I would like to see a serious investment in widening and broadening our appeal to all sections of our society. If our membership reflects todays Britain, the candidates – and MPs will come. I would like to see all three potential leadership candidates come up with proposals to widen the appeal of the Liberal Democrats to more fully reflect the society we seek to serve.
I have been wrestling with my conscience trying to work out whether I should support the Reflecting Britain initiative. It’s not that I have any disagreement with the motive, rather that I don’t want to presuppose the solution. I recommend that every member should take a look and consider the issue. The Reflecting Britain support statement urges greater financial support to ethnic and gender balance task forces for candidates, along with setting specific targets. Apart from the fact that I am always instinctively suspicious of any measure approaching positive discrimination, I don’t want to stifle a wider examination of what the problem is and how it can be addressed.In my constituency, there is a sizeable, largely muslim Pakistani community. Last year our PPC, James Oates, had made great efforts to reach out to this community. Many of them either didn’t vote at all, or voted Labour. They were sympathetic to our approaches – and the Imams from the local mosques were happy to talk to us. But I am still at a loss to know what we can do to redress the near absence of Pakistanis on our members list – and their complete absence from our activists. This is just an example – but if we cannot sort out the ethnic mix of our supporters and activists, all the candidates task forces in the world won’t produce the MPs we seek.