Tuesday, September 19, 2006

A year later, more warm words, but real progress?

I've already indicated that I had been unimpressed by the tenor of the motion scheduled for consideration on equality and diversity issues. And now, gentle reader, I have to report that the debate which followed was, frankly, equally unconvincing.

We are promised greater resourcing for staff to address these issues, yet the Federal Treasurer had, the previous day, indicated that this would be "very difficult". I sympathise with him on that, knowing that all three political parties have difficulties in funding current activities, let alone additional mandates.

The first amendment, from Surrey East, sought to remove language that I had created for the motion debated in Harrogate. If it had subsequently been argued that the idea that ethnicity or gender of the chosen candidate be a factor in deciding between two equally worthy options as to whether central support and funding would be available, they probably wouldn't have tried to remove it at all. Alas, there are some who would try to use the concept and torture it beyond mercy. Fortunately, it fell.

The second amendment, requesting that "our top target seats at the next general election include a fair proportion of ethnic minority and women candidates", is, I'm afraid, meaningless and I am disappointed, although unsurprised, that it was successfully passed. After all, it came with the imprimatur of the Ethnic Minority Liberal Democrats... which, dear Federal Conference, doesn't actually make it any good.

Having now created a sense that something will happen, I have to confess that it almost certainly won't. Good prospects are already selecting, and, given that Local Parties are entirely sovereign in terms of who they select, how do you make this particular dream come true? In two years time, when disenchantment has set in, this particular chicken will come home to roost.

Effectively, any progress on the whole issue of getting more women, and more ethnic minority Liberal Democrats elected as parliamentarians is now dependent on the goodwill of the leadership. We must now effectively trust them to do the right thing, adhering to our shared liberal values whilst doing so. My question is, do they want to make a difference, or be seen to be trying to do so? And that, my friends, is the crux of the dilemma.

But never mind, I've got a tax debate to get to, and we all know how much I love those...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hate to say it Mark, but with the best will in the world the greatest mistake made was not getting rid of the ridiculous hanging amendment in the spring which was a deliberate stall. However that said I think from what I can see that the leadership is actually behind a move to increase diversity even if you don't like their chosen (and undemocratic) tactics. I think the biggest issue is that of resourcing and quite honestly that is due to the prejudices and turf wars being played out over budgeting. Let's be blunt we all know that the only department considered worth funding is campaigns. And anything else is a second class work area. Myopic indeed.