CommentPlus: pick of the papers

The ten must-read pieces from this morning's papers.

1. The Pope, the Prophet and the religious support for evil (Independent)

Johann Hari discusses the Danish Prophet Muhammad cartoons and the revelations about the Catholic Church's cover-up of paedophilia -- religion should not be above the law, or protected from uncomfortable debate or scrutiny.

Read the CommentPlus summary.

2. Darling's Budget could point the way for Britain's renewal (Guardian)

A vision for post-banking-crisis capitalism should be at the top of the agenda, says Martin Kettle, but no party has yet created one. Next week the Chancellor, now his own master, can do so.

Read the CommentPlus summary.

3. Lawyers have no place on the battlefield (Times)

The Court of Appeal's judgment shows no understanding of what soldiers do, says Richard Kemp. In the heat of battle, a commander can't worry about the Human Rights Act -- it would make war impossible.

Read the CommentPlus summary.

4. It really won't be the internet that wins it (Independent)

Talk of the e-election, the Twitter election, or the Facebook election proliferates. But, Mary Dejevsky argues, e-editors are mirrors, not creators, of the negative political climate.

Read the CommentPlus summary.

5. The Lib Dems are talking tough on debt -- but where's the beef? (Daily Telegraph)

Where are the details of the Lib Dems' planned tax cuts, asks Jeff Randall. Politicians won't tell the truth because voters have been infantilised by Labour to believe that it can keep demanding more and more.

6. Like all drugs, miaow-miaow should be legal (Times)

All drugs should be legally available to anyone over the age of 21, says Antonia Senior. Attempting to scare teenagers about the dangers is pointless because their brains are wired to take risks.

Read the CommentPlus summary.

7. Obama should table a Middle East peace plan (Financial Times)

Binyamin Netanyahu is not interested in two-state solutions, says Philip Stephens. What is needed is open recognition in Washington that US interests -- and in the long term those of peace in the region -- would be better served by an even-handed approach.

Read the CommentPlus summary.

8. Europe should rethink its aid to Palestine (Financial Times)

In the same paper, Richard Youngs argues that it is time to stop funding feckless elites -- the way in which such funds have been delivered has deepened the debilitating lack of Palestinian unity.

8. Therapeutic retribution (Guardian)

Libby Brooks looks at a model of restorative justice that holds the offender directly accountable to the people he has harmed. Justice is a public health concern, too: offenders meeting victims can cut the trauma that crime causes.

10. Living and dying (Times)

The leading article applauds Debbie Purdy for bringing courage and optimism to the assisted suicide debate with her struggle to clarify the law, and her articulation of the case for changing it.

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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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