So reports the Huffington Post:
Senior Liberal Democrats have accepted that the party may need to resort to all-female shortlists or other tough measures to increase the representation of women and minority groups among its MPs…
Tim Farron MP … said that he was “utterly embarrassed” that only seven of the party’s MPs were women.
“Over the years we’ve had several debates on the crushing lack of women in the House of Commons, and our zero lack of representation from black and ethnic minority communities, and the debates we’ve always had are about the practical way to create equality and the liberal argument about how people should get there on their own merits,” he said. “Frankly I think we’re beyond that time.” …
Former LibDem leader Paddy Ashdown, who also spoke on the panel, said that the lack of women LibDem MPs winning election to parliament during his tenure was the “biggest failure” of his political career.
“I don’t like women shortlists or shortlists for anybody. I find them illiberal and I find them demeaning to those who are put in that position, and I find them potentially insulting.”
Interrupting applause from party activists at that point, however Ashdown added:
“The truth is that we have failed at this for too long, and if the leadership programme doesn’t work then I think we should be doing this. If this is the only way, through a temporary mechanism, to crack this nut that we have singularly and shamefully failed to crack, then I’ll be in favour of it.”
At a meeting of the Liberal Democrat History Group later in the day, Paddy Ashdown repeated his change of view, saying that the sort of measures he used to oppose would be necessary if the leadership programme did not succeed.
UPDATE: When he later became leader of the Liberal Democrats, Tim Farron oversaw the introduction of all-women shortlists.