Earlier today at the Scottish Liberal Democrats conference the full package of measures proposed by Willie Rennie and colleagues to improve the diversity of the party’s Parliamentarians, including all-women shortlists, was voted through.
Amongst the votes was one on a constitutional amendment which met the required two-thirds majority. To go for a package with controversial measures that had to hit such a high bar was a gamble, but it paid off. In fact, support for the package was about 3-1.
As Willie Rennie wrote for Liberal Democrat Newswire #76:
In periods of adversity, organisations have opportunities to renew, refresh and reorganise to prepare for future successes. For the Scottish Liberal Democrats that opportunity is to build a team of candidates in winnable seats that is more reflective of society.
It cannot be a mark of a system of equality and opportunity that only five of the thirty-six new parliamentarians in the last twenty years were women. Yet that is what our current system has produced and I am determined to change it.
Our conference in Edinburgh will have a choice. They can try, yet again, to achieve more balance amongst our future parliamentarians with the same system that has delivered white, male dominated parliamentary groups since the war. (No, I’m wrong. It’s forever).
Or they can back the proposals that I have developed with a group of wise and experienced campaigners.
- The top of the Scottish European List in 2019 will be reserved for a woman.
- The top five most winnable, but not currently held, Westminster seats in 2020 will be reserved for women.
- A new package of support (including financial), responsibilities, reporting mechanisms, training and mentoring for all under-represented groups including, but not exclusively, women and ethnic minorities.
- Additional measures for the Scottish Parliament in 2021 will be agreed in the autumn following the results of the May elections.
- In interpreting the motion any approved candidate who does not identify as male or as female shall be able to access the same arrangements as are proposed for women.
Notable amongst the supporters of the move was Jo Swinson, who before becoming an MP had been a high profile opponent of a previous attempt to introduce all-women shortlists, giving one of the most effective speeches in the then conference debate.
In a few weeks time, the Liberal Democrat federal conference will also debate a similar package of measures.
Here’s what happened today:
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