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Announcing the jury for the New Statesman SPERI Prize for Political Economy

The jury for the Sheffield Political Economy Research Institute and the New Statesman's new prize for original and critical writing in political economy has been decided.

The New Statesman and the Sheffield Political Economy Research Institute (SPERI) at the University of Sheffield are delighted to announce the names of the members of the jury that will choose the first winner of the New Statesman SPERI Prize for Political Economy.

The prize was announced last month and will be awarded biennially, starting in 2014, to the scholar who has succeeded most effectively over the preceding two or three years in disseminating original and critical ideas in political economy to a wider national and international public audience.

The members of the jury are as follows:

Helen Lewis – Deputy Editor of the New Statesman

George Eaton – Political Editor of the New Statesman

Tony Payne – Professor of Political Economy and Director of SPERI at the University of Sheffield

Andrew Gamble – Professor of Politics at the University of Cambridge and Chair of the International Advisory Board of SPERI

Sarah O’Connor – Economics Correspondent at the Financial Times

Gavin Kelly – Chief Executive of The Resolution Foundation.

The jury will be chaired by Professor Tony Payne from SPERI.

The jury will publish a shortlist of five to six names in September and announce the winner of the prize in October. He or she will then deliver the New Statesman SPERI Prize Lecture at the Royal Institution in London at a date to be confirmed in November 2014.

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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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