Penny Wilkins and that Diversity fund
I'm really beginning to wonder at the way the LibDem spokespeople are treating members these days. The letter below from Penny Wilkins
(Regional Candidates Chair, East Midlands & Vice Chair English Candidates Committee) was submitted to LibDem News for publication, but for reasons best known to the powers that be, it was rejected. Out of frustration, Penny has been circulating it far and wide to hopefully provoke debate.
I took on the job of RCC (Regional Candidates Chair) for the East Midlands in September 2000, because no-one else was prepared to do it. I quickly found myself feeling 'at home' in the English Candidates Committee ethos of transparency and fairness in the Approval and Selection of Parliamentary Candidates. Over recent years I have become more and more concerned at the interference (and attempted interference) of the 'great and the good' and now to cap it all we are hearing stories that Steve Hitchins is, allegedly, offering local parties money as long as they pick the 'right' candidate.
With my health failing I am unable to continue to fight against those who want to make our party less fair. I am finding it increasingly difficult to administer a system which is continually being interfered with by people who are prepared to compromise our Party's principles in a dash for power.
For that reason I am going to stand down from active politics for the next year to see if our party comes back to its senses, values its principles and allows its members to select the most able person for the job without interference.
Regional Candidates Chair, East Midlands, Vice Chair English Candidates Committee
What she is referring to is the Diversity fund, financed by the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust - Ming Campbell - Launches Special Fund. It is obvious from the tone of her letter that Penny is not clear about the purpose of the fund. She's probably been overlooked in the paper trail and hasn't been fully briefed. Even so it's against the core values of the party concerning freedom of speech to block her from voicing an opinion. It's really so annoying the way the LibDems (party HQ) are becoming so ruthless by adopting more Stalinistic ways of keeping the members quiet. They are paranoid about anybody making waves.
The original object of the fund was to promote BME candidates only and have them in place before the next General Election but it has now been extended to include women.
How this came about would take volumes to explain but as a member of the Ethnic Minority Election Task Force this has caused a lot of internal wrangling.
The issue of BME candidates is something so many party members want to ignore and brush under the carpet. There is a lot of lip service but not much action. Sadly the majority membership of the party are middle-class whites. It doesn't reflect the diversity of modern day Britain. Simon Hughes MP is the only person who is really pushing the issue forward like a steamroller but even on this, a compromise has had to be made. The controversy surrounding the fund is because it's being suggested that less able BME/women candidates are being selected in order for local LibDem constituency parties to get the extra money.
I've been monitoring the seats closely. LibDem Voice is doing a brilliant job of maintaining a list of the PPC's as they are selected.
Click on the icon
There seems to be a greater number of women candidates being selected but it is so annoying that there has only been one BME candidate Tariq Khan (male) selected in a possible moving forward (target) seat. The way the seats are filling up, it doesn't look likely that any other BME candidate (male or female) will get such prime seats.
Thursday 4th Jan, Iain Dale on his usual soapbox : EXCLUSIVE: LibDems in Turmoil over Minority Candidates Seems to be evoking some strong comments.