Last month Lib Dem Women was launched – an amalgamation of the Campaign for Gender Balance and Women Liberal Democrats and they are imploring members to sign up and join in making the Lib Dems a party which encourages women to get all the way to the top without any barriers due to their gender.
Now it may surprise one or two of you but I am indeed a member of this group and as such I got sent through nomination papers for their executive the other morning. This got me thinking. Then a couple of days ago a Lib Dem member blogged and tweeted about how Paddy Ashdown had declared that he wouldn’t be sitting on any all male panels and plenty of people RT it in my twitter timeline but she has subsequently deleted the blog post so whether this was not true or she decided to delete the blog for other reasons well I just don’t know.
The main point though is that members – mainly female members – were delighted that Paddy had decreed that he wasn’t going to stand on all male panels and therefore surely members would also want at least one man to be involved with Lib Dem Women? Makes sense, no?
Now I’m probably not the guy for this. I firmly disagree with positive discrimination when it comes to PPC’s and believe that the progress of women within the party will have to come from other avenues. Unlike the other main parties the LDs do not have any natural safe seats where women can be elected and learn on the job. Therefore women (and men) who aren’t already MPs will face an uphill battle to get the nomination for a winnable seat and it is harder (for both sexes) to get their foot in the door with the party due to this.
In my opinion the best way to deal with this is to have gender equality firmly on the map internally. Now whether this means that a certain % of all national internal bodies be made up of men and women or some other way I don’t know. This maybe why there is a group to discuss all these matters. For example I could propose that all internal bodies have a male and a female as Chair/Vice and that people vote for a list of people and the person with most votes gets the chair and the next highest person of the opposite gender gets vice. That is a possibility but recently Lib Dem Youth voted for a female chair and vice and that has been roundly rejoiced so in my scenario that would have failed to happen unless we insert a ‘well unless the two highest votes are for women and therefore sod the quota system.’
Also what happens if say for a national party group not enough people of the opposite gender apply? Say we have a 40% minimum of one gender in all national party groups and in elections only 27% of the candidates are of a certain gender. Then what do we do? Also training is of vital importance. Getting people interested in politics is hard but when they are interested then you give them the most backup you can. For many young people politics is an interest but unless that interest is nurtured then it can dissipate and I think that is similar to issues LDW face. If women don’t believe that they can progress then they won’t bother but if we can show there is a route either further up the party internally or towards being a PPC then interest will ignite.
There are many questions to answer but I really do think that Lib Dem Women should not just be made up of women because doesn’t that doesn’t really help their remit of gender equality. So I would implore a man or two who have joined Lib Dem Women to put themselves forward to become members of the executive. I’m more than comfortable with the main positions being all filled by women (but if they had a male vice for example that wouldn’t be a bad thing) but there are eight positions available on the executive outside the main positions and two or three of them hopefully will be filled up with men who also advocate gender equality and can give a different viewpoint to help aid the whole situation along.
Update: I’m told that Labour actually outlawed internal party election quotas which is a bit of a bugger considering I just spent a good while advocating that. Oh well. My main point still stands though. Need to find ways to excite and show enthusiastic women (as well as men and youth) that there is a future of progression if they want that and I think having different viewpoints is vital to working out the best way forward for gender equality within the party.
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