Lib Dem Conference: Plans for promotion of women rejected

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The Independent Online
Plans for positive discrimination to put more women on Liberal Democrat short-lists for Westminster seats were rejected yesterday, despite the support of the party leader, Paddy Ashdown.

Representatives also voted against similar proposals to put more women on internal committees but agreed that shortlists for European Parliament elections in 1999 would have 50 per cent women on them.

The rejected proposals, which meant ensuring that all parliamentary short- lists were at least 50 per cent female, provoked a fierce debate. The conference appeared to be evenly divided but the plans needed a two-thirds majority in order to be passed.

Richard Burt, a councillor from Dudley, said the moves would put discrimination into Liberal Democrat rules. "I was unfortunate enough to experience the identical changes in the Labour Party four years ago ...It was a disaster."

Baroness Williams of Crosby, supporting the measures, said people would not vote for the Liberal Democrats if they thought they were not "playing fair between men and women."

"If the conference rejected the measures it would be telling them that the Liberal Democrats were not prepared to move on an issue which was crucial to our times."