Thursday, March 04, 2010

Question For Iain Dale "Why Aren't the Tories Doing More?"

I see that Iain Dale is talking about the Conservatives doing stuff about ethnicity balance since the year nought AD (After David). He says that the Conservatives have selected five Black and Ethnic Minority (BME) Candidates in safe seats, and that they will have at least 11 BME Tory MPs or as many as 16.

He asks what are the Lib Dems doing about it? Well in month 1 AD I posted this about our Reflecting Britain Campaign. So whoops on point one we've been working at it since the years BC (Before Cameron and Clegg).

He also is using raw numbers. Always a bad thing to do with a statistician on the loose. And ignoring as LibCync points out that Operation Black Vote have said that there are 1-3 BME Lib Dems in potentially winnable seats, indeed under the title "The future's bright for Lib Dems".

I trust that Iain Dale is still expecting the Tories to hold the majority to lets take a look 11 BME Tories out of half the House of Commons comes in at 3.41% of the total (16 is 4.95%). Three Lib Dems of our current number 63 is 4.76%. So in real terms we are looking at doing pretty well, indeed either ahead or equal with the Tories on projections.

But that is looking at the figures without checking one other thing the possibility to get candidates into winnable seats. I can imagine the bulk of Lib Dem MPs laughing at the thought of their seat being a safe seat for starters.

However, lets consider the longevity of the current crop. 12 Lib Dems seat (19%) are currently being contested as held for the first time and a further 8 (12.7%) only for the second that is 31% of the current MPs. Indeed 43* of the seats we currently hold (68%) we have only be held since 1997. So many of these seats are not looking for new candidates. The Tories of course are looking for 125 gains and have a substantially higher number of retirements this time around than the Lib Dems (I believe, and will no doubt be corrected that we only have three MPs stepping down).

So actually Iain should really be asking " Why Aren't the Tories Selecting More BME Candidates in Winnable Seats?" theirs is by far a greater opportunity for change if the opinion polls are to be believed.

Read also: Mark Reckons points out to changes in the electoral system. While Sunder Katwala says that the Lib Dems need to start selection non-white candidates in areas where there is isn't a natural ethnic vote. While that would probably be the Labour and indeed Conservative way of parachuting candidates in, the Lib Dems are more likely to grow local candidates to contest local seats; it is after all our local parties that have full and democratic say on the candidate selection.

* It may be more I'm just taking the raw figures without going through the gains and losses in detail.


Mark Reckons said...

Good post Stephen.

I also blogged about this today pointing out that STV with multi-member seats would likely help to improve representation too.

Stephen Glenn said...

Cheers Mark I had read yours too. But seeing LibCync's post the figures just up at me and rang alarm bells. Just knew there was a statistical error in Mr Dale's comments.

Sunder Katwala said...


I have consistently engaged with this issue from a position of arguing that cross party progress is what matters, and putting accurate evidence on the table in an often highly mythologised debate. I have given credit to the LibDems for now improving on gender. Where the other two parties are now making faster progress on ethnic diversity than gender; with the LibDems, it is very much the other way around.

But your statistical claim of something like parity with the Conservatives doesn't fit the evidence. If you compare like with like, it is clear the LibDems are since 2005 now running a distant third on (i) party held seats; (ii) top target seats though keeping pace with the Tories on (iii) all candidates, including long-shot and unwinnable seats. A summary as at end 2008 is here. (The overall picture hasn't changed much since: both Labour and the Conservatives have made further selections at a broadly similar rate in party-held and target seats, with the LibDems making only a little progress in long-shot targets).

I think your pejorative "parachuting" riposte to my piece rather reinforces the point I was making. You risk saying 'we only want local candidates' but the problem is also that a hyperlocalist approach can see BME candidates as only perceived as "local" in high BME population areas.

The LibDems risk falling into a regressive, outdated and potentially illiberal way to think about Brits from different ethnic origins: it risks ghettoising non-white Brits in politics as primarily "community representatives" of particular ethnic communities; there is much more flux in reality once we are in a 2nd/3rd/4th generation situation, and a great many people don't fit those boxes. (That is why I am against all black shortlists).

I was offering an alternative to "parachuting" which could do something about a situation where the effective LibDem strategy for not having an all-white top team in the Commons does too little to go beyond hoping to occasionally snatch a high ethnic minority area seat like Leicester.


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