I have just been nominated Lib Dem blogger of the year, which I’m more chuffed about than I possibly should be. I’ve never really won anything, so the idea that I have a one in five chance of breaking that duck is somewhat cool to me right at this moment. Anyhow, the reason I’m telling you this is that in finding this information out I also saw that Kavya Kaushik’s piece, Why I’m considering my membership of the Liberal Democrats, has been nominated for Best Lib Dem Blog Post of the Year. So I read it again, and in doing so was reminded of a problem that stares us in the face. Yet we have no real solution for tackling it.
The Lib Dems often blame the vagaries of the First Past The Post voting system for why we don’t have more minority and female representation, particularly at parliamentary level. But this excuse only goes so far. There have been selection contests in what we have to consider to be some of our most winnable seats over the past year or so in which we had extremely viable BME and/or women looking to become PPC’s – and in the end we went with the white bloke. I think making excuses for this is no longer enough; we do need to understand why this is still a problem for the party.
It is key for the Lib Dems as a party that we are seen as a representative of modern Britain. Otherwise, what’s the point? In simpler terms, if we’re not liberals who do we expect will be? Now, having said all of this, do I think the local parties are full of closet (or otherwise) racists who are intentionally trying to keep the party a cabal of pale males? I don’t think so – at least that hasn’t been experience on the ground. In the end, I think this all comes down to fear. Of the notion that people are somehow less likely to vote for a minority or a woman than a white man. Not that that would influence who they voted for – of course not – but there are a lot of misogynistic racists out there, and like or lump it, we need their votes to.
I think to not confront this fear, sooner rather than later, is to do a great disservice to both liberalism and the party itself. If we try and win seats on something we know isn’t representative of our values, they would ultimately be hollow victories. Thinking about it, this applies across the board as well. Some in the party (not many, thankfully) have said that Nick standing up for our continued membership in the European Union (and to Nigel Farage in the process) was wrongheaded, given the Euro election results. I couldn’t disagree more. We took a stand based on our values and that’s one of the chief reasons the party exists at all, at least in my opinion.
That doesn’t mean, of course, that we let ourselves get mowed down in May 2015 on the back of some sort of misguided purism. But we do need to be who we are as a party. And not let fear get the better of us.