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SWLD Reception with Special Guests Clegg & Rennie

Last night at conference, the Scottish Women Liberal Democrats held a special fringe event on “Why Gender Balance Matters in Politics & the Liberal Democrats.”

It was an evening of mingling with aspiring candidates, elected members, cabinet ministers, Willie Rennie and Nick Clegg.

Nick Clegg was late as always, once he arrived, the party started. Katy Gordon, welcomed us all. She talked about us now having two leaders who are behind gender balance in the liberal democrat parliamentary candidates. Katy then invited Nick Clegg to speak.

Nick Clegg gave his usual rhetoric that the party was too male and too pale, that we as a party would benefit hugely from having more women MSPs and MPs and hopefully leader at one point in the future.

Nick talked about his personal commitment to seeing a better representative parliamentary party. He said once again, that he thought it was appalling that a party that claimed to represent modern Britain, had representatives so unrepresentative of modern Britain.

He made it clear that this wasn’t empty rhetoric, he didn’t come to these receptions, talk about gender balance and then forget about it. He had two women in his life, that constantly berated him about this, one Jo Swinson, which when I asked her later told me it was absolutely true. The second is his wife, Miriam who berates him all the time at home on this issue.

In fact, on Wednesday night they held a reception at Downing Street in order to celebrate women athletes who never get the press they deserve.

Nick went on to tell us how important the leadership programme was in nurturing our female and minority candidates. I would add as a side point, that the leadership programme, is helping those who really already have the skills and confidence to get selected, their problem is getting elected and as Katie Ghose of the Electoral Reform Society said that its incredibly difficult for us because we have no safe seats. We can’t usher in great female candidates into safe seats.

I would think the leadership programme might be better if it helped those who didn’t have the confidence or the skills to put themselves forward because sometimes the fear, the confidence & other commitments are deterring some potentially brilliant candidates off from standing.

It was then the turn of Scottish LibDem Leader, Willie Rennie took to the floor. One female, not sure who shouted out “smile” in reference to Rennie’s introductory remarks of Nick Clegg.

Rennie had written down a list of 20 female Scottish councillors including Ayrshire’s own Ruby Kirkwood. He praised them to the hilt.

Rennie made a personal commitment to help and support get more Scottish Women Liberal Democrats elected. Willie told us ladies that if we ever need support in anything whether its organisational or training or anything else, all we needed to do was ask. Rennie gave us permission to kick him, if he didn’t follow through.

I’m sure Jo Swinson and Caron Lindsay will hold him to that and might make use of that offer.

After the speech, I asked Jo Swinson, what she thought of Rennie and Clegg’s speeches to the reception. Jo welcomed their personal commitments to the cause, and told me that it was all our responsibilities to be active whether its standing up and speaking at conference, or being involved with policy committees or standing as a candidate, we all have a responsibility to be as involved as possible and to encourage more women to be involved.

All in all, it was a very good reception. I hope that in May, we improve on the number of women councillors and in the future elections to the UK & Scottish parliaments.

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