Clegg Admits Lib Dems Aren't Diverse Enough: Calls For More Women, Disabled, Gay And Ethnic Minority MPs

Clegg Admits Lib Dems Aren't Diverse Enough

Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg has admitted his party is not diverse enough and says there needs to be more Lib Dem role models for disabled people, women, ethnic minorities and gay people.

He has insisted his party must broaden its appeal if it is to build on its recent by-election success in Eastleigh.

The victory has been heralded by some as a key turning point amid a testing time for the Lib Dems.

Only seven of the Lib Dems' 56 MPs are women - a figure Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg is less than impressed with.

Speaking at the Welsh Liberal Democrats' spring conference in Cardiff today, Mr Clegg voiced his confidence at a Lib Dem revival as well as defending the decisions he has had to take since forming a coalition with the Conservatives.

He said: "This party is too male and that needs to change.

"We need more Liberal Democrat role models for black and Asian boys and girls, for disabled boys and girls and for young gay men and women too.

"We must be a more diverse party. And we will be a better party for it."

The idea the Lib Dems need to improve its image comes amid the continuing and repeated criticism for their role in controversial UK Government policies.

Today Mr Clegg hit back at his detractors, insisting the Lib Dems were doing well in their promise to create a fairer society - despite anger over the so-called bedroom tax and cuts to public spending.

"Building a new stronger economy is not easy," the Sheffield Hallam MP told delegates.

"I don't pretend it's all sunny uplands from here.

"Countries around the world face the same hard truth: we must all pay the piper in the end.

"I want to make one thing clear: we will not flinch on the deficit.

"But to be unflinching is not to be unthinking. Balancing the books is a judgment, not a science. And our plan has always allowed room for manoeuvre."

One example of this, Mr Clegg said, was the UK Government had chosen to meet its debt reduction targets "on a slower timetable".

He added: "The fiscal contraction this year and next is less than Obama's reduction plans and less than France and Spain's too.

"It is simply not true that we are slashing and burning the state."

However, one particular topic that Mr Clegg appeared to please his 140-strong audience with was the promise the UK Government would not "lurch to the right" as long as he remained at the Cabinet table.

He said: "Conservative backbenchers can huff and puff as much as they like, but the Liberal Democrats will keep this government anchored firmly in the centre ground."

He continued to attack the Tories later on his speech, as well as blaming the previous Labour UK Government for creating the financial mess the country was in.

But it was his pop at former Lib Dem MP Lembit Opik that drew the biggest laugh from the crowd.

While congratulating Cardiff City Football Club's promotion to the top flight he said: "We English can never rest on our laurels - just when we think we've finally got rid of Craig Bellamy he forces his way back into the limelight - a bit like Lembit."

Mr Clegg also paid tribute to his party's female contingent in Wales - applauding Welsh leader Kirsty Williams for "running rings" around her opponents.

Ms Williams will address delegates at the Holland House hotel in Cardiff tomorrow.


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