What if there are no female Lib Dem MPS left?!!!?

Yesterday we went to a lunch party and the conversation turned to the electoral prospects of the fifty odd Lib Dem MPs and how many the LIb Dems may lose if you believe Peter Kellner's prediction at the Lib Dem Conference Fringe in Glasgow this year that the Lib Dems are going to become a party with around 10% of the vote in future years and gone for some time are the heady days when we can count on 20% of the vote. Of course, Peter Kellner may be wrong and it may not be that bad but I do think not to at least countenance such a drop in support at a General Election would be a tad over optimistic.

It was pretty depressing listening and looks like it would leave us with a grand total of zero female Lib Dem MPs. A parliamentary party that is 100% male and 100% white. Wow!  And given the inroads that Labour and the Tories have been making in recent years to increase their numbers of women MPs you'd have to conclude that a collapse in the LIb Dem vote will result in a better gender balanced House of Commons.

The thought of belonging to a political party that has no female representation in the Commons, well...I don't think it's really sunk in.  I find it shocking and then just angry when I think of all the opportunities that we've had to put women into our least vulnerable seats (Eastleigh, anyone?) and for various reasons didn't.  Because something else was always more important, that we just had to win this one, go for a safe bet of a candidate, go for someone local, wait another year or so, or whatever other reason that has been given as to why now is not quite the time to finally start delivering on real equality of power in the party.

And now? And now it looks like it's a little bit too late because the few women that the LIb Dems do have are in the most marginal and vulnerable of seats and they will likely be gone. Oh, yes, it is so very hard to increase the number of women when you're losing seats, isn't it?  Except that the LIb Dems could have seen it coming, we could have mitigated against the risk by making sure we had women in safe seats (Eastleigh, again, anyone?) even years ago when we were on our winning streak.  'Cos lets face it, if you don't sort this stuff out when you're on your winning streak, then you sure as hell aren't going to sort it out when you'reheading for the new electoral landscape that we seem to be.

Yet no one, no one in a position of leadership has done anything that has made a blind bit of difference, not once, in the 15 years I've been a member of the Liberal Democrats, the 10 years or so that I've been active and the 6 odd years that I've been writing about the lack of equality in female representation (and power) in the Liberal Democrats. Lots of good words and hand wringing but no actual action.

The Liberal Democrats have lost so many good female activists over the Rennard debacle and sidelined others when they could have chosen to give them safe seats in by-elections. And what are these women doing now? Well, because so many of them are really good people they're off doing new and exciting things: leading the organisations they work for, sitting on the boards of major campaigning organisations, being fast tracked in their career, etc, etc because they're good.  Good people have choices and they're not going to hang around where they don't seem to be wanted just waiting until the party gets around to thinking that equality of power includes it's female members as well as the voting public.

So come June next year, when the party sits surveying more lost councillors and many lost parliamentary constituencies and the likely probability of no female MPs, will that be enough to kick it into action on gender equality? I am not holding out much hope. Why would the mixture of complacency and incompetence that has been the hallmark of the party when it comes to gender representation to date change? Because, you know what the priority will be? To win seats back and we'll all just have to be pragmatic about it, won't we? And gender equality will, like all the other markers of power imbalance in Liberal Democrat MPs, be required to take a back seat until we're back in the race again. Or when we get Proportional Representation. Or something. Just as long is we understand that now is not quite the time.

 This post was originally posted on my lifestyle blog Could Do Better; head over if you like your politics and feminism interrupted by posts of food, parenting and other stuff.

Rochester and UKIP

Well, one thing is clear: with 349 votes and a lost deposit, the Liberal Democrats are no longer the party of protest.  Of course, they're not, because they are a party of government and the junior partner in the coalition.  What is happening to the Lib Dem vote is highly predictable and no surprise - look at countries like New Zealand where coalition politics is the norm and see what happens to the junior partners.
As a number of people have mentioned this morning on Twitter, at least we know who the core, against all the odd, support is in Rochester - all of whom have shown enough commitment to make them excellent members! Alternatively, it looks like the candidate managed to get his Facebook friends out to vote for him and not many others.  Still, what a thankless task it, to be a Lib Dem by-election candidate these days.

So, looking at Liberal Democrat history to provide a model of a party coming from nowhere into Government, UKIP are cock a hoop.  A party of protest, ridiculed and patronised by mainstream parties builds first one, then two, then enough seats to fill a car eventually where they are holding the balance of power in a coalition government and KER-CHOW!! (as Lightning McQueen might say) our membership of the EU is binned in spectacular fashion.  Or perhaps even the threat of UKIP holding the balance of power is enough to get the Tories to come up with the idea of binning the EU themselves.

If we buy the proposition that this is not just normal by-election sabre rattling by the electorate and this really is the first steps towards a completely new political landscape then UKIPs new supporters, drawn from all the mainstream parties should be aware that Nigel Farage is no man of the people, he is drawn from the same establishment pool as all those other establishment politicians that the public love to pour scorn on.  His alma mater is Dulwich College, one of the top nine private schools in the country with a reputation for producing, like Eton and Westminster, political leaders.  He is a very talented communicator whom we should be very wary of because UKIP polices are really very nasty. It's not just immigration and the EU, they want to bring in a form of workfare, withdraw from the UN Convention on Refugees, increase military spending by 40%  and create a national curriculum which is pro imperialist and denies climate change.  The reason they are always having to apologise for their candidates is not that they pick the wrong ones, it's because their candidates are actually reflecting UKIP beliefs about the sort of country we want to be.

So, I am hopeful that this is not a new dawn of politics and that UKIP will not be able to follow the Liberal Democrat model into Government because , with the exception of the Tuition Fees debacle (which should never, ever have been a Liberal Democrat policy, let alone a key pillar of the campaign) the Liberal Democrats have policies which have been opened up to proper scrutiny; some people like them and some people hate them but we know what they are not least because the have been written down.  But we know very little about UKIP policy, which changes on the whim of Nigel Farage and that when looked at more closely, favour the rich and invincible and do very little to help the type of people who are voting for them now.  I think we should let UKIP have their day in the sun and know that when placed under scrutiny the British voter will see them for what they are.

This post was updated on Sunday 23rd NOvember 2014, with some extra links and some editing of text.

Ched Evans: Not ready for rehabilitation

It's really important that those leaving prison have an opportunity to rehabilitate themselves; having suffered the punishment for their crime, that they and their families have an opportunity to move on with their lives and become useful members of society.So, that's why it's important to understand that the revulsion that so many of us feel at the thought of the convicted rapist Ched Evans being able to walk back into his job as a footballer at Sheffield United is not one based on the principle that no rapist can ever be rehabilitated or pursue a career that they're good at or that could bring them rewards. Rather, the revulsion is that this particular man should be invited back to to such a high profile and rewarding job as a league footballer.
The first reason that his reinstatement at Sheffield United is unthinkable is his own attitude to his crime.  He is a convicted rapist, that is a fact.  However, he is convinced that someone as drunk as his victim was when he raped her is able to give informed consent.  The law says otherwise, indeed the judge in sentencing him said of his victim that she:
was in no position to form a capacity to consent to sexual intercourse, and you, when you arrived, must have realised that
But Ched Evans shows no remorse, no sense of understanding that he has a responsibility to ensure that the people he has sex with are able to give informed consent - no instead, we should all feel very sorry for him, a victim of justice!  Note how he talks about the 'alleged victim' on his website - which just shows you just how far removed from understanding his crime he is - because he is a convicted rapist and there is nothing alleged about her, she was indeed his victim.
You can't rehabilitate until you recognise your crime, until you take responsibility for your crime and understand the impact of your crime on your victim.  There is nothing in that website that makes me think that Ched Evans wouldn't behave in exactly the same way again.  Be clear, I don't mind that he likes to sleep with strangers, that he likes group sex and that he likes to be watched and filmed.  I don't even care that he does all this whilst in a relationship with someone else. None of these things are illegal and are all down to him.  It is that he doesn't understand that he needs to get informed consent and that if he doesn't, because the victim was too drunk to be able to give it (which is a pretty objective test), that he is indeed a rapist.
Secondly, even if he had shown remorse or taken responsibility for his crime, there would still be a question mark over his ability to renew his league football career.  And that's because professional footballers, however ill-suited some of them may be to the role, are role models for millions of young people.  To be able, to carry on, rehabilitated or not, just where you left off seems a very strange message to give young people.  Prison is indeed a punishment but the loss of reputation and career is also part of the punishment and rehabilitation has to be worked for, it's not in the gift of a football club.
stream_imgSo, good for Jessica Ennis-Hill, who has asked for her name to be removed from the stand named in her honour, and the three patrons of Sheffield Ltd who have stood down since Ched Evans started retraining back with Sheffield.  As Jessica says,
I believe being a role model to young people is a huge honour and those in positions of influence in communities should respect the role they play in young people’s lives and set a good example.
If Evans was to be re-signed by the club it would completely contradict these beliefs.
You do have to wonder what world these footballers, and the clubs that employ them, are living in that they can't see the impossibility of an unrepentant, convicted rapist being able to swan back in as if nothing has happened.  Of course, it would not be illegal to re-employ him but this is where societal norms play a role.  It is a test for our society: if Ched Evans can be reinstated and that is acceptable then we really are in a bad place.

However, I am more of an optimist than that and I believe leaders and influencers such as Jessica Ennis and Carwyn Jones will ensure that the right thing happens.  Indeed, this is a very good example of why we need more women in positions of power and leadership in our country; to set the norm for acceptable behaviour.

This post was originally posted on my lifestyle blog Could Do Better; head over if you like your politics and feminism interrupted by posts of food, parenting and other stuff.

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