As an organisation, we’re doing pretty poorly in accommodating the diversity of our membership – that much should be obvious. A disproportionate number of men stand for elected positions within Liberal Youth. Worse still is the number of non-white and disabled candidates putting themselves forward, not to mention the representation of young and student parents and carers, which is frankly an affront to the sort of pluralistic organisation we ought to be running here.
The sad thing is that the party at large is no better. As a political party, our parliamentary group is woefully pale, and (I hope they’ll forgive me for saying so) more than a little stale. Our peers, by virtue of not facing democratic election remain somewhat more diverse than our group in the Commons, which despite them all being good people, they are unfortunately still just good, white men. Nick Clegg walked up to the IR Cymru stall at Welsh conference a few years ago when I was its Vice Chair and Treasurer, remarking that we were all a little male and pale. It was a valid criticism, but I’m sure he didn’t picture himself ending up in an even less diverse group than we had present. From what I hear, it’s likely all-women shortlists are likely to be debated in the upcoming conference in York, but I don’t intend to talk about this here.
No, my concern is primarily with the organisation I co-chair: Liberal Youth. Something has to be done, as a great number of people are keen to point out regularly. The question remains as to what though. We’ve already started monitoring diversity with the use of a handy form Charley Hasted worked on (all but three candidates from the LY England elections have responded). But, I’m afraid I don’t have a comprehensive solution to the problem we’re facing, but I’m rather hoping that at least some of you do have a few ideas you wouldn’t mind sharing.
This is why our wonderful Welfare and Access Officers Ems and Charley are going to be setting up a Diversity Working Group, representing currently under-represented groups in Liberal Youth to see what they think needs to change in order to encourage wider and more diverse participation in our own internal elections. If all goes according to plan, the recommendations of the working group will be taken forward to our own conference this year, where we’ll be able to vote to change things for the better.
As the youth wing of the Liberal Democrats we share a commitment to equality of opportunity, but to realise that we need to take a long and hard look at the state of our own figurative house. So if you’re interested, make sure you pay attention to your e-mails tomorrow because the chance to get our house in order is just around the corner.