Politics: Lib Dems get female shadows

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The Independent Online
Every one of the Liberal Democrats' 46 MPs is to have a female "shadow", the party announced yesterday.

Worried by his party's poor performance in getting women elected last May - the number went down from four out of 26 MPs to three out of 46 - Paddy Ashdown asked his women's spokesperson, Jackie Ballard, to set up the scheme. She has drawn up a list of the "key tasks" MPs perform, with answering letters at the top and speech-making in only fifth place. Each shadow will be expected to experience or observe each task over a six-month period.

The first six MPs - Ms Ballard, Norman Baker, John Burnett, Simon Hughes, Andrew Stunnell and Steven Webb - have begun their programmes.

Ms Ballard said the scheme would start by targeting women thinking of standing in elections for the Scottish and Welsh assemblies and for Europe. She said it proved the party was taking the issue seriously: "It is a big thing to ask of MPs, most of whom have quite well-developed egos, to have someone following them around and seeing what they do warts and all."

- Fran Abrams,

Political Correspondent