political

Scottish Lib Dems vote through major candidate diversity package, including all-women shortlists

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.

That package of measures – which is limited by what the law permits – includes:

  • 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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14 comments
Mark Chivers
Mark Chivers

Flo you were picked on your ability not your gender. Would you not feel patronised if you were picked on any grounds other than ability.

Nate Brett
Nate Brett

Hi Mark, you are right something needs to change for sure. I would love for us to be for leaders in this area of public life, but I just don't think this sort of discrimination is the way forward. I honestly don't have the answers, but they must be out there. I don't even think the nature of politics needs to change because that would be to imply that woman can't cope with the way it is now which is clearly rubbish. I want equality in every way possible and singling out people by having single gender selection seems like we have run out of ideas. I can't imagine how the constituencies that will have this inflicted on them will be picked or how they will feel. If an area has woman who are good enough to be an MP in them, then they should fight for their right to be picked (just as they will have to fight for the seat against all comers). If there are not enough woman in a seat then stopping men from standing and shipping in women from other areas is not the answer. Are we also going to have all minority short lists? All disabled short lists? I guess they are groups that are dramatically under represented. Please don't get me wrong, this is a massive problem, I just feel strongly that recrimination of any king is wrong and I thought we would be the last to do it

Mark Pack
Mark Pack

Nate Brett We've been trying exactly what you suggest for the party's nearly 30 year history and it's not succeeded. We still have Parliamentarians who are overwhelmingly white, male and middle class. Isn't it sensible after 30 years of failing to try something different?

Mark Pack
Mark Pack

The problem with our current system is that we don't get merit with it. E.g. 86% of our MPs have been men - just nearly half our membership is female and just over half the electorate is female. We're missing out on the talents of a huge number of more diverse candidates at the moment - which is why we need to take action to overcome that. Simply trying what we've always tried before (for nearly 30 years now!) to get the best people has repeatedly failed. That's why to get the best people in future we need to do something more drastic as a short-term measure to kick start things properly.

Flo Clucas
Flo Clucas

98 years since women got the vote. 52% of the population. Equal Pay Act still not fully implemented. Rwanda has 52% of its MPs who are women. We have not one. Fair playing field? I want that but women are so far behind men that something needs to be done. Our great 19th and 20th century governments realised that disadvantage had to be tackled. So should we.

Dorothy Ives
Dorothy Ives

Every candidate should get through on merit - not anything to do with gender!

Stephen Wintersgill
Stephen Wintersgill

How does an all woman shortlist promote diversity? Homogeneity of shortlists ought to be anathema to anyone claiming an interest in diversity, which, one ought to note, is not the same as equality. Poor show.

LawrenceJennings
LawrenceJennings

This is a profoundly illiberal and undemocratic move and one sure to hurt our party, both morally and in the elections. Chris Ward said it best at the 2010 Lib Dem conference: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y98n3w2t9Oc

No position should be reserved for anyone, regardless of what has come before, regardless of their gender, race, sexuality etc. This move will reduce the legitimacy of our party in the eyes of many of the electorate, and so it should. This is a tragic step back for our party when we should be being viewed as a strong centralist party that focuses on human and civil rights, not a party kowtowing to a vocal group of activists within her ranks. Our party has become a little less electable and worse, moral.    



Mark Chivers
Mark Chivers

It'll be interesting to see the result if anyone challenges this at the European Court re Human Rights.

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  1. […] Some of the proposed Conservative Party reforms – such as much greater central control over local parties – are very much not the Liberal Democrat way, and some of the reforms – such as the bursary scheme – show the advantage of having money to spend and hence are set to be significantly more generous than similar Liberal Democrat measures, such as the bursary scheme in the Scottish Lib Dems diversity package. […]

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