Morning Call: pick of the papers

The ten must-read pieces from the Sunday papers.

1. Those who say history will absolve the Iraq warmongers are deluded (Observer)

Those who argue that last week's election in Iraq vindicated the decision to go to war there in 2003 ignore the huge number of civilians killed in the invasion, writes Henry Porter.

2. Warning -- Women are people, too (Independent on Sunday)

The party leaders are mistaken if they think that women voters are only concerned with family-friendly issues, says John Rentoul. The big issues -- taxation, public spending, jobs -- matter just as much to them.

3. It's Nick Clegg's chance to shine, so he'd better not fluff his lines (Observer)

The prospect of a hung parliament could finally give the Lib Dems a chance to shape government to their agenda, writes Andrew Rawnsley. But they will need to show exceptional discipline during the campaign.

4. Welcome to life under Nick Clegg (Sunday Times)

Meanwhile, in the Sunday Times, Martin Ivens argues that, unlike his predecessors, Clegg gives the appearance of being genuinely equidistant between Labour and the Conservatives.

5. A general election is a battle for hearts more than minds (Sunday Telegraph)

To have any hope of winning a Commons majority, David Cameron has to conquer a generation-old national assumption that the Tories are up to no good, writes Matthew d'Ancona.

6. Sam the one to play it for Cam (News of the World)

Cameron's greatest personal asset is his wife, Samantha, says Fraser Nelson. Now she must help to offset the Tory leader's perceived insincerity.

7. A shameful day for the House of Lords (Sunday Times)

A leader attacks the "establishment stitch-up" that has allowed peers who abused expenses to escape legal action.

8. David Cameron is selling a new Tory brand -- but I'm not buying it yet (Sunday Telegraph)

The Tory modernisers' crucial error was to allow their rebranding project to be exhibited in the light of day, argues Janet Daley. Voters now recognise it for the mindless, manipulative, media-driven technique that it is.

9. Don't celebrate these billionaires, be horrified by their existence (Observer)

We are wrong to welcome the growing number of billionaires, argues Will Hutton. Wealth is not always a sign of economic progress.

10. Wives, TV debates . . . How about fixed terms, too? (Sunday Times)

Having adopted TV election debates, we should also import fixed terms from the United States, argues a leader in the Sunday Times.

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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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