Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Diversity Debate: EMLD and Simon 0, Merit 3

Another diversity motion, another failure, would be my pithy summation of today's debate.

I have never been happy about quotas, preferred status or all-anything shortlists, and I had already made my concerns known. The late withdrawal of the paragraph requiring two all-BAME shortlists in winnable seats went some way to addressing those concerns, and what was left, while it had serious flaws, was a genuine response to perceived failings.

Unfortunately, the golden rule of achieving radical change was overlooked - you need to build a coalition. Getting Simon Hughes to speak for you and implying that opposition is a vote against the BAME community is not enough. EMLD failed yet again to engage with key individuals and groups. There was no attempt to talk to returning officers and candidate committee chairs, no attempt to test opinion, no sense of compromise until it was too late. Even then, it shouted "our way or the highway, brooking little or no dissent from those BAME activists who disagree.

Liberal Youth's amendment, removing all the proposed actions that aren't already in place, was purist in nature but liberal in intent. I wasn't in favour of the second element, arbitrary in nature, inaccurate in fact and unachievable in timing. It is a sign of EMLD's failure to establish a credible case that it was passed anyway.

Given the butchered state of the motion as finally passed, it is as though the past four and a half years had never happened. There have been some bright spots. The appointment of a National Diversity Advisor, the creation of a Diversity Unit, a dedicated post for dealing with minority and specialist media and, above all, the Next Generation Initiative, are genuinely positive steps. But we need real action across the board, with more people with more knowledge brought into the network.

I have been contacted by a number of individuals, women and BAME, who think that my experience may be of use to them. Apart from being flattered, I am delighted to be able to make a small contribution towards helping them to make the breakthrough. Success as a candidate is dependent on talent, but also being in the right place at the right time, and seizing the opportunities when they come. A bit of information, well-applied, will make that easier.

Finally, we are where we are. All of us, if we're serious about establishing a diverse party at every level, need to do our bit, and fast. Selections in winnable seats will start, and unless we are ready, they will slip by, leaving us to play catch-up with lead shoes on. There simply isn't time to lose...


Lester Holloway said...

You've made this point before about EMLD not building coalitions - on LDV - well, I and many others spent the whole conference talking to delegates, MPs, CGB, DELGA etc etc. We consulted extremely widely on the motion itself before conference, your accusations don't equate witth reality.

If you had consulted us about your main point, the definition of BAME, we'd have told you about all the work that has been done in this area, maybe clearing up that point before your speech.

Mark Valladares said...


I disagree. You consulted the people that you thought were influential, not the people who might have been useful.

Our candidate system is run by Regional Candidates Chairs, Returning Officers and candidate assessors. You didn't bother to consult with them, as became painfully obvious. These are people who live with, and care deeply about, the outcomes of selections. They are traditionally sceptical about quotas, but surprisingly pragmatic in pursuit of fairness.

On your second point, I can only view the suggestion that I should consult you as arrogance personified. It is for you, as the promoter of change, to make the case for that change, and it appears that you failed to do so. You, or Meral, or anyone else, could have addressed the issue of definition. One in six of the non-white population is of mixed race, so it is hardly of minor import.

The impression given by some members of EMLD is that dissent from the groupthink is akin to betrayal. It isn't, it is honest disagreement. I respect your views, even if I don't agree with them. I am yet to be convinced that you reciprocate.

Lester Holloway said...

Mark, I hope my comments are not "arrogance personified" I was simply pointing out that there has been work done on the subject of definitions, precicely (in my interpretation) to take this particular red herring out of the pan that has been wheeled out as a stumbling block over many many years and in many different places whenever the demand for race equality is made.

Maybe we didn't consult everybody, but you know one day people like me will give up fighting for this issue and the party will be left in peace. I think I might offend if I said what the implications of that would be.

Mark Valladares said...


Alright then, let's see the definition and see who is included and who isn't. Whilst EMLD's leadership have talked about having a definition, nobody seems willing to publish it. Given that, in the event of any dispute as to eligibility, an appeal panel would need to be convened, it might be nice to know what they would have to work with if your proposals are passed at some future point.