'Oh, so that's who Richard Morris is..." Lord Hattersley on The Daily Politics

'An influential activist' - The Guardian

'Iain Dale, without the self loathing' - Matthew Fox in The New Statesman

You are a tinker...' - Tim Farron

Friday 20 December 2013

Oh dear. It appears I am guilty of the crime of #everydaysexism

So, I wrote a piece for the NewStatesman yesterday, opining that I hoped one of the 2 women eligible to be the new Deputy leader of the Lib Dems (Tessa Munt and Lorely Burt) emerged from the pack victorious.

I was, in truth, quite pleased with it. We have a huge under representation of women in the party in the House of commons (7 out of 57 MPs and none in the cabinet) and this seemed the perfect opportunity to get a woman into a high profile position in the party - which I thought (and still think) would be a good thing.

And lots of people said nice things about the piece.

And then the ever vigilant Jennie Rigg took me to task.

And she wasn't the only one...

Others who has promoted my article found the same...

... and to be honest I can see what Jennie and others mean.

While the headline on the article is slightly misleading ( I didn't write 'The Lib Dems should elect a female deputy leader to address their women problem'), the main thrust of my article is that I hope Tessa or Lorely win because they are women. I do also happen to believe that they would both be brilliant. As of course would Julian or Duncan or Nick Harvey or any of the other men mentioned. We have a surfeit of riches.

But I didn't actually say that. and I probably should have.

So apologies. Won't happen again.

Anywhere, here's what called the stink

While the world feigns indifference at the news that there is to be a new deputy leader of the Lib Dems, following Simon Hughes's elevation into government (pretend all you like, but I know you care really), the party is buzzing with speculation about who will get the nod.
It’s a limited field – essentially Lib Dem MPs who are not part of the government– and already several names are being mooted. The right are pushing Jeremy Browne and already have a #teamjezza hashtag running. The left are pushing the activists' favourite, Julian Huppert. Everyone’s wondering if Tim Farron will have another go (and if he needs the bother). And of course there’s the endless amusement the election of Nick Harvey would provide, given it does appear Nick Clegg is not his absolute favourite person. What fun their daily catch-ups would be.
But all of those folk, and most of the other names getting mentioned in dispatches – Duncan Hames, Stephen Gilbert, Andrew George  - have one thing in common. They’re blokes.
Now, it’s easy to overstate the Lib Dems' 'women issue'. After all, we have numerous highly effective female ministers (Jo Swinson, Lynne Featherstone, Susan Kramer). We have some fantastically talented women in the party outside Westminster like Kirsty Williams, Leader of the Welsh Lib Dems or Sharon Bowles MEP, the first Liberal to chair the EU Economic and Monetary Affairs committee. And in candidates like Jane Dodds, Kelly-Marie Blundell and Layla Moran, we have accomplished women standing in winnable seats.
But the fact remains that just seven of our 57 MPs are women (two of whom are standing down in 2015) and we haven’t put a women into the cabinet since taking office. We need to find ways of raising the profile of women in the party in Westminster.
What a brilliant opportunity this is take a step in that direction – and elect one of the two eligible women MPs who could stand for the deputy leader role – Tessa Munt or Lorely Burt. Both are highly respected amongst the grassroots. Both would benefit from the boost in profile the job provides (and let’s not forget they are defending sub-1,000 majorities). And in one fair swoop, we’d have a future female leadership candidate in place. It seems a fair swap for the PPS roles they both currently fulfil.
There’ll be a lot of politics going on right now in Westminster, with soundings being taken and promises made. But I hope Tessa or Lorely grab the chance to stand. And I hope one of them wins.

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