Thursday, March 04, 2010

Why Don't the LibDems Select BME Candidates in Winnable Seats?

The LibDems don't have a single black or minority ethnic MP, MEP, AM, MSP, or London Assembly member. They also don't have a single BME PPC, to my knowledge, in a winnable seat.

The Conservatives have recently selected five BME candidates in safe seats. After the election there will be at least eleven and probably 16 BME Tory MPs.

On the LibDem benches there will be none.

Nick Clegg has been leader of the LibDems for two years now. Is it too much to ask why he hasn't made a single speech on what he intends to do about making the LibDems elected politicians reflect the society they purport to represent?

UPDATE: The point of this post was to contrast what David Cameron has done with what Nick Clegg hasn't done. Cameron recognised there was a problem and addressed it - not by positiove discrimination, but by positive action. As a result, high calibre BME candidates have been selected. Clegg has said very little, and OBV have only been able to identify three seats where there is even a possibility of the LibDems electing a BME MP. I would submit that none of them are very likely to win.

When I talk to LibDem friends about this issue they all admit privately that it is an embarrassment for the Party that they have not made more progress in this area, and indeed on the selection of women. What a pity that in the comments LibDem supporters are behaving like ostriches and pretending it is a non issue. What's just as disappointing is the number of people on the right who clearly think it is a problem Cameron should not have bothered addressing.

UPDATE 1.15pm: Sunder Katwala has blogged HERE and agrees with me, while LibDem blogger Mark Thompson thinks electoral reform is the answer. Astonishibgly complacent. LibDems seem to think that electoral reform is the answer to most of our woes. It isn't. look at Italy.

49 comments:

Roland Deschain said...

I didn't realise there was a contest to see who could have the most BME candidates in winnable seats.

JuliaM said...

"The LibDems don't have a single black or minority ethnic MP, MEP, AM, MSP, or London Assembly member. They also don't have a single BME PPC, to my knowledge, in a winnable seat."

Who cares? I mean, it shouldn't matter what they look like, only whether they are good MPs, shouldn't it?

Ah: "The Conservatives have recently selected five BME candidates in safe seats. After the election there will be at least eleven and probably 16 BME Tory MPs."

*sigh*

Do you not realise how this sort of thing (the pursuit of tokenistic identity politics) puts off so many voters, Iain?

Will Dean said...

It seems unlikely given their miserable record on everything else, but maybe they're bright enough to see that the colour of people's skin doesn't matter very much?

Sean Haffey said...

I have no knowledge of the LibDem strategy, being a Tory.

I just wonder whether they have chosen the best person for the job rather than being obsessed with someone's colour, sex or anything else.

Mark Reckons said...

Iain.

One of the benefits of multi-member constituencies is that each party would find it in their interests to provide a good spread of candidates in each constituency in order to maximise their vote. Therefore all parties would be likely to increase their ethnic minority, female and other currently under-represented MPs.

So every time Nick Clegg talks about reforming the voting system he is also talking about trying to address this problem too.

LibCync said...

Iain,

I know the election shutters have come down so it would be too much much to expect anything intelligent or non-cheap from you but 3 seconds with google found me:

A speech from Nick Clegg calling for more diversity in the LibDems:
http://www.ethnic-minority.libdems.org/news/000005/nick_clegg_calls_for_more_diversity_in_the_liberal_democrats.html

Nick Clegg launching the "New Generation" project:

http://www.ethnic-minority.libdems.org/news/000036/liberal_democrats_launch_new_generation_of_ethnic_minority_candidates_with_reception_at_cowley_street_on_30_june.html

and Operation Black Vote saying that LibDems hope to have 1-3 BME MPs after the election:

http://operationblackvote.wordpress.com/2009/12/24/the-futures-bright-for-the-lib-dems/

So Iain, will you retract the statements "On the LibDem benches there will be none" and "is it too much to ask why he hasn't made a single speech on what he intends to do about making the LibDems elected politicians reflect the society they purport to represent?"

Oh hang on that's almost the entire post. Dare you!

Paul said...

How many BME MPs did you lot have prior to 2005?

The Lib Dems elected their first in a by-election in 2004 and he lost in 2005.

I guarantee that with extra funds from the BME Lib Dems at least one will be elected.

And I note that you mention MEPs, MSPs and AMs - remind me how many you lot have? One a Plaid defector.

Robert said...

Iain, did you get out the wrong side of the bed this morning? What a ridiculous blogpost.

Anyway, Qasim Afzal for Manchester Gorton is working a very strong campaign to oust disgraced Labour MP Gerald Kaufman. Is very marginal.

In fact Qasim has better odds of beating Gerald than the Labour PPC does of beating John Leech in Manchester Withington.

#iaindalefail

trevorsden said...

Could it be LibDems are racists?

The 'right person for the job' is an easy get out Mr Haffey (et al) - a nice cover for something you would not like to admit to.

Is it asking too much for parliamentarians to be representative of the country - if only a little teeny weeny bit, as well as representing the country?

William said...

I can't stand the Lib Dems and there 'holier than thou' approach to everything, but that being said, if they have been picking candidates based on talent and how well they can carry out the job then good luck to them.

Unless you're trying to imply the Lib Dems are racist (and much as I can't stand them, I wouldn't level that accusation at them), I don't know what point you are trying to make with this post. I believe that a black person would be perfectly happy to have a white person represent them if they thought that person was best for the job.

Dave H said...

Were you being ironic or is this a guest post by Harriet Harman?

The fundamental mistake is in the title. (Literally, as a matter of fact, it's winnable).

What are your party's values? Selection according to merit or ethnicity? Why not introduce a system of quotas, or targets, or tick boxes, or exclusive short-lists?

Maybe we should hope for a Labour victory. After all, if the electorate wants a system of highly corrosive bullshit they may as well get the experts in.

Bloody heck Iain.

Barnsley Bill said...

Perhaps they are having trouble finding BME candidates who wear cardigans?

Ben said...

And there was I, thinking that we were all members of the human race.

Why does any of this matter?

ToryBlog.com said...

That is a shockingly ill-conceived post Iain.

WTF?

Pensfold said...

fyi

ToryBlog.com said...

That is a shockingly ill-conceived post Iain.

Kath said...

I agree it should be best person for the job rather than a contest to see who can have the most BME candidates....

a bit of arubbish post.

Sean Haffey said...

>trevorsden

None of the parties have parliamentary representation that in any way is representative of the population. Nor will they have after this election.

I am exasperated with all three main parties because of their petty political pontificating on the matter. So, I expect, are most voters.

The core message should be get good quality candidates and then you'll get the votes.

Newmania said...

Interesting paradox. I feel the rate of immigration has bee irresponsible but when I say such things local Liberals tell me I am ‘prejudiced’ .The only person in the room however, who has both a mixed race family and a circle of black friends is generally ,me . Of course of you mention it they say that’s one of things that “racists say” so you can`t win....., .Then they ship their children across country to avoid the multicultural school they applaud ( in theory)

On the other hand what exactly is the point of instituting a system whereby middleclass graduate Asians already a privileged and high performing group ,are gifted additional advantages?

Sean Haffey said...

>trevorsden

You imply I'm racist. Well, I have my real name up here. You hide behind a pseudonym.

Would you care to come out and make that statement explicitly under your real name? I expect not.

Radders said...

This column from the Birmingham Post suggests that there may be local tory issues with having a representative council group, with ethnic balance provided by the Lib Dems.
There is the slim chance that the tories could take overall control in the future, and not have a single BME cllr.
http://www.birminghampost.net/comment/birmingham-columnists/iron-angle-birmingham-cc/2010/02/11/iron-angle-tories-and-the-white-wing-65233-25815725/

Edward Gaffney said...

The Conservatives have, what, 350 seats they expect to win and 400 "winnable" seats?

Lib Dems have 50 they expect to win and 70 winnable seats.

On top of the things that others have already said, another answer is simply that when you have fewer winnable seats, you have fewer BME candidates in winnable seats.

starfish said...

Seems strange then that LibDem BME candidates seem to be consistently 'untalented'

LibCync said...

So, after your update does:

"is it too much to ask why he hasn't made a single speech on what he intends to do about making the LibDems elected politicians reflect the society they purport to represent?"

still make sense, considering you now have evidence that flat-out contradicts it?

Sean Haffey said...

Over 10 years of campaigning and knocking on uncounted thousands of doors, I have never once been confronted by a voter who raises the issue of "Why isn't your candidate black/gay/female/disabled?"

Of course all parties should seek to be more representative but this has to be done by welcoming all people into their parties and giving all a fair chance of advancement. Positive discrimination, whether Labour "all-women" lists or anything else are a turn off for most voters.

They want the best candidate. They really do, and force-fitting others is patronising and self-defeating as voters will look elsewhere.

Bellocman said...

What's this obsession with "BME" that you professional politicians have? The rest of us in the real world don't really care!

trevorsden said...

Mr Haffey - the notion that there is a huge gap between talented people who are conveniently white anglo saxon protestants and less talented people who are say black is rubbish.
I do accept that potential candidates should serve an apprenticeship and show a commitment though.

There are very few outstandingly 'talented' people who demand special attention and the notion that none of them is black is a joke.

Your comments are just excuses. Lib dems spout all kinds of self serving self important and superior condescending rubbish, but their actions speak louder than words. Its a pity you should apologise for them.

Unlike some who chose to comment - I think Mr Dales post is entirely apposite. After all Labour are portraying tories as somehow unredeemably veil and viciously careless about the wider nations future, with libdems like nodding dogs in the wings.

The opposite is the truth and the facts speak for themselves. Its not enough to say 'who cares' when the libdems are spouting crude hypocrisy.

Gareth said...

Nick Clegg has been leader of the LibDems for two years now. Is it too much to ask why he hasn't made a single speech on what he intends to do about making the LibDems elected politicians reflect the society they purport to represent?

Does anyone expect the police, teachers, doctors and nurses, shop staff and all the rest to accurately reflect the community like a mirror? It is no indicator of performance or quality of service whatsoever.

Let's stick with this potty notion. Which 'society' should be accurately reflected? As each constituency is it's own then each constituency should reflect the makeup of the voters in it. That means the Conservatives should be putting black candidates in black majority areas and asian candidates where asians are the majority. Is this what they are doing? Should religion also be accurately reflected in this fashion?

Applying the same notion to sexuality I am guessing that there should also be no gay candidates at all, unless there is a constituency that has a majority of voters who are gay that is.

The point of this post was to contrast what David Cameron has done with what Nick Clegg hasn't done.

That is to assume 'something' had to be done.

Cameron recognised there was a problem and addressed it - not by positiove discrimination, but by positive action.

Cameron made up a problem and handily provided the 'solution'. Discrimination is discrimination is discrimination no matter how you dress it up.

Liberal Neil said...

I suspect that the key reason is that they have had very few seats in areas with high BME populations and do not have 'safe seats' at all.

They do have a significant number of BME councillors in London Boroughs and the big cities.

They also have BME candidates in a number of seats including Leicester South (where they did win the by-election in 2004), Luton South, Waltham Forest and others.

Sean Haffey said...

>trevorsden

I can't help noticing that

a. You continue to hide behind a pseudonym

b. You attribute to me statements that I haven't made

c. You seem to think I am a LibDem, when I am a Tory and have said so explicitly in this thread.

d. You avoid the question, which is that you implied I am racist. This is probably wise. I have campaigned on a number of occasions in support of candidates who are not white or male (their sexuality is their own business). That's a matter of fact. You may believe your smears are justified, but in my experience they are exactly what turns off voters.

Willie said...

I may not be alone in thinking the reason I read your blog is because it has intelligent posts and interesting comment. The sexual orientation or ethnic origin of you or anyone who comments is, to me at least, irrelevant.
The bien pensant infatuation with single sex lists, ethnic representation, representation of the "faiths" and lesbian and homosexual politics is missing the point. We need the very best candidates to represent us and favouritism (which is what it is) in their selection is wrong and offensive to the majority. If a majority can elect a candidate are you trying to tell me that a minority should dictate who that candidate should be?
Get a grip!

Imran said...

Iain is spot on with this post. To all those who say: who cares what colour they are? I agree. I don't. What I do care is about meritocracy in the selection system. And, if Black and Asian people are not getting selected, it is not because we have no talent or are not putting ourselves forward. You tell me what the problem is and we can fix it! Only a total moron would not accept that this is a question of discrimination. Hold off on the flames however. I advocate not quotas, but fair equality of opportunity. What then is wrong with parties keeping an eye on how they are doing. In Business, do we not keep an eye on how we are performing? Do we not want to make sure we get access to the widest possible pool of talent?

Imran Khan
Twitter.com/immikhan

Libertarian said...

Iain

It's exactly this kind of socialist nonsense and social engineering that puts people off of politics.

We need people with talent to get this country back on its feet, to find work for 8 million people not working not quotas

gordon-bennett said...

The point here is that the Conservatives have been harried for years by the beeb and other idiots to be more "representative" but only because this is a criterion (albeit a worthless one) where the nuchav party can be shown to have "beaten" us.

The charge has never been raised against the libs because the beeb and others are not interested in bringing them down.

I predict that when/if it happens that the Conservatives outdo nuchav on this point then the arguments will never be raised again.

This is all simply the puerile machinations of race and gender based politics as practised by lefties and associated morons.

trevorsden said...

No Mr Haffey - I saw you were a tory. Thats what makes me angry - because I am a Tory as well.

The remark from you and others - that the point is to pick the best person - totally misses the point and implies that the best people are not ethnic.

There are lots of 'best people' who are not white but clearly - at least according to Mr Dale - they are not getting a look in as libdem PPCs. Parliament should be representative of us not just representing us. I prefer to highlight libdem hypocrisy rather than invent excuses for them.

If you and others want to employ these knee jerk excuses that you do then fine - it misses the point and you must draw from me the justified or unjustified opprobrium that it does. I cannot help that - its your words and total mixed up attitudes that do it, for me at least.

BTW I think our immigration policy under labour has been a disgrace - not least that it has thrown a million Britons on the benefits scrapheap.

Iain Dale said...

Libertarian, please point me to anywhere I suggested we should have quotas. You can't, because I didn't.

krupesh4brent said...

In additon... what shocked me even more was their London candidate list for the European elections. Not a single one of their 8 candidates put up was black or asian.

Sean Haffey said...

> trevorsden

I don't care less about your opprobrium. I do care about libel.

In my district about 99% of the population is white. One of our 35councillors - a very good one who I have campaigned in support of - is non-white. Using your logic, the BME community is vastly over-represented and I should campaign against him.

As I have said, my interest is that we should get the best representatives, regardless of any categorisation.

Twig said...

This has been asked and answered: Deja Vu

Mark Reckons said...

Iain.

I do not think I am being "astonishingly complacent" in the slightest. I certainly do think we need to improve representation in parliament and electoral reform is in my view one way to help this. It doesn't mean I don't think we should also look at other ways of improving things too. Although I am against quotas as I know you are too.

And as for selecting Italy as a way to try and prove that "PR is not the answer to everything" (incidentally something I never said) I could just as easily suggest Germany as an example of a strong, stable system that uses PR (mixed member proportional) as a riposte.

Steph Ashley said...

I'd go so far as to say that the Lib Dems don't have 'winnable' seats in the same way as Labour and the Conservatives at all. The only seats where we have a comfortable majority are down to dedication and hard work over many years by the candidate in those seats. "Where we Work, We Win".

Another sad fact is, we don't have the kind of money needed to support our candidates as well as Labour and the Conservatives do, either.

The Tories have Ashcroft's money to burn, AND safe seats where if you put a donkey in a blue rosette people will vote for it. They can throw almost endless cash into campaigns in their marginal seats to put whatever candidates they like into parliament.

In the Lib Dems, we have a problem with diversity among our candidates because with the financial security and sheer amount of legwork that a PPC has to put in over long years to eventually win our MPs, and even our candidates, are always going to be predominantly middle class white men in the current culture. It would help if we had anything like an equal platform in terms of national media coverage of our policies and campaigns as well, but whatever..

We are doing what we can to change this, but it's important to note too that we are never going to allow BME shortlists for exactly the same reasons as we're never going to allow all-women shortlists. So-called "positive" discrimination is still discrimination and it's fundamentally wrong. Frankly I'm surprised at this kind of tokenism from your party, Iain, since much as I've always despised them, the one grain of moral rectitude about them that has always comforted me was their meritocratic approach to things.

What we CAN do, while staying away from discrimination and tokenism, is offer as much in the way of training, mentoring, assistance and support to our minority candidates as we possibly can. So that's what we do. There's been an ongoing debate about what more we could and should do within the party for a long time.

It's worth going and reading the comments here, where you may find some of your points have already been answered in some form or other - for example by Hywel when he points out that skin colour is not neessarily the only ethnic minority indicator, and you can only say with any confidence The LibDems don't have a single ... minority ethnic MP if you don't call Lembit, the son of Estonian refugees, an ethnic minority!

Gareth said...

Trevorsden said: "The remark from you and others - that the point is to pick the best person - totally misses the point and implies that the best people are not ethnic."

No it doesn't.

Mark Reckons said: "I certainly do think we need to improve representation in parliament"

Why?

Whenever this kind of topic comes up for discussion the biggest issue always gets ignored - poor quality representation. A change of skin colour, gender or whatever else is no guarantee of better quality MPs but somehow the Westminster set wants everyone to believe it is. It is a distraction from the very serious failures of our Government, of our Parliament and of the media.

I would suggest that the public are far less bothered about the appearance of their MP (especially given the right bunch of weirdos that stalk the corridors of power - It's like some kind of Addam's Family convention) than they are about the quality of their MP and what candidates stand for. The political parties are hooked on presentation and appeasing their media handlers. Talking up minority representation in this way is tokenism at it's worst.

The public are increasingly turned off politics because politicians are doing less and less of what they are supposed to - protecting *us* from the excesses of the state. Too many of them *are* the state. Too many of them want to *be* the state.

seniorspeaks said...

I'm not a BNP supporter, so I won't be voting for parties based on the race of their candidates. I don't care about the colour of politicians, I care about what the politicians do. I don't care which party has the most candidates from ethnic minorities.

NO MORE DISCRIMINATION!

LibCync said...

"is it too much to ask why he hasn't made a single speech on what he intends to do about making the LibDems elected politicians reflect the society they purport to represent?"

Despite your update, this is still is NOT TRUE, Iain

Jimmy said...

Cameron's record on BME candidates is genuinely impressive, particularly as he is no doubt encountering far more opposition than Labour did. It would be a shame to undermine these efforts by taking out the dog whistle again.

Osama the Nazarene said...

The LibDems do not have many potential winnable seats so selecting BME PPCs is something of a luxury for them.

Tim said...

This is a problem for the LibDems (I speak as one), no doubt about it.

But imagine that a proportion of voters are racist and won't vote for a non-white candidate. As a party you need safe seats to get good levels of BME representation.

Last time I looked, both Labour and the Tories had more than 100 safe seats each, on the arbitrary definition of safe as meaning twice your opponents vote. The LDs had one - Orkney and Shetland.

So the LDs do have a problem if we believe that some voters are racist. Changing the voting system would help that, because there would be some areas where almost certainly one LD MP would get elected.

But what the party have not shown is that they are good at getting BME candidates in under such conditions. None of the MEPs or GLA members are from BME backgrounds, and in particular it is hard to imagine that there is not a single top-class BME potential GLA member. That is something that the party needs to address - we have to make sure that talent from all parts of the community is used effectively. (I should add that locally Kingston LDs are very effective at this, whereas the Tories are all white, and c. 90% male)

Twig said...

@Tim

"But imagine that a proportion of voters are racist and won't vote for a non-white candidate."

I guess that's another reason why you would prefer PR?

The party could then decide who gets the jobs instead of the voters.

David said...

The tiresome aspect of this post is the final phrase 'look at Italy', as if PR was a single electoral system.

You can have the FPTP electoral system or you can have the PR electoral system. That seems to be the view here and from so many other people, rather than trying to look at the pros and(undoubtable and many) cons of each system.

Is Italy's record down to its particular electoral system, or maybe its culture?

Please point me towards the country which uses the electoral system called 'PR'; rather than the 90% of countries that use systems more proportional than us.