English Party proposes changes to Lib Dem selection rules to boost diversity

The next meeting of the English Council will be debating proposed changes to the Liberal Democrat selection rules for Westminster general elections and for European Parliament selections.

For Westminster, the proposals from the English Candidates Committee would implement in England changes that follow from the passage of the diversity motion at the party’s York federal spring conference (although the motion for English Council does not cover all parts of the York motion, such as the amendment added in about local government).

As with the motion passed after amendment in York, the steps which these rule changes implement are limited by the current state of the law which allows all-women and all-disabled shortlists but not, for example, all-BAME shortlists.


Although it does not say this explicitly, the wording of the motion and proposed detailed rules changes look to take the now standard legal definition of ‘woman’ and therefore include anyone who has followed the process set out in the Gender Recognition Act 2004 to change their gender.

For the European Parliament, the motion from the English Candidates Committee suggests two actions. First, the reintroduction of gender requirements at the top of regional candidate lists, using a method that is a variation on what was used successfully in the selections for the 1999 European Parliamentary elections. In 1999 half the lists had to have a man at the top and half a woman, with male and female then alternating down the list. This time, as you can see below, the requirement is for at least one of the top two in each region to be a woman – which could mean both being female, and also could mean in any particular region the top slot being taken by a man. Both of those options show the significant extra flexibility in these proposals compared to the 1999 version.

Second, action to improve the party’s ethnic diversity by requiring for each European Parliament region in England that “one of the top four candidates on the list, and at least two of the top six candidates on the list, are from BAME backgrounds”. In both cases, as the detailed rules changes proposed set out, that is subject to there being at least that number of BAME applicants shortlisted.

Taking action on BAME representation was one of the steps Tim Farron called for during the Lib Dem leadership contest and these proposals echo the measures used in the recent London GLA list selections.


Aside from this official proposal from the English Party there is also a separate motion about European Parliament selections from several party members being proposed which would re-introduce zipping for gender along the lines of the 1999 system, but for other diversity strands simply says there should be unspecified “provision to be made for candidates from under-represented groups”.

Note: I’ve updated the description of the proposals for European Parliament selections to make it clearer as my original attempt to provide a short summary was liable to confuse rather than clarify.

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