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All women shortlists

March 15, 2016 2:29 PM
By Iain Donaldson in Liberal Democrat Voice

Liberal WomenAt Liberal Democrat Conference in York this weekend I have been told by a number of women that they would not want to be the candidate for a seat that selected from an all women shortlist. I have some news for them, most of them won't be. The motion passed means that of the around 580 seats that the Liberal Democrats will contend 8 must have all women shortlists.

I will now issue a direct challenge to those women, don't walk away from the party but instead as there are up to 572 seats not selecting on all women shortlists so choose one of those seats and get selected as a Parliamentary Candidate. However, my challenge goes much further than that because right now we only have enough approved candidates who are women to fill a quarter of those seats so at the same time convince another woman who is capable of standing for parliament to do the same.

Meanwhile, I will continue to press for the following changes that I think are essential if this party is ever to achieve the equality and parity that we need in our list of approved candidates:

  1. All main committees should be elected by STV on one member one vote with 50/50 zipping of male and female candidates and one seat reserved for the highest placed self identifying non-binary candidate (in the event that no self identifying non-binary candidates are directly elected).
  1. We must introduce a standard accredited and tested modular training package with the appropriate modules being determined by the nature of the office sought and make the module on unconscious bias and pastoral care mandatory. This training must be accredited in order that it can be transferred into the workplace and any candidate who has not completed the training should be ineligible to seek election. This would include not only party nominations to external bodies but also those to internal party committees.
  1. We must restrict all electoral divisions (parliamentary, ward, mayoral, PCC or Region) from commencing selection of candidates until at least one of its resident members from an underrepresented minority group has achieved the appropriate approval.
  1. We must require that all appointees to sub-committees and working parties face the same standard of testing.

In a party with around 70,000 members, 35,000 of whom are women we must have more than 178 women who are able and willing to stand for parliament. It can be neither fair nor just that no matter how many MP's this party had elected at the last General Election we would never have achieved anything even close to parity between the number of men and women we returned to parliament.

AWS won't change the culture of the party, but it will give us a reason to discuss the issue and find a solution. Every journey begins with a single step and yesterday the Liberal Democrats took a tentative step towards securing the equality for ourselves that we expect to see in others.

Note: you can view the debate here, about 44 minutes in. The agenda for the conference is here and the Conference Dailies which include the amendments for Sunday are here.

* Chair of Manchester Gorton Liberal Democrats, a member of the NW Regional Executive and the English Council and Vice President of LGBT+ Liberal Democrats