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Last Updated: Tuesday, 24 January 2006, 19:46 GMT
Lib Dems demand ethnic diversity
Jo Swinson
Jo Swinson said the Lib Dems needed a 'wider pool of talent'
A group of Liberal Democrats has launched a campaign to make the party "more representative" of the UK's ethnic diversity.

MP Jo Swinson said the Lib Dems, whose 62 MPs are all white, "urgently" needed to draw "on a wider pool of talent".

The Reflecting Britain group is calling on the party's next leader, who will be named in March, to tackle the issue.

The three leadership contenders are being set questions on how they propose to make the Lib Dems more diverse.

'No complacency'

Deputy leader Sir Menzies Campbell, party president Simon Hughes and Treasury spokesman Chris Huhne are running for the job.

Their answers to the questions set will be published on the Reflecting Britain group's website.

Campaign spokeswoman Candy Piercy said: "The party and its new leader cannot afford to be complacent about this issue."

MP Sandra Gidley MP and Fiyaz Mughal, chairman of the Ethnic Minority Liberal Democrats, are also backing the initiative.

Mr Mughal said: "If the Liberal Democrats are to get a black or minority ethnic MP elected at the next general election, we must begin finding and supporting suitable candidates now.

"For a couple of years now the party has been committed to establishing an ethnic minority election task force on similar lines to the one for Gender Balance.

"We believe that one of the first acts of the new leader should be to ensure that it is established with the political support and resources it needs to be effective."

The campaign is asking party members to sign a petition which will be presented to the new leader at the Lib Dem spring conference in Harrogate, starting on 3 March.

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