PETA activists display placards along with chained inflatable elephants, during a demonstration. Photograph: Getty Images.
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Why was the ban on circus animals dropped from the Queen's Speech?

Cameron's caution prevailed over the Lib Dems.

After a slimline Queen's Speech of just 11 bills, attention has moved to those that were left out. The most notable absentee was a proposed law banning the use of wild animals in circuses. Earlier this year, David Cameron promised campaigners including Stanley Johnson, Peter Tatchell and Caroline Lucas: "We’re going to do it". But the measure didn't receive a mention in the address. I'm told that the Lib Dems were pushing for a bill to be included, but that Cameron's caution prevailed. The bill would have been exactly the kind of "barnacle" that Lynton Crosby has sought to scrape off the coalition boat.

Among those who will be most angered is Conservative MP Mark Pritchard, who has campaigned for years on the issue and who revealed in 2011 that he was "threatened" by Downing Street and offered a "pretty trivial job" in return for dropping his motion on the subject (which was subsequently passed by MPs).

After reports that a ban on circus animals would be included in the Queen's Speech, he told his local paper: "I am delighted that my Bill on ending the use of wild animals in circuses will be included in the Queen's Speech.

"It's a real result for everyone in Shropshire and throughout the country who have supported my endeavours."

The more cynical types in Westminster are noting that Cameron's constituency of Witney is home to Amazing Animals, a company which trains wild animals for use in circuses.

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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