Last night Kelly-Marie Facebooked & Tweeted (and probably in other places where I don’t follow her) announced that she had been selected by the Guildford Liberal Democrats to be their candidate for the 2015 General Election. It wasn’t exactly a surprise as most people that knew the situation thought that it was going to go that way but it wasn’t a fait accompli.
With lots of talk within the party at the moment focused on women and the fact only seven of the 56 MPs (Mike Hancock currently is an Independent MP following his ‘resignation’ of the party whip earlier this week) are women has caused a bit of a stir shall we say. Seven of 56 is not exactly a great ratio and my GCSE maths comes up with that is one female MP for every seven men. As a party that promotes equality that is not a great figure and reflects poorly on the party.
However I think it is fair to point out that the Lib Dems do not have what you could call ‘safe seats’ where women can be parachuted into and then bring up those ratios and learn on the job as it were. This is why the party has to develop keen, hard working and ultimately electable women (as well as men) and get them in a position where they can win both nominations in target seats and also in turn win said elections.
I am on the record as saying that I don’t believe that sex is a barrier within the Liberal Democrats. I am also on the record that I don’t believe in positive discrimination. I want the local parties to nominate and back the best candidate in their opinion for their constituency based on whatever criteria they have laid down. Whether that is they want a young person to re-energise the local party and work from the ground up on a long-term project, whether they want someone experienced who can come in and win the seat at the next election or want someone local who has a long track record who the voters can relate to. Whatever it is I don’t think that gender, sexuality, race etc. should (and neither do I believe) it is a factor.
There has been some talk about what if Mike Hancock resigned not only the party whip but also his job as MP then who would the Lib Dems put up. The common consensus is that Gerald Vernon-Jackson would be the best placed to defend that seat. However many have argued that they would be disappointed by this because the party needs more women and this would be a good place to put one in a position to win despite them not probably being the ideal candidate. This also happened in Eastleigh with a significant proportion of Lib Dems unhappy that a white male got the nod. Sometimes the best candidate will be a man and sometimes it will be a woman, if it is a man then people shouldn’t (in my opinion) get mad because of this.
Now on to Kelly-Marie and I think she is a wonderful example not only to young women members but to all young members both men and women. To borrow directly from her own site and in her own words:
Always politically active, since joining the Liberal Democrats, Kelly-Marie has managed parliamentary and local election campaigns in Ashford in Kent, and is now an executive officer of Guildford local party. She was elected by the party to the Federal Conference Committee and Federal Policy Committee in September 2012 and chairs the Policy Equality Impact Assessment Committee. She is also a South East Regional representative and elected by the Social Liberal Forum to sit on their Council in July 2012.
So as you can see, she has put in the work and the time to gain valuable experience in many issues of politics and has shown she is an excellent candidate. You can read more about her at the site linked to above but if you know her or at least know of her then you’ll know she is a fantastic choice for Guildford and the local party there have put themselves in a position to really attack a seat that in 2001 returned a Lib Dem MP.
The best way for young people who aspire to serve is to work hard, work on campaigns, go to meetings and learn from those who have done it before. The more you absorb from others to add to your own ideas and opinions then you more rounded you’ll become and the more valuable an asset you’ll be. This is the same in any profession but in politics it is one of the hardest places to just bluff your way through.
So good luck to Kelly-Marie for her Guildford 2015 campaign. If the people of Guildford elect her then they will have an intelligent and hard-working MP. A pretty darn good combination you might say. For other young and ambitious Lib Dems I would say that Kelly-Marie is one of the people you should try and hunt out at conference or drop off an e-mail too because she would be a valuable source of advice for how to get to where you might want to be – a PPC in a seat that is winnable.
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