Thirty-seven years ago this month, an amazing Liberal, Lesley Abdela, founded The 300 Group. It was set up with the intention of having half of those elected to parliament, women.
It was an astonishing ambition. At that time, women Members of Parliament were few. Even today, we still number just over 200 out of a House of 650. Lesley's challenge to all parties saw more women trained, supported and elected.
For Liberals and later Liberal Democrats, without the 'safe seats' that other parties have, ensuring women were elected to Parliament was not easy. The election of 2015 saw all of our female MPs lose their seats. It was devastating. We were lucky to have Party President Baroness Sal Brinton and our other women members of the Lords who were tremendous in ensuring that the voice of women was heard.
Then came Whitney; followed by Richmond. These two by-elections showed that the party was serious in its ambition to have women elected.
The General Election of 2017 presents a different picture from 2015. Thanks to the work done by CGB, LDW and significantly by our fantastic candidates Liz Leffman and later Sarah Olney, who won that famous victory in Richmond, the tide has turned.
Today we celebrate the election of four women MPs, some 33% of our Parliamentary base. It is really terrific to be able to welcome back Jo Swinson and our 'newbies' Christine Jardine, Wera Hobhouse and Layla Moran. Our heartfelt congratulations to each one of them and to their teams.
It's great to have all of you there, in the House of Commons, working with other colleagues in both Houses.
As LDW, we look forward to continuing to support our women candidates wherever they stand. We want more women to join Jo, Christine, Wera and Layla and to make the Liberal Democrats the party that more than any other, welcomes women, reaches out to women and ensures that women are elected, keeping faith with the past and creating our new future.
Liberal Democrat Women Chairperson