Updated : Time to scrap token candidates in Lib Dem selections

Note, this article has been updated for accuracy. The changes might make one or two comments seem odd, but the were relevant to the article when first written.

The Lib Dems have an odd system for selecting candidates for European elections. For the uninitiated this means that your place on the Lib Dem list can, in certain cases have more to do with your gender than it does the votes you receive. As you might note from the comments below, Linda Jack was guaranteed to finish no lower than 3rd on the ballot paper in the Eastern Region no matter what she did. Good for her. I like Linda and what she has to say and think she would make a great MEP, but is it right ?

It has been argued elsewhere that she only put herself on the Eastern Region list of candidates in order to do the party a favour because party elections require a woman candidate (or in elections with lots of women, a male candidate). Iain Dale has more on this and shows just how ludicrous the situation is.

Isn't there something wrong with a system that means you have to drag in token candidates in order to get selections made ? I have seen this happen for parliamentary seats across the country, in some cases men/women have to be really persuaded to stand in various seats over and over in order to be the "token" person of their gender in order for the constituency to select someone. Now if that does not send some alarm bells ringing that we have got the system wrong then there is something seriously seriously awry in Cowley Street.


Jock Coats said...

Are you sure? If so, then I didn't deliberately follow the rule (though it happens that my first and second choices were of different genders). I looked on the ballot paper and am pretty sure those weren't the instructions - and I certainly did not, unwittingly or not, follow such a rule all the way down. I was under the impression that previously people were allowed to vote for whom they pleased but after the count the successful candidates were "zipped" into alternating gender order - but it wasn't on the individual voter to do so.

Dominic said...

This means that you might have two favourite male candidates, but one of them has to be in third place because you have to vote for a woman in second place (and again vice versa).
Hi Nick

Appreciate you didn't get a ballot so you won't have seen the instructions, but what you write above is factually incorrect.

You can vote for candidates in whatever order you prefer. The one-third rule only applies if there are (after the ordinary count) 3 candidates of the same gender in the top 3 places. It would apply equally whether there are 3 women or 3 men in the top 3. But to my knowledge this rule has never had to be invoked in Euro selections as we've always achieved this level of gender balance anyway.

And all this also means that Linda achieved her 2nd place fair and square - I think you post (unwittingly) does her an injustice.

Mark Pack said...

"For the uninitiated this means that you are forced to vote as your second preference for a female candidate if your first preference is for a male (and vice versa)."

Untrue. Neither do the rules say that, nor is this how the rules work in practice.

"This means that you might have two favourite male candidates, but one of them has to be in third place because you have to vote for a woman in second place (and again vice versa)."

Untrue again. There's nothing in the rules to stop the result being man, man, woman or woman, woman, man.

Norfolk Blogger said...

I'll edit the main post later (I cannot edit from work).

However, it does appear that zipping has forced a candidate in to second place who neither wishes to be there or campaigned for it.

Mark Pack said...

Thanks Nich, but umm ... there was no zipping!

What the rules required was at least one man and at least one woman in the top three. So the members could have voted Linda Jack into first, second or third place.

That she finished second isn't because she was "forced" there but because members wanted to put her there.

As to your comment about Linda, here's what her blog says:

"I am convinced that we can win another seat in the East, especially with the right leader (!) so I had already decided, that if by some miracle I did get number 2 I would do my darndest (is that a word Mr Graham?) to ensure that happened" and "So - the campaign starts here.............who in the East is signing up to help me?"

That doesn't really back up your comment about her?

Nick said...

it does appear that zipping has forced a candidate in to second place who neither wishes to be there or campaigned for it.

Again, that's wrong - she's second because she finished second in the voting, no zipping was involved. The full results are here and you can see that she got almost twice as many first preference votes as the candidate who came third.

Mark Valladares said...


Still wrong, I'm afraid. Our gender balance provisions forced her into a position no lower than third. However, her fame, combined with a core of members who like to promote women candidates (entirely fair, in my view), has ensured that she has done better than that.

Of course, there is the ironic possibility that she might now get elected (it is a outside possibility, I suspect, but a possibility none the less), and I'm sure that she'll work damned hard if she is. I certainly can't wait to see how her blog develops if that happens...

Linda Jack said...


Just to be clear, I am second because of my first preferences. Also therefore I don't feel forced into the position at all. No I didn't campaign (apart from manifesto, hustings and answering emails) for a number of reasons, not least that my focus at the time was on getting a Westminster seat. However, this changes everything, so please don't think I don't want to be there. My position always was that if I did get number 2 I would work my socks off to get us another seat and that I will do, already started! And if I ruffle a few feathers and drop myself in it from time to time because of being too honest......so be it!!


Paul Walter said...

None of this is true, Nich. On the "zipping" point, Linda Jack received 284 first preference votes which was nearly double what the person who came third received. So there was no "zipping" - she came second fair and square and by a HUGE MARGIN. And she does wish to be there - she is delighted to have been elected from what I have read - and she did campaign for it in the sense that she had a A4 sheet that went round like everyone else, and in any case, she is generally a very active and high profile party activist. She was on World at One for example - which other candidates achieved that media highspot.