The part of the Blair piece the Tories don't want you to read

In his NS article, Blair says Labour is right to reject the argument that it "created" the crisis by overspending.

As you'd expect, the Tories have seized on Tony Blair's declaration that Labour must not "tack left on tax and spending". Conservative chairman Grant Shapps said:

Tony Blair is right to warn that Labour aren't a credible party of government under Ed Miliband. Ed Miliband and Ed Balls have opposed every single difficult decision this government has taken to fix the problems that Labour left behind - on welfare, on immigration and on the deficit. The only plan Labour have is more of what got us into this mess in the first place - more spending, more borrowing and more debt.

It is worth noting, however, that in his piece Blair explicitly rejects the argument that it was overspending by Labour that "got us into this mess". While conceding that there was a case for "a tightening around 2005", Blair argues that Labour is right to be "very robust in knocking down the notion that it 'created' the crisis." As he points out, the current structural deficit was less than 1 per cent in 2007/08 and the national debt was lower than in 1997. It was the crisis that caused the deficit, not the deficit that caused the crisis. 

Conservative chairman Grant Shapps speaks at last year's Conservative conference in Birmingham. Photograph: Getty Images.

George Eaton is political 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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