Will our next leader demand all-BAME shortlists? Ask them, at the Race Equality Hustings

In 2016, after decades of blocking all-Women shortlists (while doing little else that worked), the party finally caved in and accepted reality. All-Women shortlists work, we didn’t have enough women MPs, and so we resolved to use all-Women shortlists.

Nobody today could reasonably claim it didn’t work – the parliamentary party is chock-full of excellent women MPs, and with them came the shared experiences of 50% of the country that we didn’t have before. Our party is truly, deeply, better for the diversity they bring to the table.

So why aren’t we now demanding the same for BAME people? A question for the candidates, maybe.

The reality is that the party did agree to do this. In that same motion, we resolved to:

Campaign to amend the Equality Act 2010 to remove the restrictions on shortlists for candidate selections for people from under-represented groups.

No matter – while we wring our hands, Labour are now taking a lead. Sir Keir Starmer is demanding all-BAME shortlists, and he seems determined to bring his party with him. Is our next leader going to honour Conference, and stand up for race equality, by working with him on this?

In 2009, Nick Clegg told me (in Bournemouth) that he will change the face of the party. We are still at first base – passed by even the Tories (who aren’t playing the game). People think by changing the face of the membership cards and moving the deckchairs around we have cracked it.

Deckchairs on the beach don’t mean it’s summer.

Join LDCRE on the 5th August 2020 at 7PM to take part in our Leadership Hustings. Ask Moran and Davey the questions that will make them feel uncomfortable. It will be streamed right here on YouTube (no need to be a member), and you can sign up here to participate.

* Roderick Lynch is Chair of the Liberal Democrat Campaign for Race Equality.

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  • Graham Jeffs 30th Jul '20 - 12:35pm

    Sorry, but all ‘anything’ shortlists are unacceptable to me. Candidates should be chosen on their merits – this enforced ‘diversity’ doesn’t necessarily enhance the credibility of those chosen. I appreciate the problem but this isn’t the way to solve it.

  • James Belchamber 30th Jul '20 - 12:43pm

    Liberals see merit in diversity

  • Tony Greaves 30th Jul '20 - 1:55pm

    I suppose we are about to get a new wave of debate that might as well be taking place in Elvis’s castle on the dark side of the moon. Perhaps some of us should just keep saying. (1) we haven’t got any safe seats. (2) what any remotely winnable seat needs is the best person to win it. If we do not do this we risk being eliminated from the House of Commons. (3) Top-down imposition of categoric conditions for all-anything shortlists is fundamental illiberal and will too often result in a set not being won. (4) There are thoroughly Liberal ways of getting the diversity we need without doing this.

    But I fear that some people would rather have diversity perfection in the list of candidates we field even if it means not winning any seats at all.


  • Phil Beesley 30th Jul '20 - 1:56pm

    If you want candidates from different backgrounds, make it more affordable to stand. And don’t think about this just as a Lib Dem concern.

    People who want to become a councillor or MP or one of the newer roles know that it is going to disrupt careers or family relationships. Parties can’t do much about the personal stuff *, but they ought to help on the financial side for PPCs and the like. (And some do.) If somebody is doing a full time job as a PPC, they ought to supported appropriately

    40 years after I engaged with politics, believing that wealth, class or race should not exclude anyone, I feel the same way. Lib Dems aren’t very good at electing ‘common’ people to Parliament. Lib Dem politicians are middle class or a bit richer, and they talk middle class, on behalf of others.

    * I disagree with myself. Local parties should care, but I don’t know how to do it.

  • Tony Greaves 30th Jul '20 - 1:59pm

    I might also add that no Leader has the right or power to “demand” anything.

  • Tony Greaves has said it all. Nothing more to add.

  • Even if you don’t agree with restricting shortlists on the basis of protected characteristics, I think we should support an amendment to the equality act that gives political parties the right to choose to do this.

  • Simon McGrath 30th Jul '20 - 2:30pm

    How many of our Women MPs were selected via AWS?

  • Deliberate discrimination is rather disgraceful.

  • Munira Wilson 30th Jul '20 - 2:57pm

    I’ve posted this comment on Facebook and will post it again here. As a BAME woman I think AWS is wrong and I think all BAME shortlists are wrong. I say that as someone who was selected via AWS but wish I could have fought an open selection. To Simon’s question, I believe both Daisy and Wendy were selected via AWS too but would need to double check.

  • It isn’t true that previous attempts at improving representation of women weren’t working. The majority of new candidates for target seats in 2015 were women and had won open selections.

    What has “worked” is the loss of so very many incumbents.

  • Well said, Munira. There is no place for shortlists in a fair society.

    Denying opportunity to a large number of people in order to pander to a few is not making things right, it is an act of even greater injustice. Fairness and equality is everyone having the same opportunity regardless of race and colour. That is what LibDems should insist on.

    It is hypocrisy to favour shortlists as some sort of misguided virtue signalling. Discrimination is never acceptable.

  • It seems the Labour Party is beating every political party hands down for diversity and equality. They led with AWS and now ABS (AllBameShortlists). They have a Deputy Leader who was a teenage mum of a not obviously privileged background. They have made strides with gender and class. How can we be anything other than proud of the Labour Party for this? They are trying and succeeding in giving us diversity in our political life. The LibDems ought to be doing the same and we ought to be leading, not following. Our party looks like the ‘white middle class people party’. Whilst that clearly isn’t true, it gives the impression we are racist. We need to change that. If you don’t have ABS what are we going to do about it?

  • Just to emphasise Tony’s point about safe seats. In the nadir of LIb Dem fortunes of 2015 8 seats were won. 5 years on the party still holds just two of those (and has since fallen to third in three).

    I’d also point out that Tony is substantially responsible for getting elected the only other BAME parliamentarian of colour the party has elected in a normal cycle election (and that wouldn’t have happened if gender balance rules had been maintained.

    4 1/2 years out from an election – when no-one can really know what potential target seats might look like – it’s next to impossible to meaningfully allocate shortlists to seats.

  • Sean Hyland 30th Jul '20 - 4:52pm

    Unless a method of supporting candidates is found the use of all- women of all- bame shortlisted only addresses part of the issue.
    As noted by others the cost especially financial can deter individuals from offering themselves for selection. The withdrawal of Siobahn Benita recently is an example.
    Labour succeeds because it has greater resources to call on and explicit sponsorship of candidates by unions. I believe, but, am happy to be corrected, that part of the selection process involves securing union adoption. Angela Rayner is in some ways an inspiring outcome given her early life as a teenage mum with no qua!ifications. She worked hard to gain a position in carework and qualifications. She then followed a path well worn by other Labour MPs in becoming first an employed union official and then getting their support when she decided to become an MP. The Lib Dems have none of the financial resources or support networks to compete with this.
    It is still noble and correct to find ways to increase the opportunity for as diverse a range of fancy to be chosen as possible. Then ways must be found to support them with all the support and resources available.

  • This open letter is pretty damning about the lack of racial equality expressed in the history and present reality of the Liberal Democrats.
    The foregoing discussion thread seems to be saying we either can’t or won’t do anything about it.
    That seems to be wrongheaded. All the BlackLivesMatter protests in this country and around the globe seem to be saying we can and ought to do something about it. We can start by doing something about black and minority ethnic representation. It falls into the range of thought on how we might just go about making LibDems electable.

  • Well let’s sort out the finance then. Shouldn’t that be ‘job done’ at Conference?

  • Sean Hyland, Phil Beesley, you have just identified financing, or lack of it, as a barrier to equality. It ticks the box of Our federal constitution which commits us to eradicating poverty that enslaves.

  • Discrimination for reasons of race or colour is racist and illegal as far as I know.

  • James Belchamber 30th Jul '20 - 5:43pm

    Discrimination isn’t always racist – e.g. running a blood drive for black people is discrimination, but there’s a clear purpose to it (making sure we have stock of blood types predominantly needed by, and provided by, black people). Sometimes we need to discriminate to ensure freedoms are enjoyed equally by everyone.

    Imagine saying black people should die in the name of “colourblind” blood drives? It would be stupid and ridiculous.

    Yet, on equal representation, here we are.

  • David Pocock 30th Jul '20 - 5:55pm

    Kinda agree to the majority here that all anything lists are illiberal. It to keep uses the majority so we can say in effect look at us we got some ok.

    It is also a short cut, it avoids asking questions like why are minorities and working class people not wanting to join the party and progress into politics. Instead we can get some all something lists from the same small group socially who most lib dems pick from, university middle class.

    If you have to force it to happen then that indicates there is a problem, not that force is the solution

  • Phil Beesley 30th Jul '20 - 6:01pm

    LM Sue-Too: “Sean Hyland, Phil Beesley, you have just identified financing, or lack of it, as a barrier to equality. It ticks the box of Our federal constitution which commits us to eradicating poverty that enslaves.”

    Not really.

    I think that it is really hard to get noticed, and when people get noticed it might be for the wrong reasons.

    Liberals should campaign everywhere. Raise money locally; spend locally.

  • Ensuring that adequate stocks of all blood types are available is the normal responsibility of the NHS. You may choose to project this as an example of racism, discrimination or whatever else.

    If they failed to keep stocks of a particular type, that would be racism and discrimination or simple negligence.

    It is a trait of the left to over-correct. It may be well meaning, but it has negative consequences in the other direction. It leads to conflict of interests, indefensible discrimination and as Munira pointed out, it does not produce a satisfactory outcome even for the person it was supposed to benefit. It is also disliked by the majority of the public.

    There is no substitute for fairness and equality.

  • If a behaviour, outcome or policy is not getting us elected we are duty bound to change it. We are not a party that represents the poor, the sick, the disabled, the voiceless, marginalised of all kinds. Disproportionately over represented in those groups are black and minority ethnic populations.
    The working poor are disproportionately represented in those groups. Nobody talks about them either and I see no evidence they are members of any political party. We need to serve all strands of those enslaved by poverty, ignorance and conformity. We would do well to seek them all out, starting with our loyal BAME membership who have been kept waiting.

  • I think what Mr Belchamber is trying to say is that a measure of positive discrimination on this point may go some way for the inertia, stonewalling and other injustices faced by BAME members and candidates for whom, for whatever reason, have talent but have had it overlooked. It is where they have been overlooked on account of institutional racism or unconscious bias at work in the party over decades. Institutional racism, the Macpherson Report said, maybe manifest as unawareness or unintentionality.

  • David Pocock 30th Jul '20 - 6:29pm

    @Sue-Too as a working class former member I would agree but then are we to get all white working class lists too? Seems that one would be a tough pill to swallow but under the established logic of all something lists why not? And as a majority will there be much more white working class lists due to the shear numbers?

    Idk I see the argument but the principles it works under are a very slippery slope. Will we end up balancing under religion too and if not why? Catholics have a historic injustice in this country perhaps greater than any after all. It will take a very just person to balance everything however I fear the reality will be all something lists for those who make the most noise. Which is not really liberal.

  • Sorry to add another comment, but David Pocock raises an important point.

    Why do sufficient numbers of women not enter the boardroom, earn equal pay, enter engineering careers, work in coal mines, etc.? The last example was the clue: they don’t want to. There may be lots of other reasons too. Those obsessed with the rights of women may see this as some sort of discrimination because the genders are not equally represented. But sensible people know that this has nothing to do with it. What is the activist to do? Frogmarch women into careers they do not want? This is where over-correction is not an answer.

    A lot of BAME people may not be interested in becoming parliamentary candidates for the Liberal Democratic Party. A lot of non-BAME people may have the same lack of motivation. Finding out the reasons should be the first step, but there may not be an easy solution.

  • David Pocock 30th Jul '20 - 6:38pm

    Not really my point Peter with respect, though I do see and take your point, I would not be particularly happy to be forced to do anything for a quota.

    My point is maybe liberal Democrats do not attract working class people for a reason. Perhaps it is the demographic is non political, plenty will be but if they are not at all political explain UKIP and Brexit.

    No I think tbh if pressed if is down to a sense rightly or not that lib dems ignore them, are not welcoming to them and talk down to them.

    Had some great discussions at lib dem events but I know I’m the only one there not from university and there is a sense that… Shall we way working class vocabularies and noncormism is not too welcome if one wanders too far from policy. And as that policy is voted for and made for a primarily middle class party there is a lot of it that a working class member might take issue with.

    The summery is maybe the party and political life just isn’t interesting to Name, women and working class people and there will be a load of reasons for it and forcing diversity is just a bandage rather than a cure

  • Michael Bukola 30th Jul '20 - 6:42pm

    I support the principle behind All-BAME shortlists, and will continue to do so despite being rejected for it. However, I was disappointed to discover that many of the now previously under-represented MPs who got through have a sad record of opposing positive action, even though they now find themselves benefiting from a positive action programme like the Party’s Candidate Leadership programme launched back in 2012, including our very own Leadership Candidate, Layla Moran. Opposing a system which you benefit from smacks of someone who pulls the ladder up behind them and shuts the door on anyone who wishes to follow them. It’s poor form.

  • James Belchamber 30th Jul '20 - 6:46pm

    “Is it the systemic oppression? The bullying, threats of violence, the inappropriate advances from senior members? Is that what was putting off women from running for parliament?”

    “No, women obviously just don’t want the jobs! That must be it. We’re doing nothing wrong! Phew.”

    ~And with that, the Liberal Democrats solved the issue of gender inequality in the party. Next stop: race inequality!


  • @Michael – How can you justify discrimination that would block out many candidates, perhaps some ideal and limit the choice to some who may, by chance, be poorly qualified in comparison? What justification exists for skewing the choice to suit your prejudice?

    Why is discrimination more attractive than equal opportunity? Why should a successful candidate from an all BAME shortlist be acceptable to a largely non-BAME population?
    The British people will accept anyone elected by a fair system. I am less sure about them accepting someone forced on to them by an unfair, rigged system, which is what you appear to be recommending.

  • Sue Sutherland 30th Jul '20 - 7:42pm

    Using the cry of ‘it’s illiberal’ to condemn an attempt to rectify historic prejudice, in my view, shows that the commentator is blinkered by a failure to recognise the effects of that long term prejudice . I support AWS and believe we should be fighting for the right to have all BAME shortlists too.
    It was noticeable that, after the party adopted AWS, more women in other seats were also selected. The statement that all prejudice is wrong may be Liberal but it doesn’t take account of how deep existing prejudice goes. If we were starting off creating a new society it’s an admirable statement but we aren’t. We cannot wave a magic wand and say there will be no more prejudice, we have to level the playing field first. If we don’t do this we are simply allowing existing prejudices to carry on which IMO is totally illiberal.

  • @James, none of that. Many women have other interests and priorities. Many have no interest in competing in what they perceive to be a competitive, male dominated world. Some do not want the responsibility, unsocial hours and general demands.

    If you understood any of this, you would realise that rigged elections do not address the issue. Now, please consider why you are strongly driven to change events for those who are currently not too bothered to have their events changed for them. Whose problem are you driven to solve?

  • Sue, shortlists are the ultimate predjudice.

  • David Pocock 30th Jul '20 - 7:59pm

    Sue, it is very tempting to point out that using a cry of “you dont understand prejudice” is a blinkered pov also but lets be more constructive shall we?

    People against the All someone shortlists are against it according to a principle which superseeds everything else, I am sure everyone is aware of the issue just the principle is more important.

    I would rather see a fair open party with zero policies of exclusion reform itself to be more include root and branch than simply force a few mps into the party and call it a day.

    I would be interested to see your response to my earlier point, why not all catholic lists or all working class lists ect. All dyslexic lists? All three of these have historic prejudice and disadvantage, all three you could argue to a lesser extent remain. All three are part of me, so why should I not get a short list exactly?

    @James, I would agree that a part of the problem would be your first point in your latest reply, but the second part is a strawman, no one really is arguing that. Calling people idiots because they do not agree with you is poor form, illiberal and really helps no one.

  • @ Sue Sutherland “I support AWS and believe we should be fighting for the right to have all BAME shortlists too”.

    Does that mean BAME men can’t stand in an AWS shortlist – but white women can ?

  • I agree with Munira Wilson’s comments. One of the arguments against exclusive shortlists is that they are frustrating for talented people who would be likely to have succeeded anyway but who are then accused of opposing a system that they “benefited from”.

    Another problem is that such shortlists can potentially work in the favour of people who have had privileged lives and a good education but happen to meet the all x criteria and exclude people who have experienced genuine hardships and challenges in life but don’t meet the criteria.

  • Sue Sutherland 30th Jul '20 - 10:03pm

    Rather than follow David’s Pocock and Raw into the cul de sac of what aboutery they have created, I’d like to point out that, as Roderick says, AWS has worked for the party and helped us to have some excellent female MPs. I see no reason why all BAME seats wouldn’t achieve the aim of creating a more diverse party too. For years our party has lacked the diversity necessary to appeal to a wide voter base and quite frankly the more “liberal” ways of trying to overcome this just haven’t worked. If the outcome of a course of action is a less liberal party, then I fail to see why we should carry on with it and not go for something which is proved to overcome illiberality.

  • David Pocock 30th Jul '20 - 10:49pm

    @Sue Well it isnt really whataboutism, it is trying to establish what principle is used to decide who and who do not get discriminated against at selection. Avoiding this point is easy enough I suppose but I doubt you will win anyone to your side by doing it.

  • David Pocock 31st Jul '20 - 1:18am

    @Munira that is fair point regarding the cost of running, for me I would have to quit work for sure and then I guess to actually campaign is quite a long process with no guarantee of victory. Yeah I don’t think I could afford that myself, is there help given to candidates running and if they do not win to help them back to their job?

  • David Pocock 31st Jul '20 - 1:22am

    Forgive my ignorance I have no idea of the process really other than poking leaflets into doors

  • James Belchamber 31st Jul '20 - 9:00am

    @Munira the reality is that enough people in the party believe “the best candidate” is a white man (or, believe it on behalf of the electorate) that in selections up and down the country we landed up selecting only white men (this, incidentally, is also a problem with selecting disabled candidates).

    There is a structural bigotry in the party, reinforced by “Well I’m not a bigot, but the voters..” members that have blocked meaningful process right up until we had all-Women shortlists. All the work the leadership programme and the CGB did would have been for nothing if the hands of Local Parties (fearing the electorate wouldn’t welcome a woman candidate) weren’t forced by Conference. Now more of our members have people like them to look up to, and Local Parties have seen it demonstrated that women candidates can also win elections on an even footing with the men.

    Now tell me that isn’t the most effective thing the party has ever done to tackle sexism in our ranks (though, it must be acknowledged here that the fight is far from over). Face facts: the leadership programme and the CGB prepared great candidates for selection, but it was AWS that got us to gender parity.

    Don’t parrot the falsehood that “colour/genderblind” selection processes in structurally racist/sexist institutions is somehow “fair play”. It’s not fair play, and it’s not Liberal.

  • Michael Bukola 31st Jul '20 - 10:21am

    @Peter – This is social justice through inclusion. In December 2017, Vince Cable, in his capacity as Leader of the Lib Dems at the time urged the government to change the law so that all-BAME shortlists are allowed for selecting Parliamentary election candidates. We have to reflect Liberalism and not just espouse it.

  • Simon McGrath 31st Jul '20 - 10:54am

    @james belchamber
    “@Munira the reality is that enough people in the party believe “the best candidate” is a white man (or, believe it on behalf of the electorate) that in selections up and down the country we landed up selecting only white men”

    This is simply untrue

  • James Belchamber 31st Jul '20 - 11:27am

    @Simon I’ve seen it with my own eyes, and heard it with my own ears – and lots of people have shared their experiences of the same thing.

    If you’ve been in the party for as long as you have, and not heard the “Well WE’RE not racist/ableist/sexist, but I don’t think the voters in would vote for a black person/disabled person/woman” then I suspect there’s some selective hearing going on.

  • The sad thing is that we only ended up with AWS as an imperfect top-down solution to address the abject and absolute failure to tackle structural barriers to standing.
    I think Ruth, people want quick fixes and to be seen to do something ‘radical’, and All xxx shortlists fit the bill…
    However, approaches that actually deliver on meritocracy by giving practical support andmentoring to under represented groups so that the good candidates are encouraged to stay the course and stand, aren’t so quick or ‘soundbite’ newsworthy. Interestingly, I suspect such approaches, if adopted wholeheartedly, could also fundamentally change the institutionalised structure of the party.

  • Completely agree with Munira Wilson’s comments. If the Labour Party want exclusive shortlists that’s up to them, but they’re not liberals…..

  • David Warren 31st Jul '20 - 12:58pm

    The difficulty there Ruth is that if we do attract more people from underrepresented groups they won’t get that support.

    As someone from a blue collar background I have faced barriers throughout my time in the party. A recent example of this led me to contact the Diversity people in our party.

    From the conversations I have had we are a long way away from making the Liberal Democrats an organisation that looks like the population it seeks to represent.

  • Sue Sutherland 31st Jul '20 - 1:11pm

    Some time ago in this discussion David Pocock asked me for a clearer definition about deciding on who should be included in an all xxxx shortlist.
    The reason for these shortlists is to overcome not just overt bias but hidden bias so it makes sense for those who look different from the majority of political activists to be given the opportunity to stand without that hidden bias being able to operate. It takes someone just a few seconds to pick up visual signals from a person in order to make a judgement on them. This is just human behaviour but linked to other ways in which we behave makes it much more difficult for someone who looks different to be chosen as a representative. We tend to select people in our own image or someone who looks like a politician should look, in our experience.
    So, when there is a situation in which our party isn’t representative of the population as a whole and hasn’t been for a long time, I would argue that we have to change our selection process because our outcomes under the old system aren’t liberal ones. Women and BAME people are the two most obvious groups, but it also applies to disabled people. There are also people who might be disliked because they sound different. The Irish and people from EU counties are obvious groups to whom this applies but it also applies to women and some people from the BAME community, compounding hidden bias. I don’t think religion comes into it in most of the UK because it’s usually unknown. Northern Ireland is an obvious exception.
    I respect Munira’s position and understand it but no one would think she shouldn’t be an MP because she is doing excellent work. I’m also sad that in order to right historic bias some men are excluded from selection now. I’m afraid they are paying for the years in which white men were supreme and brilliant women and BAME candidates were undervalued. That wasn’t fair either. Hopefully all xxxx selection will need to be only a temporary measure.

  • I understand why people get twitchy about the idea of excluding any group from a short-list, because you can’t exclude a group without excluding individuals, even if they come from a group is over-represented.

    On the other hand, if we are serious about improving representation, then these are the kinds of tools we need to use at least some of the time.

    It was easier to do with AWLs because women are equally distributed all over the country, but I think we can only reasonably introduce all BAME shortlists in parts of the country where there is a reasonably large BAME population. Or do we say that every list in areas above X% or Y% BAME population should have a minimum 50% or total BAME shortlist?

    Is this for councillor seats as well as parliament? What about the London Assembly?

    We need to remember that after years of dragging our feet, it was All Women Shortlists that made the difference for us, but that doesn’t mean the other approaches aren’t important.

    Making it easier for people from all kinds of backgrounds to stand is probably the most important, and recognising that’s only partly about money is essential.

  • David Evershed 1st Aug '20 - 2:55am

    The least well represented group in the Liberal Democrats is the while working class not BAME.

    But there should be no restricted shortlists for election candidates of either category for the reasons set out by Tony Greaves at the start.

    By all means give extra training to those with potential to realise their potential.

  • @ David Evershed “The least well represented group in the Liberal Democrats is the while working class”.

    Which is one of the reasons why the old Liberal Party began a hardly noticed long term decline when the shopkeepers and businessmen rejected Keir Hardie as their Liberal candidate in a by-election in Mid-Lanakshire in 1888.

  • Paul Murray 1st Aug '20 - 10:07am

    The Liberal Democrats has great diversity – it is filled with middle-class people from many backgrounds.

  • David Evans 1st Aug '20 - 11:34am

    The fundamental problem the Lib Dems face is not that there aren’t enough BAME candidates, or women candidates or male candidates or white candidates, it is the fact that it is once again almost impossible for a Lib Dem of any colour, sex or any other grouping to get elected to parliament, anywhere.

    And the reason for that is not because Lib Dems don’t look like the people they want to represent, but because so many of them no longer think like the people they want to represent. Over the last 10 years our party has almost collapsed from being on the verge of holding real power and doing *some* real liberalism, to a pathetic also ran in most of the country, despite having the greatest two chances (Coalition and Remain) it has had in over half a century.

    And the reason was because a whole generation of our leading lights, who have since almost all left the fray, thought that their form of radical liberalism was the answer to the problems faced by the people of this country – Even when the evidence of election after election was showing that the people of this country were deserting the party in droves.

    Voters didn’t vote for Brexit supporting candidates (including Labour ones) because those candidates looked like them, nor did they vote for Remain ones (including a few Lib Dems) because they looked like them either – they voted because of Brexit.

    Now, even worse, we have a nugen of leading lights and influencers, largely led by the cheerleaders of the previous failed generation of leading lights, telling us we need yet more ineffectual radical posturing, navel gazing and tinkering with internal systems to move us even further away from what worked for the previous 50 years and got us from 6 to 60 MPs.

    As a party we have a lot to learn about getting people to vote for us, but the first thing many have to learn is that we have a lot to learn, and up to about 2008 we had leaned it, but somehow we chose to forget.

  • Peter Martin 1st Aug '20 - 11:52am

    “The least well represented group in the Liberal Democrats is the while working class ”

    Eh up! So yer goin’ to ‘av them short lists fer us werking class types too? I’ll ‘av ter practice me old Lancy accent!

  • I had composed a lengthy, considered response, and the @David Evans said most of it for me, especially the “radical posturing, navel gazing and tinkering with internal systems” bit. Also fully support comments of @Tony Greaves and @David Raw.
    Can I just add that out of 11 MPs we have one BAME and another half Palestinian. Apparently approximately 15% of our nation is ethnic minority, so we are just about right on target.

  • Peter Watson 1st Aug '20 - 2:50pm

    @Fiona “I think we can only reasonably introduce all BAME shortlists in parts of the country where there is a reasonably large BAME population.”
    This sounds exactly like the attitude of “I don’t think the voters in [this constituency] would vote for a black person/disabled person/woman” that was being criticised earlier in the thread in order to defend all-XXX shortlists! I think the party risks tying itself up in knots over this.

  • Some of the seat selections were a bit odd e.g Sam Gyimah in Kensington – he didn’t come close to winning but might have had a better chance in many other seats e.g some of the Surrey seats.

  • @David Evans, To be brutally frank, you lost me quite a lot in your comment. But I think I understand the drift. The reason I hang about here is that I used to see a party I could vote for.

    Not any more, but I hang about in case. I support Brexit. I support middle of the road politics. I support common sense politics, fairness and so on.

    It looks like most people here do not extend to fairness as we see in the comments above.

  • Andrew Tampion 3rd Aug '20 - 7:16am

    The problem with all Women, all BAME, or all anything shortlists is that they address the symptoms not the disease. If because of conscious or unconscious bias certain groups aren’t being selected as candidates then what is needed is policies and procedures to deal with that bias. Temporary measures like all BAME shortlists might be useful in parallel with such measures to help in the short term.
    Also exclusive shortlists undermine localism which is a key Liberal Democrat principle. If a local party decided to adopt an all BAME or whatever shortlist that’s not a problem. If the central party imposes exclusive shortlists then that is troubling.

  • John Barrett 3rd Aug '20 - 11:41am

    Some contributors above claim “All-Women shortlists work”

    Do they? Where is the evidence? Are people are crediting AWS for the wrong reason?

    Just because a woman is selected using AWS, it does not mean that she was selected because of the all women short list.

    In Edinburgh West, Christine Jardine was selected using an AWS, however I and everyone else I spoke to regarding the selection at the time, are sure she would have won the selection anyway, as she was the most talented and able candidate, including some men, who were potential candidates, but were not allowed to apply.

    AWS only managed to remove some of the potential competition and the one thing it did do was that it stopped Christine, like Munira Wilson, winning an open selection.

    If Munira and Christine would have won an open selection anyway in their seats, the AWS is not then the reason they were selected as candidates, it was their ability.

    It did not deliver what its supporters claim, but it did undermine their opportunity to show that they would have beaten all comers.

    All women short lists were and are a bad idea, BAME short lists are an even worse idea.

  • John Barrett is correct.

    Any selection procedure that automatically excludes a section of society is discriminatory and illiberal……. Could we also please clarify how it affects a person transitioning from male to female or vice-versa ?

  • John Barrett 3rd Aug '20 - 12:11pm

    One basic flaw in any selection process that is based on, “looking like the people we wish to represent.” is that it elevates the looks of a candidate above the many other important factors that should matter, which are too long to list.

    After 30 years in representative politics at Commuity Council, City Council and as an MP at Westminster; recently I have noticed an increase in identity politics in the Liberal Democrats, which only appeals to interest groups, but does nothing to increase our connection with the wider public and their trust in the party.

    If we make a list of the great contributors to society today; in the field of politics, science, art and elsewhere, their looks were their least important attribute. What they did, what they said and fought for or what they created mattered. Not their looks. Not the shade of their skin.

    If, on the other-hand we look at those sections of modern culture, where looks are all important, what do we get? The Kardashians and Love Island.

    If we follow the “looks or colour or gender are more important than anything else” line, we will rightly be doomed and will deserve to be.

    If however, we value people by the content of their character, not the colour of their skin, we will be heading in the right direction.

    If in doubt, just read Martin Luther King’s I have a Dream speech once again.

  • @John Barrett. You are entirely correct. Just be careful quoting M.L. King’s speech. I did so once are was promptly told off. He didn’t mean what you and I thought he meant, apparently.

  • @ Chris Cory I’m afraid you can’t leave it with innuendo like that, Mr. Cory. An explanation please.

    I am of the generation inspired by that speech in August 1963, and in 1968 wept when he, and not much later, Bobby Kennedy were killed. My wife and I were thrilled to stand on the very spot where Dr. King made the speech on the Lincoln Memorial on the morning that Barack Obama was elected in 2008.

    As Yeats wrote, ‘Tread softly, because you tread on my dreams’.

  • James Belchamber 3rd Aug '20 - 3:30pm
  • James Belchamber 3rd Aug '20 - 3:31pm

    @John Barrett the evidence is in the overwhelming change in the gender make-up of the parliamentary party since we finally implemented all-Women shortlists.

    You’re hand-waving so much I wonder if you can still feel your fingers.

  • David Evans 3rd Aug '20 - 5:00pm

    James, in your eagerness to make a quick rejoinder you seem to have completely missed John’s point, . What John says is simple, good, liberal idealism. It is what you do is more important that what you think. What think say is more important than what you are and what you are is more important than what you look like.

    You seem to think that the fact that there are more Lib Dem female MPs than male is something to be proud of, but our party is in the biggest mess it has been in for nearly 50 years, and of the two leaders who made the biggest mess of it all, one was a woman and one was a man.

    I, and I believe most sensible Lib Dems, think it is more important that the country has more Lib Dem MPs than Tory MPs than the Lib Dems have more women MPs than men. Perhaps you need to think again.

    John has done much much more for Liberal Democracy than you, me or most of the rest of the party, having helped Donald Gorrie win Edinburgh West for the first time when he was the election agent at the 1997 General Election. He then became MP in 2001 after Donald stood down and increased our majority to over 13,000, before handing it on to Mike Crockart in 2010.

    Finger pointing at people who are on the Lib Dem side is rarely an appealing trait, but when they have done so much, it rather emphasises an unwillingness to be a team player, and that is what we need from all Lib Dems, not one line put downs.

  • @ James Belchamber It would be more convincing if you actually produced some evidence about the ‘real meaning’ of the speech direct from Dr King himself, or his immediate circle, instead of recycling interpretations and opinions made over fifty years later by people who may not even have been alive in 1963, They were certainly not party to Dr King’s internal thoughts.

    I could give you my interpretation of a speech made by Asquith in Paisley 1923…… but I’m afraid Asquith, and his confidants at the time are no longer around to either confirm or deny it. In historiographical terms, you’ve offered your interpretation rather than any new convincing evidence.

    Post modernism has its limits, although many folk in the modern Liberal Democrat Party either don’t, or won’t, understand begin to understand this.

    David Evans makes a fair point.

  • James Belchamber 3rd Aug '20 - 8:13pm

    @David Evans sorry, are you appealing to my Liberal deference to the party seniors? When someone’s “done a lot for the party” should we ignore their efforts to hand-wave away reasonable arguments, as your friend John has done?

    This party needs to get over it’s seniority complex.

    @David Raw – again, you can’t just hand-wave any interpretation of MLK you disagree with, especially when those “interpretations” rely on things MLK said that specifically clarify statements that were open to interpretation in the first place.

  • @ James Belchamber Again, no evidence only an assertion. Not good enough Mr. Belchamber.

  • David Allen 3rd Aug '20 - 8:33pm

    A rational compromise – All shortlists must include at least one BAME candidate.


  • David Evans 3rd Aug '20 - 11:14pm

    No James Belchamber, I am pointing out that you are behaving like a spoilt kid trying to do down someone whose Lib Dem values and success far outweigh your own. Get over your incessant need to do down fellow Lib Dems just because they come to a different conclusion to your knee jerk responses and learn to be a team player. Then you might just become an asset to the party.

  • John Barrett 4th Aug '20 - 12:16am

    You will need to do better than accuse people of hand waving, if you want to make an effective argument. It is an insult and does not warrant a response.

    I stand by my comments and have made my point.

  • @James Belchamber [3rd Aug ’20 – 3:31pm]
    the evidence is in the overwhelming change in the gender make-up of the parliamentary party since we finally implemented all-Women shortlists.

    Yes, this may have been achieved, however, from the discussion it would seem that all AWS has achieved is to place a (public) veneer over a party organisation that, if people like Ruth Bright is to be believed, is still of a mindeset that is decades behind the times. The only consoling fact is that most probably both the Labour party and Conservatives are just as backward.

    I suggest it is this failing to get the basic ethos right which is and will continue to cost the party (both in terms of financial backing and in terms of votes); as Blair demonstrated in the 1990’s, by adjusting/changing the image of a party he made Labour electable. Similarly for all his faults Clegg made the LibDems presentable and a credible partner for the Conservatives to enter into a coalition. [Aside: What the coalition did or didn’t achieve aren’t relevant to the point being made here.]

  • Paul Holmes 4th Aug '20 - 9:04am

    @Roland and James. In fact the evidence does not show what you (and others) claim.

    As detailed in some of the comments above (but completely ignored in your responses) the evidence is that in 2010/15 women made up around 30% of those on the approved Parliamentary Candidates list and around 30% of those selected for seats. So no evidence at all of Local Party selection committees being biased against women – rather that not enough women apply to become candidates in the first place. A problem but a very different one to the alleged bias you claim. Furthemore, in 2015 40% of Target Seat candidates were women- which shows that selection committees in the all important Target Seats were in fact being biased in favour of women as women were being selected in disproprtionate numbers in relation to how many were applying.

    Today the Parliamentary Party is 64% female (the majority of whom were not selected by AWS) and 18% BAME, both of which figures mean that those groups are over represented, not under represented.

    Meanwhile our MP’s (and best prospect seats for next time) are mostly confined to prosperous, middle class seats in London and the South East. Our chances and electoral appeal in most of the rest of the UK having been destroyed by the policies and election strategies of the last 3 General Elections. I would argue that it is that lack of diversity and relevance that should be our number one concern.

  • I don’t think we should expect a PPC to give up their job even in target seats.

    Some people have commented about the middle class nature of our MPs. That we have replaced middle class men with middle class women. There has been some mention of the financial burdens of being a candidate. In 2018 according to our financial report to the Election Commission the average number of employees we had during 2018 was 71 a small increase on the 68 for 2017. The wage bill was £2.4 million, giving an average salary of about £33,800. It lists only eight permanent ‘principal’ members of staff. Therefore it would be possible to replace most of our members of staff with candidates from say 50 seats paying them £28,500 each. This would be a way of paying candidates by employing them in roles within the party. This would mean that no one going for a constituency in our top 50 seats would need to be in a well-paid job or have financial support from a family member or have accumulated enough savings to finance having no full-time job during their time as a candidate. Once a general election is over, the unsuccessful candidate could be kept on while they find another role or until they are replaced as a target seat candidate. I suppose we could get a commitment from our MP’s to employ their successor PPC.

    This would deal with Ruth Bright’s point about paying maternity leave for some PPCs, but it wouldn’t apply to all seats and all PPCs. I am not sure if East Hants in 2004-05 was in the top 50 seats (which would have meant it had a paid “agent”).

  • richard underhill.,. 15th Sep '20 - 3:16pm

    David Raw 3rd Aug ’20 – 5:09pm
    Did Asquith support votes for women?
    Did he recognise that women leaders had done well in response to the virus?
    What did he say about the House of Lords?

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