My speech in the Real Women policy debate

I see Alex Folkes filmed and uploaded my speech from yesterday’s debate – so you can watch it on YouTube:

You can find out more about the policy ideas at and here’s the written version of the speech (not quite as delivered – due to changes to respond to points in debate!):

Well – it’s been a great debate!

We’ve had excellent contributions on all aspects of the policy paper.

But as there is agreement on the vast majority of the paper – I must focus on the two key areas where there is some difference of view – just a bit.

And it wouldn’t be a good Liberal Democrat paper – if it didn’t cause a bit of a ruck.

We’ve had a good debate on the amendments – but I am going to urge you to vote against both.

Name blank job applications – such a simple idea.

And it doesn’t cost anything. And it removes barriers And it widens opportunity

We give children numbers to eliminate bias from examiners marking. This is the same thing.

Our constitution says that none shall be enslaved by prejudice.

This removes prejudice in its fullest sense.

Pre – judice
Pre – judging

It won’t solve everything – but it will make a step change to women and indeed, as we have heard, ethnic minorities as to who gets through to interview – after that – it’s up to you.

Based on our proposals the Department of Work and Pensions has been experimenting with some early survey work and initial results show – and I quote – there is significant discrimination.

The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development support out proposal on name blank employment.

As to retouching – we Liberal Democrats are more radical, braver and bolder than the warm words and good intentions of this amendment.

The preamble to our constitution says none shall be enslaved by conformity.

But if this amendment succeeds then we are condoning conformity and we are saying to the global giants
– of the food,
– the diet,
– the beauty
– and the fashion industry

we accept your values … unconditionally

It is they who have changed out culture – to the cult of thin, and the perfect and the consumer.

These industries don’t spend the billions of pounds for altruistic reasons.

And to say that we should not tackle retouching because it doesn’t solve all the problems of enhanced presentations – like breast enhancement or lighting – is like saying we shouldn’t tackle anything.

How do you eat an elephant – one step at a time?

We have to begin to push back – right here – right now.

This is a small step but a good step.

And let’s not get this out of proportion – we are talking about labelling.

The movers want cultural change – so do I – we both agree that is the answer – but how does cultural change start?

Well it’s about timing – when something reaches the point at which we have to recognise that something we thought was relatively innocent is causing so much damage we have to act

It happened with drink driving. It happened with compulsory wearing of seatbelts.

The culture changed. But it didn’t happen because of lessons in school. It took a whole package, four elements to effect that culture change: a change in regulation, a massive media campaign, education and timing.

We have the timing – because as we have heard so forcefully – so many young people are now being affected.

We have the campaign and – thanks to this proposal in this women’s policy paper – the issues around retouching are now on the agenda and have been taken up both by adult media, with articles in almost every paper in the land about the effects of retouching – and in teen mags. This is an article in a teen mag informing its young readers about airbrushing – it would never have happened if not for us.

This motion gives us the full package – that will begin to change our culture. And it does it in such a very liberal way. In a free, open and liberal society it is absolutely vital that the operations of the media and corporations are fully transparent and honest – which is currently not the case.

Lastly – the B word! – “banning”.

Conference we are not banning young people from looking at retouched ads. We are banning the global commercial giants from making millions out of targeting our under 16s with fake – fake images.

I wish the movers of the amendments were right – that developing age-appropriate lessons on body-image in schools was enough – but sadly it isn’t.

The most successful ads feed off insecurity – and what a target audience under 16s make – vulnerable to almost every bodily insecurity there is.

Today we have to decide whose side we are on?

Reject the amendments. Support the motion.