Who wants a Tory babygro for Christmas?

Last-minute (and disastrous) gift ideas from the political parties

I wonder who buys these things. There must be someone, right now, walking around wearing a T-shirt with the slogan Big Government = Big Problems on it. That's a Tory one, obviously. As is the slightly more direct: "Release Your Inner Tory" T-shirt, which appears to depict a lock and chains exploding as said "Inner Tory" bursts out of the stomach of the unsuspecting wearer. It's like something out of Alien.

Other gift ideas from the Conservative Party include the Tea for Change mug, the delightful "Bye Bye Bureaucracy" poster, and the must-have Blue is the New Green bag. And then, of course, there's the babygro with "Future Prime Minister" printed on it in bright green capitals. Perhaps this is an unwitting reference to the youthful looks of Cameron and Osborne. Or maybe they're thinking that even Cameron isn't young enough and they should start pitching to the über-youth market NOW by recruiting the under-twos. Either way, the idea of buying one of these for a baby is pretty horrifying.

So how does Labour match up? The list of items is rather short, it has to be said. Compared to the Tories' endless array of dodgy garb and kitchenware, the Labour offerings are paltry.

There's the standard diary, tie, pin badge, postcards, and then my personal favourite: the NHS mug. This comes with the helpful instruction: "Ideal for post-campaign session cup of tea!" No novelty babygros for Labour, then. Just slightly sanctimonious messages hinting at the value of our health service. Happy Christmas!

Sophie Elmhirst is features editor of the New Statesman

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How the Lib Dems learned to love all-women shortlists

Yes, the sitting Lib Dem MPs are mostly white, middle-aged middle class men. But the party's not taking any chances. 

I can’t tell you who’ll be the Lib Dem candidate in Southport on 8 June, but I do know one thing about them. As they’re replacing a sitting Lib Dem (John Pugh is retiring) - they’ll be female.

The same is true in many of our top 20 target seats, including places like Lewes (Kelly-Marie Blundell), Yeovil (Daisy Benson), Thornbury and Yate (Clare Young), and Sutton and Cheam (Amna Ahmad). There was air punching in Lib Dem offices all over the country on Tuesday when it was announced Jo Swinson was standing again in East Dunbartonshire.

And while every current Lib Dem constituency MP will get showered with love and attention in the campaign, one will get rather more attention than most - it’s no coincidence that Tim Farron’s first stop of the campaign was in Richmond Park, standing side by side with Sarah Olney.

How so?

Because the party membership took a long look at itself after the 2015 election - and a rather longer look at the eight white, middle-aged middle class men (sorry chaps) who now formed the Parliamentary party and said - "we’ve really got to sort this out".

And so after decades of prevarication, we put a policy in place to deliberately increase the diversity of candidates.

Quietly, over the last two years, the Liberal Democrats have been putting candidates into place in key target constituencies . There were more than 300 in total before this week’s general election call, and many of them have been there for a year or more. And they’ve been selected under new procedures adopted at Lib Dem Spring Conference in 2016, designed to deliberately promote the diversity of candidates in winnable seats

This includes mandating all-women shortlists when selecting candidates who are replacing sitting MPs, similar rules in our strongest electoral regions. In our top 10 per cent of constituencies, there is a requirement that at least two candidates are shortlisted from underrepresented groups on every list. We became the first party to reserve spaces on the shortlists of winnable seats for underrepresented candidates including women, BAME, LGBT+ and disabled candidates

It’s not going to be perfect - the hugely welcome return of Lib Dem grandees like Vince Cable, Ed Davey and Julian Huppert to their old stomping grounds will strengthen the party but not our gender imbalance. But excluding those former MPs coming back to the fray, every top 20 target constituency bar one has to date selected a female candidate.

Equality (together with liberty and community) is one of the three key values framed in the preamble to the Lib Dem constitution. It’s a relief that after this election, the Liberal Democratic party in the Commons will reflect that aspiration rather better than it has done in the past.

Richard Morris blogs at A View From Ham Common, which was named Best New Blog at the 2011 Lib Dem Conference

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