunity strategy is now to rely on education and work, then we have got to do an awful lot more and more intelligently

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Farron: Ministry of Justice need to be “dragged into 21st century” over Tara Hudson

Tim Farron has intervened in the case of Tara Hudson, the transgender woman from Bath who has been sent to serve a 12 week prison sentence at an all male prison because, basically, of some paperwork. She’s never applied for a Gender Recognition Certificate, but she has lived as a woman for all of her adult life.

Tim expressed his fears for Tara’s safety to Pink News. He said:

The Liberal Democrats will raise this case in Parliament.

There is a clear need for a policy change in this area. It looks like the Ministry of Justice needs be dragged kicking into the 21st century.

As I understand it, Tara has lived all her adult life as a female. I worry potential risk of harm to her in a male prison which was deemed to have levels of violence ‘considerably higher than in similar prisons’ by the prisons inspectorate.

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It is time to press for full gender and sexual equality in our law and administration

The case of Tara Hudson, a transgender woman who has been sent to one of the most violent all male prisons in the country for an admitted assault, highlights once again the need for British law and administration relating to gender dysphoria to be overhauled.

As a cysgender gay man I cannot begin to imagine what it must be like to live with a condition where you experience discomfort or distress because there is a mismatch between your biological sex and gender identity, but I don’t have to live with medical condition in order to understand the impact …

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Jo Swinson speaks out against gender quotas on boards

From PoliticsHome:

Senior leaders from business and government have gone head-to-head over whether mandatory quotas are needed to get more women to the top of organisations.

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Suffragette – a moment for shame

The film “Suffragette” is now on general release. It is very much worth watching.

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Jo Swinson supports size 6 model who was told she was “too big” for her agency

Last week model Charli Howard hit the headlines when she wrote an open letter to her modelling agency who had told her that at a mere size 6, she was too big to work. From the Independent:

“The more you force us to lose weight and be small, the more designers have to make clothes to fit our sizes, and the more young girls are being made ill. It’s no longer an image I choose to represent,” she wrote.

Howard’s letter made headlines globally and comes after a number of models have openly criticised the fashion industry for body-shaming by telling them they need to lose weight.

In yesterday’s Sunday Times (£) former Equalities Minister and Liberal Democrat MP Jo Swinson was quick to give Charli her support, telling the paper:

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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:

Posted in News | Also tagged , , , and | 11 Comments

Have we got the balance right between fairness and equality?

The years since the financial crash have seen the 2010 Equality Act and an apparently unending stream of scandals in which firms have mis-sold products, rigged markets and exploited every loophole they could find to avoid paying tax while enhancing their managers’ pay, entailing in some sections of the media breaking the law for stories.

The Equality Act is the culmination of a series of ground-breaking laws since the 1965 Race Relations Act which have over generations changed attitudes in the UK. These laws have not prevented the stream of scandals, which come from a culture in which social constraints have eroded, so that managers can use their power to pay themselves more and justify that by growing the company however they like, including choosing which law will be applicable.

In all this the concept of fairness has been lost sight of. Everyone agrees what fairness means, but rhetorically individuals often apply it only to themselves in order to win an argument. In small children that is understandable, but growing up involves learning to see how others see things so that we can act as members of society and not just as individuals. The scandals show large organisations have been less good than individuals at learning socially acceptable behaviour. The immediate response has been to seek separate remedies for mis-selling, rigging markets, tax avoidance and media behaviour, whereas the scandals originate in managerial behaviour which has not been addressed. If the misbehaviour is not addressed, it will just find new outlets that are still legal.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 18 Comments
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