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.

Conference Motion Combatting Racism

This motion recognises the increase in racist and far right nationalism, which has been targeted at minority communities. Attacks on these groups have risen particularly since the EU referendum and are a direct threat to the multicultural society that Britain is today.

As a result, it is our duty as a liberal party to oppose and challenge these extremist, illiberal ideologies and to end nationalist and extremist legitimacy. This includes the obligation of local authorities and councilors to bring communities together through community outreach programmes and to implement measures to foster community cohesion.

Conference resolves:

  1. That the party and its members should take all steps to combat the spread of racism and extremist populism.
  2. That the party takes steps to enshrine its opposition to racism, nationalism and the far right explicitly in its core principles.
  3. To make no compromise with racist, nationalist and far right ideas, and continue our proud tradition of creating evidence-based liberal policy.
  4. To work with liberal, anti-racist, and anti-fascist groups to combat the tide of extremism, violent populism and nationalism that is rising across Europe.
  5. Hate and prejudice should not be encouraged by any government’s policy and, therefore, people should have the freedom to wear any religious dress they want and citizens of any social, cultural background or orientation should not face prejudice for the clothes they decide to wear.

You can read the full motion here.

The Diversity Quotas motion ensures that different identities and communities are sufficiently represented on our party’s federal bodies. This allows for a myriad of opinions, knowledge and beliefs and will hopefully help us to broaden our discussions and conversations regarding diversity. This motion will give voice to underrepresented groups ensuring that our federal bodies adequately reflect the makeup of our party and our society.

Pauline’s motion on ombatting racism reaffirms our position and commitment in tackling hateful, extremist ideologies. The mosaic of people that make up both our society and our party is something to be celebrated, however the Brexit vote has ushered in divisive and antagonistic ideologies. It is now our duty as liberals to challenge these beliefs and to destroy their influence-  only then can create the open, tolerant and united society we long for.

By supporting these motions, we reaffirm our commitment to equality and inclusion. We look forward to these motions being executed across the party we would like to say a huge thank you to Pauline and Dawn for bringing diversity to the forefront.

If you have any questions or would like to see how you can do more on these issues, please get in touch with the diversity team at [email protected].

* Natalie Chindipha has been Diversity & Talent Support Manager since July 2016. She works within the Diversity Team at LDHQ to support and encourage diversity initiatives across the party.

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  • I agree with everything you stated, but quotas are illiberal and divisive, we are definitely moving in the wrong direction on this one.

  • David Cooper 12th Oct '16 - 6:34pm

    These quotas sound like entryism. I am totally opposed to them.

  • Quotas are divisive, but sometimes they are necessary.

    Political parties, and their committees are not just a collection of individuals, but teams. All teams need a balance of skills and insight, and in the case of a political party and especially the Federal Committee, it needs to have insight to a variety of aspects of modern life.

    In business, a project team might need engineers, or accountants, or lawyers, or PR people.

    I have a friend who works in teamwork and leadership training and I’m minded of a story he told me about a deliberately vague blue chip engineering company. At one point, it was decided that they should do personality assessments on their new recruits, and they were particularly keen on “Shapers”, who are the dynamic, go-getters, who get things done. That worked in the short-term, but after a while they realised they didn’t have enough “Plants”, who are the people who appear to faff around a lot, but every now and then come up with a brilliant idea. This caused them problems, and they had to redress the balance.

    At face value, the “Shapers” were the ‘best’ individuals, and as individuals they were all great and had a lot to offer. However, for the whole organisation to function well, they needed to think carefully about what really was ‘best’.

    Every successful organisation of any scale needs a range of skills, which includes a range of personality types, and a range of previous experience. In the case of a political party which seeks to improve how we live, we need a range of people with a range of life experience.

  • Helen Tedcastle 12th Oct '16 - 7:10pm

    I think Harriet Harman and the politically correct brigade in the Labour Party and NUS will be delighted with this piece.

    The great Liberal women of happy memory like Nancy Seear and Clare Brooks, were they still with us, would be railing against this language of quotas and terms like people ‘self-identifying’ in ordained categories.

    As far as they were concerned, people advanced through merit as well as desire and commitment.

    In 2015, we held on to our 8 seats because the individuals – all white men – had well-organised operations on the ground and were super-charged campaigners. They did not win because they ‘self-identified’ as male.

  • Quotas are a ghastly and massively patronising idea.
    For starters, anyone in place who ticks the diversity boxes will feel like a token, as well as being open to accusations by others that that’s the only reason the were chosen.
    Secondly, it implies those who selected them would otherwise have discriminated against them because of their race/gender.
    What does it say to the world about the party if fair play has to be enforced by rules, rather than being a given?
    I don’t see how you challenge discrimination by enforcing… positive discrimination.

  • Well, well……. If at first you don’t succeed…… You could always try self changing identity.

  • Ruth Bright 12th Oct '16 - 8:30pm

    Hello Natalie – Being of sufficient vintage to remember Nancy Seear and Claire Brooks I bet you would have received a massive, matriarchal hug from both of them!

    We stand on the shoulders of giants but it is a different world now and you are right to do what you are doing.

  • I know some people hate quotas with a passion, and I understand why, but I have reluctantly come round to the idea as a (hopefully) temporary measure to correct some imbalances within the party structure.

    If certain groups are under-represented within the party structure compared to the population as a whole, then why is that? That’s a genuine question……..

  • Helen Tedcastle 12th Oct '16 - 9:13pm

    ‘Being of sufficient vintage to remember Nancy Seear and Claire Brooks I bet you would have received a massive, matriarchal hug from both of them!’

    I knew Claire very well and she would not have given people hugs but argued the hind legs off them – with a passion. As Michael Meadowcroft wrote about her, ” Claire was all heart, invariably impulsive, an instinctive supporter of the underdog and in awe of no-one.”

    I don’t think the world has changed very much when it comes to the difficulties women, ethnic minorities face in the party, in Westminster and in the devolved assemblies.

    The question will always remain whether under-represented groups have the right training and ultimately the personal confidence and sheer drive to put themselves forward and keep fighting for the cause. In the Lib Dems this involves a huge level of commitment to campaigning week in week out, year in year out – more than the other main parties.

    This won’t change, I’m afraid.

  • My thanks to everyone who did the hard work finally getting these changes through. As usual the comments from those against these changes sound as though their writers hadnt actually read either the article or the long discussions of these issues over the last decade or three.
    Personally I find the fact that we are represented in The HoC by an all white, all male, all straight team extremely embarassing. They are all great people but the overall appearance undermines every word we say.

  • Nick, you are right that where minority groups are under-represented, we have to wonder why? It is possible that time and time again, the best possible person was a white, straight, middle-aged man. But were they really? Best compared with whom?

    Quotas as a hard rule can pose a lot of problems, but having a target as something to aim for, is valuable. It can be argued that the Lib Dems have their main base in the largely white parts of the country, but is the fact we’re mainly white the reason we struggle to make in-roads in urban areas? How much of an effort are we going to in order to welcome those from minority groups into the party at the most basic, entry level? Do they feel welcome enough to hang around long enough to take on positions of responsibility? It’s a bit like the absence of black nominees at the Oscars. The starting point is really the ongoing lack of suitable high profile roles for black people, and shortage of black people doing the selecting, so the same sort of roles are admired year after year, which often means posh white people.

    I certainly wouldn’t criticise our remaining MPs for being ‘the same’, especially given the circumstances, but it is a practical weakness for them as a team not to have some built in diversity, and it’s a very easy way for our opponents to scoff at our attempts to make the world a more fair place for women and minorities.

    Personally, I think we should aspire to make the party balanced at all levels, and not just in terms of women and minority groups. We should be looking to have people with a mixture of experience in terms of their educational and working background too.

    Whether or not you can or should achieve any of that by quotas is debatable, but if too many areas have the same sort of people in leadership roles, then it is a problem. At the very least, we do need to have an idea of what we ought to be aspiring to, so we know where we need to pull our socks up.

    I was pleased to see the initiative for this year’s conference whereby some people with disabilities had their costs subsidised to ensure they could participate and contribute. More of that kind of thinking please.

  • I see Corbyn’s trying to introduce 50% all women short lists for 2020. Guardian website.

  • Helen Tedcastle 12th Oct '16 - 10:56pm

    Paul Barker
    ‘As usual the comments from those against these changes sound as though their writers hadnt actually read either the article or the long discussions of these issues over the last decade or three.’

    This comment is rather patronising. There is a proud Liberal history of opposing quotas for prescribed categories of people.

    ‘Personally I find the fact that we are represented in The HoC by an all white, all male, all straight team extremely embarassing.’

    Why? The party had a virtual electoral meltdown after a difficult period in government and a disastrous election campaign. These were the eight MPs left standing after an untypical five years. We should be proud that they held on and embarrassed at the scale of the defeat.

    Witney is going to be part of the fightback, because we have a great candidate of long-standing, who simply happens to be female, and most importantly are running a well-organised, well-supported operation.

  • David Pocock 12th Oct '16 - 11:51pm

    Is this a done deal? I hate discrimination and this saddly is what it is.

    The reason the hoc is white men is that they survived frankly. Plus the identity argument is based on a false notion anyway; if mps only represent their race and gender why should I not vote for white men for example.

    It also makes the mistake of grouping say all women together. Surely we can see that an individuals politics are what matters.

    We should be the one party not to do this identity stuff. We are liberals. I would urge a rethink and to find another way.

    God I hate that people look at intelligent people and see only race and gender.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 12th Oct '16 - 11:56pm


    A very thoughtful and radical article and proposals.

    In common with most Liberals , by nature I am not keen on quotas. In common with many Democrats , by nurture I am open to be persuaded. Our party must represent Britain at all levels , more an issue for our party due to our awful electoral system at large , rather than internal problems with talent . But we must promote those , particularly BAME members wanting to stand for our party and who we need to.

    Talent , they say , will out . With your help let us make it so !

  • I’m sad to say that this article shows how little some people understand the huge difficulty faced by anyone who attempts to become a Lib Dem MP. Every one of our MPs who actually won their seat in parliament knows how hugely hard it was. Up to 2005, most of them had to work for decades to win their seat. I suggest the writer looks at the records of Ronnie Fearn, Gordon Birtwhistle (who in the last parliament was the only MP out of the 650 who had qualified as an apprentice – now that is an under-represented minority) or Patsy Carlton. They fought for decades to embed themselves in their community sufficiently to win their seats. Sadly Claire Brooks failed by about 500 votes if I remember correctly.

    What we have done, is set up a ridiculously complex system, that requires a substantial bureaucracy to support it, at a time when we have just lost over 75% of our paid staff. This is pure stupidity. Apart from apprentices, the most under represented group in parliament nowadays is Liberal Democrats. We need all our MPs, staff and activists to be campaigners for liberal democracy, not for a particular demographic.

    Until we come to terms with that, we will continue to be nice and comfortable with ourselves, but ineffective in winning seats in parliament.

  • Ruth Bright 13th Oct '16 - 9:02am

    Fair enough Helen. I knew from other things you have written on LDV that you knew Claire Brooks well. I only met her once and she was friendly, bubbly, completely overwhelming and welcoming to me as a star struck teenager! A relative of mine worked for Nancy and she was much warmer and more full of mischief than her terrifying exterior would suggest. After a long association with LSE Nancy Seear would be delighted that LSE now has its first permanent female Director. Yes it was done without quotas. But we have had to wait 120 years! I am glad Natalie’s generation are not happy to wait 120 years for things!

  • David Garlick 13th Oct '16 - 11:59am

    If we are serious about achieving a diverse Party then we can do all we like to manipulate at the top to dress it up, but if we want real success on this then we need to take our message to the diverse communities in all of our constituencies. Only when our membership reflects the diversity of our society will those manipulations become unnecessary as well as unwelcome.

  • Peter Watson 13th Oct '16 - 12:16pm

    @paul barker “Personally I find the fact that we are represented in The HoC by an all white, all male, all straight team extremely embarassing.”
    Perhaps counter-intuitively, zero women out of 8 MPs is weaker evidence than the previous 7 out of 57 that women are less likely than men to become Lib Dem MPs so could be seen as progress!
    Having said that, Lib Dems appearing to be neck and neck with UKIP as the least diverse major UK political party is an embarrassing state of affairs, and it is discomfiting that the party might need quotas to improve this while the Tories can demonstrate more diversity in many forms without them.

  • What are the quotas for people living in social housing, below the median household income and who work in unskilled or semi-skilled jobs?

  • David Evershed 13th Oct '16 - 12:40pm

    There should be a quota for engineering candidates who are desperately under represented.

  • paul barker 13th Oct '16 - 1:20pm

    David Evans has half of a good point, most of our surviving MPs built their own power base over a long period of hard slog. Howeverm Men can often rely on Wives, Women cant. The supply of Men who are willing to take the Wife role is pretty thin. We cant rebuild society overnight but we can try to make up for societys deficiencies.
    No-one is criticising our MPs for being who & what they are, as individuals but not having a top team who look as varied as the people they aspire to represent hold us back.

  • These quotas and gender-bans on selections for winnable seats are both misguided and shameful, for a party that claims to be liberal. We should look at the unpleasant attitudes that persist within Labour, which remain more extreme than anything we face ourselves, and ask whether such illiberal discriminatory mechanisms can ever be the right way to make our party more diverse in its appeal.

  • Andrew McCaig 13th Oct '16 - 3:14pm

    The reason Labour can easily cope with a high proportion of all-female shortlists is because the track record and local connections of the candidate really do not matter in most of their seats. Sometimes it works out – for example Jo Cox was a perfect fit for Batley and Spen having been born and brought up there. On the other hand Rachel Reeves is about as far from a good fit to Leeds West as I can imagine ( I have met her, and I lived for many years in Leeds and have campaigned in Leeds West), and if the Liberal Democrats put up someone like that in Burnley, Southport etc we would not get them elected.. So we have to ask if we had someone like Michael Meadowcroft ready to stand in a seat would we really impose a woman or minority candidate from outside the area over a proven campaigner, male or female, inside it? If the answer is yes, then we are guilty of the trap that Tim accused Labour of – being more interested in internal processes than actually helping people by getting elected…

    However, we must address the problems that paul barker mentions. If we are serious about any candidate in a target seat we have to make sure they have the time to campaign. Parents of either gender who do not have support in the form of a non-working spouse or grandparents will face that problem, but in today’s society women are more likely to face it than men, with the added difficulty of maternity. Effective local parties can provide a lot of help, but in the end it will take cash… That way we will get both more women wanting to be a PPC, AND with a bit more support, more women standing for council seats

  • How do we tell whether people of a particular sexual orientation are underrepresented?

    I presume that if there is one gay person on a 50-strong committee, then that particular orientation is not underrepresented.

  • David Pocock 13th Oct '16 - 4:35pm

    Paul Barker – I agree with your point but not the diagnosis. Until women with high goals start to marry down they are going to keep partnering with providers and not home makers.

  • Simon McGrath 14th Oct '16 - 3:09am

    What evidence is there that LGBT people need a quota to get elected to party committees ? ?

  • Is there any evidence that men are under-represented? No, but it’s still worth stating that you’d expect a minimum of 40% of them on a committee when you are making a statement about ensuring better representation.

    I understand that many feel uncomfortable with the idea of quotas, but many of us feel more than uncomfortable with the under-representation of various groups, so unless you are coming up with suggestions for better or even alternative ways to address or explain this, then you are coming across as churlish and entitled.

    There are other ways, so how much effort have the moaners personally put into pursuing them?

  • Lester Holloway 14th Oct '16 - 4:41pm

    The Federal Executive quote motion will make no difference to the present BAME composition of the committee. The 10% rounded down quota is currently met with Pauline Pearce and Ramesh Dewan. While the FE has been all-white in the past, it is hardly success to crow about a change that makes, erm, precisely no change to the current FE. All it does is stop us going backwards for future elections. Hardly worth popping corks over. And why 10%. The 2011 population census shows the BAME population is 14%. Population projects have it closer to 20% by 2020.

    The racism motion is rather narrow in its’ focus, and an opportunity missed to pass a motion on systemic and institutional racism, as evidenced by pretty much every research study into outcomes in housing, employment and health by ethnicity. The Tory government are responding to hate crime with some practical initiatives (whereas there are none in this motion), but if the Lib Dems can’t talk about systemic and institutional racism does that mean we are willingly ceding this ground to Corbyn’s Labour Party?

  • Simon Thorley 15th Oct '16 - 9:49am

    The day we stop judging individuals as individuals on their own merits, and start judging them in terms of which identity group they belong to, is the day we should remove Liberal from our party name.

  • Martin, I agree there are many groups under-represented, and there should be means to encourage them. Personally, I feel that Parliament is severely lacking in people with any kind of science or engineering background, but that’s a whinge for another day.

    Boosting the state of the youth membership is a very legitimate goal and should be a priority, but my point would be that you don’t boost the voice of youth by ignoring the minorities included in this motion. I’d argue that seeing a series of white, middle class men as our most visible representatives, is off-putting for a young person who has grown up expecting more diversity. It looks instinctively wrong.

    I absolutely agree that working at the grass roots to develop and actively encourage those from under-represented groups is incredibly valuable, but I still think having targets, if not quotas, is essential so that people appreciate how well we are doing, and/or how far we have to go.

    Regarding ethnic minorities, we need to remember that while the ratio of genders and sexual orientation can be expected to be reasonably constant across the country, the distribution of groups of ethnic minorities is not at all constant. Area groups should be mindful to the make-up of their area, and if this isn’t reflected in their membership, ask yourselves why, and if you can do anything about it.

  • Simon, do you really think that if any organisation has mainly middle-class, middle-aged, white, straight men in the majority of key positions, that organisation can honestly claim that it has judged people on their own merits?

    People very often worry that the solitary black, lesbian wheelchair user on a committee will feel undermined as people will assume she’s there to tick a box, but how come they never worry that those from over-represented groups got there because of prejudice or the old boys network?

  • Simon Thorley 16th Oct '16 - 1:55am

    Fiona – it depends. If a majority of applications for a committee come from white, middle class men, one would expect the committee composition to reflect that. To look at a committee dominated by a particular identity group in isolation, without considering all the potential underlying reasons for the situation (ie an all-white committee doesn’t necessarily indicate discriminatory selection), is at best going to lead us to incorrect conclusions.

    And white, middle class men are not homogeneous: if my representative on a federal committee, or in Parliament, is not of the same ethnic background as me, does that make them less representative of me? This is the key issue from a liberal POV: quotas imply that individuals’ attitudes, expertise and priorities can be divined from their external identity markers. It enforces conformity. There are arguments in favour of quotas by gender, race etc – but they are not liberal arguments, and not what I believe our party stands for.

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