Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Diversity and equality - missing the point?

I feel kind of bad about returning to this topic but, regretfully, have little choice it would appear. I've already noted the lack of actual content of the motion, and now I have to admit to being somewhat depressed about the quality of the response.

EMLD (Ethnic Minority Liberal Democrats) and the EMETF (Ethnic Minority Election Task Force) are touting their own amendment which includes the following gems:

Delete lines 10 to 11 and replace with

Conference urges all individual members, all local Parties and every section of the Liberal Democrat organisation to help recruit, encourage, mentor , support and select candidates from the under represented groups, and in particular visible (my emphasis) ethnic minority and women candidates for the Westminster Parliament, the Greater London Assembly and Local Councils.

I loathe the word visible. I'm an ethnic minority, albeit not of the heart on sleeve variety. Am I to be discriminated against because I'm not visible, although my surname marks me out as anything but white, anglo-saxon and protestant? Nought out of three ain't bad... but apparently not good enough to merit support...

Oh, but how about this...

Delete to end of line 27

Replace with

Furthermore conference urges State and Regional parties to sign up to the principle of equality in representation and to commit to implementing procedures which will ensure the chances of ethnic minority and women candidates being discriminated against are minimised.

What on earth does this mean? Are we to presume that the candidate approval process and the selection rules militate against ethnic minority candidates? For the record, the procedures don't. So are we supposed to roll out diversity awareness training to our members? I'm really sorry, but whining that life is unfair and asking your oppressors to come up with a solution is lame, in the extreme.

After line 32 add

Conference calls on the Leadership and the Campaigns Department to produce a strategy for speeding up the election of ethnic minority MPs followed by the election of MPs from other under groups. In particular conference asks that our top 100 target seats in the next general election include a fair proportion of ethnic minority and women candidates so as to reflect the community we serve.

Furthermore conference calls for any seats vacated by Liberal Democrats MPs at the next general election to be reserved for ethnic minority and women candidates.

The first paragraph here is well-meaning but dangerous. If the vast majority of our top 100 target seats are in areas where the ethnic minority population is below 5%, as I thoroughly expect them to be, is this a demand for, effectively, less ethnic minority candidates? As for the second paragraph, words fail me. Are you seriously proposing restrictive lists for certain constituencies? Didn't you learn anything from Blaenau Gwent? If even the massed control freaks of the Labour Party wouldn't wear it, what chance do you really think you have of persuading a bunch of, whisper it cautiously, liberals?

Sometimes I despair, I really do...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I agree - these amendmentas look ill thought-out. I suspect they may also suffer from the same problem as pervious amendments, i.e. be such complete re-writes that they are regarded as wrecking amendments and ruled out of order.

James Graham has a small but perfectly formed amendment on the Campaign for Gender Balance bit which I would recommend.