Lib Dem leadership contender Norman Lamb has made the first out-of-the-ordinary proposal of the 2015 leadership contest, calling for the party’s Deputy Leader no longer to be elected by MPs from the ranks of MPs.
His particular reason is that the current rules mean both leader and Deputy Leader (technically Deputy Leader of the Parliamentary Party in the House of Commons) will be a man for the foreseeable future.
We have danced around gender imbalance at the highest levels for too long ….. and I am not prepared to wait a further five years before women are able to feature at the leadership level…
As leader I will immediately propose to the federal executive that we should move to elect a Deputy Leader who is not required to be a member of the House of Commons, but who will play a major role as one of the party’s leading voices and campaigners. She could be one of the former or future colleagues mentioned below; a peer, a member of a devolved chamber or the European Parliament; a leading councillor or seasoned campaigner…
We must put in place the mechanism to let our members – including the fantastic avalanche of new members — to make the choice.
I’m not quite comfortably with the phrase “leadership level” as there is a female, and very good, Party President in the form of Sal Brinton.
But his overall point is a good one (for very similar reasons to the ones I wrote in Choosing Parliamentary candidates isn’t just about the individual; it’s also about the team.
This move also echoes his concerns about gender imbalance expressed before the election. Prior to the election, I reported back in Liberal Democrat Newswire #59 that he said:
We have failed ultimately to get a good balance into Parliament and we have to think of other things to pump-prime the change … The current imbalance, the likely continued imbalance and the potential for the situation to be less good make me believe that something more is required and that’s why I argue for some form of positive action … You may get a cluster of seats, and you say within that cluster of seats there has to be 50:50 [candidates] between men and women. You then avoid imposing a particular shortlist on a particular seat, but within that they will have to work together to get a balance of men and women.
Of course, the situation now is worse than he expected then.
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