The Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party has elected 32 year-old lesbian Ruth Davidson as their leader. This shouldn't stand out in 21st century politics, but it does. I can’t think of another openly gay leader of any other major political UK grouping.
As our society is becoming, slowly but surely, more tolerant of public LGBT figures, our politics still lags behind. The wink, wink, nudge, nudge, tone of many of the stories around Liam Fox and Adam Werrity provides all too recent proof of that.
Women, and especially young women, also frequently find their way to the top deterred by the incumbent boy's club. The issue has been covered in far greater depth elsewhere, but it is fair to say that our political culture is simply not appealing to women, and I’m not just talking about the issues around motherhood. Our politics is combative, self-aggrandising, and self-indulgent, which is just not a way in which many women wish to work.
Davidson’s election also highlights once again just how few women the Liberal Democrats have in senior positions, and elected roles as a whole.
Yes, it is harder for a Lib Dem candidate of any gender to win a parliamentary seat under our current, unfair, electoral system, but are there enough women being chosen by our selection panels in the most winnable of seats? Furthermore, are enough women encouraged to go for selection in the first place? Ultimately, as a party, do we do enough to make women want to be MPs, AMs and so on?
The stats speak for themselves - the Liberal Democrats only have seven female MPs. Clearly we must work harder to convert today’s female activists into the politicians of tomorrow.
The truth is, the party is in a bit of a conundrum. We rightly continue to reject the use of the anti-meritocratic, illiberal, patronising, quota-based systems so beloved of the other major parties, but we equally correctly suffer embarrassment as we continue to lag behind them in terms of female representation.
At this point I should highlight that our Welsh leader, the very effective Kirsty Williams AM, is female, and that some significant moves are being made within the party to improve things. However, I'm sure even Ms Williams would acknowledge that her success is a happy exception, and not the rule, within the Liberal Democrats.
The answers are clearly not easy to come by, and go far beyond the scope of this post. Culture shifts take time to come about. What is clear though is that the election of Ruth Davidson, the promotions of Chloe Smith and Justine Greening, and an increasing number of high profile female members of the Labour shadow cabinet must be the final wake up call for my male, pale party.