Baroness Diana Maddock
Profession/ Current priorities
Political Aims/ Priorities/ Assessments
© Jan 2001
Baroness Diana Maddock
Nothing in particular. I got involved when I gave up work to have a child, and was canvassed by a Liberal woman politician, who later came and asked me to join the Party so I did. It fitted in with being at home with a small child, and developed as the local Liberals were campaigning on community issues which affected me as a woman at home.
2. Do/did you have a role model?
Not really, except I was very impressed by Jo Grimond who was a reasonable person and admirable.
3.Is there a tradition of political involvement/ policy - making in your family?
No, although I have discovered that my grandfather had worked for what became the Co-operative Building Society, of which he was a board member in the end, and that society was concerned with supporting ordinary housing for ordinary people, and had a socially aware philosophy.
4. Were you involved in grassroots activities etc.?
No, because I was always working. I started my involvement in local city politics campaigning to get a Liberal elected to Southampton City Council, where there had been no Liberal elected since 1919. I helped the first to get elected and then I was the second.
The most important experiences I had were campaigning and finding out what people thought about community issues, and working on education issues for the City and County Council. I didn't have to move into party politics, as that is where I started.
5.Were there disruptions in your political career?
Yes and no. I was a local councillor, and then stood as a Parliamentary candidate unsuccessfully. However, there was a by-election and I was elected for Christchurch, a seat which I lost in the General election in 1997, but I then became a life peer, and moved to the House of Lords. I am now President of the Liberal Democrat Party.
6.Were there disruptions in your biography that have had an impact on your political career? Have your objectives changed during your political career?
No, my career moved through secondary school teaching to teaching English as a Foreign Language to adults while living in Scandinavia where I became more politically aware, to having my own children, when politics took over. I always took opportunities as my life evolved.
My political objectives have changed during my career, as I thought I would be an organiser, then I took the opportunity of the bye-election to stand for Westminster, and I am now an unelected politician.
Constant themes in my political career have been Housing and Education. I successfully piloted the Home Energy Conservation Act through parliament, an interest I had developed when living in Sweden.
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Being encouraged by a local politician who canvassed for my vote, and having the tome to do it.
2. Which party and when?
The Liberal Party in 1976, which became the Liberal Democrat Party.
3. Does your party have equal opportunity regulations?
It has rules that attempt to achieve this. Although the party has a disappointing number of members of parliament, over 30% of local councillors in the party are women. For the last European elections, a system of 'zipping' was used to ensure that men and women alternated in first positions on the lists. This was successful in gaining a balanced representation.
4. Which office/function did you hold in your party at the beginning? How long after joining? How did you get into running for office?
I joined an activist campaigning group which was working on issues and doing things, and I became secretary and chairman of the local constituency party within the first three years of joining.
5. Did you have mentors within your party?
Not officially. I learned from men in particular, who encouraged me and gave me opportunities.
6. Have you ever changed party affiliation?
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My work as a teacher particularly with students of EFL, taught me about helping a group to gell together and getting a message across, and these are an invaluable political skill.
2. What kind of qualifications do you have?
My vocational training was as a teacher - I have a Cert.Ed., a postgraduate diploma in Linguistics and RSA TEFL.
3. In what kinds of jobs did you work?
Teaching and political organising.
4. Do you link your professional and political career?
Yes, my career in education has informed my political life - the first two Bills I got involved in in the House of Lords were about education and my experience as a teacher and Chair of school governors was very useful.
5. In what areas do you see your special competencies?
Communication, organising, education, housing and energy efficiency.
6. What are your political priorities?
Housing, energy, and education.
7. Main fields of action?
I was the spokesperson on women in the House of Commons. Housing expert.
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Enabling the Liberal Democrats to be in Government, especially women. However there are many ways of achieving this, and as a standard bearer for the energy world and a Liberal Democrat is one way.
2. How and why have your political objectives changed during your political career?
They have changed by level. In the local Council, the objective was to gain control of the council. In parliament I tried to make a difference to people's lives, and I think my Bill on Home energy conservation did do that and I tried not to waste my time on games in the bemusing inefficient House of Commons. In the Lords, I try to be a standard bearer for my Party and our beliefs.
3. Do equal opportunities strategies in your opinion have an impact in your country in the promotion of women in decision-making- please specify?
Yes, but they are now in limbo because of legal rulings and the difficulties in getting political parties to change - they don't operate in the same way as businesses and the decisions are made by ordinary party members.
4. Did you benefit from these strategies?
No not really, I was in the right place at the right time.
5. Do you see direct or indirect discrimination in conventional policy-making?
I sometimes feel there is indirect discrimination through people not thinking or being aware. Women do commit to politics at local level, but committing to the game of getting into Parliament is much harder. It is not attractive to women and they have to be able to be in London.
6. What are the major obstacles that women need to overcome?
A lack of confidence - they need to know that they have skills. Getting selected is difficult and balancing political and personal lives. Interestingly many more women came forward in our party for European seats as they knew, under our party system, that they would have a more equal chance of being selected.
7.What obstacles have you had to overcome in your own career?
None. I have mostly received encouragement.
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