Tories May Consider All Women Shortlists After 2015

Labour Party

In comments to Mumsnet recently, new Tory Women’s Minister Nicky Morgan, has said that the Conservatives may consider all women shortlists after the next general election.

I’ll give you the exchange as it appears on Mumsnet, the Jo refered to is Lib Dem Jo Swinson.

NickyMorganMPTue 24-Jun-14 13:33:06


This is one for Jo and Nicky really.

Labour has already made big strides with women’s representation through all-women shortlists.

Do you (Jo and Nicky) personally agree with that as a way of increasing women’s presence as MPs?

If not, what measures do you think should be taken? (Or do you not think anything should be done?)

What are your parties currently doing to increase the numbers of female MPs? Both LibDems and Tories have pretty lamentable records on this.

Nicky Morgan MP:

Well, I think David Cameron’s policy on having an “A” list of candidates before the 2010 election and introducing things such as gender blind CVs shows the Conservative Party is taking this very seriously. I do think the big issue is we just aren’t getting enough women coming forward (which is an issue for all Parties) – we are seeing more women selected now in our seats. I think we need to see where we end up in 2015 and if we are still struggling to get more women MPs then no option is off the table.

It is encouraging to hear a Tory acknowledging the problem they have with their lack of female representatives, I can’t help but feel that waiting till after 2015 is really not good enough.

I have spoken many times before about the appalling underrepresentation of women in Westminster. 147 out of 650 (22%) is nowhere near good enough, but the stats are even worse within the Tories, with 48 out of 304 (15.7%).

The excuse of not enough women coming forward rings very hollow. It might be more to do with the fact that the Tories simply don’t care enough about gender equality. Rather than starting to do something now, the year before an election, Nicky Morgan is going to wait till afterwards, at which point the problem will almost certainly have become worse.

Representation of women is a matter for all political parties – Labour certainly does not have a monopoly on the issue. However, so far it’s only Labour that has made any real headway.

Honeyball’s Weekly Round-Up

Labour Party

After weeks of discussion this week saw the release of Royal Mail shares. On Friday, the first day of selling, 225 million were traded at 330p each. 10 million were sold in the first 30 seconds alone, and by close-of-play prices had increased to 455p each – a rise of 38%.

Billy Hayes, head of the Communication Workers Union, called the sale a “tragedy” and it was claimed that the organisation had been put on the market for £700 million too little – something which Friday’s explosion in share prices appeared to corroborate.

The BBC’s Robert Peston framed the privatisation as a short-term boon for the Coalition Government. He conceded that – as a purely political calculation – allowing 690,000 people to profit made sense for both Vince Cable and Michael Fallon’s parties, but wrote that “the government may well in time be found guilty of having privatised the company too cheaply.”

When words like “frenzy” and “stampede” are being used it is usually safe to assume that not everyone is thinking straight. In the 1980s and early 1990s we saw populist privatisations in rail, housing and energy. These decisions were much vaunted at the time, for helping ordinary people ‘get on’. Now though, with consumer prices spiralling and all three sectors characterised by cartels rather than proper competition, privatisation looks to have been badly thought out.

I will therefore be supporting the CWU strike when it happens, and will encourage others to help Save Our Royal Mail. We mustn’t allow a 500 year old organisation to be destroyed for the sake of a quick political buck.

Earlier in the week, meanwhile, David Cameron and Ed Miliband both conducted reshuffles. The Conservatives’ aggressive policies towards women and families mean they’re now polling 13% behind Labour among female voters. Much was made of Cameron’s efforts to redress this through personnel changes, with promotions to Minister of State positions for women Esther McVey, Nicky Morgan and Jane Ellison.

Labour’s reshuffle, meanwhile, saw more senior roles for Rachel Reeves, Emma Reynolds and Gloria de Piero (who becomes the new Shadow Equalities Minister). The changes mean Labour’s Shadow Cabinet is now 44% female – compared to just 18% of the Coalition Cabinet.

For me this is a vindication of Labour’s proactive approach to opening up politics to women. We began the policy of all-women shortlists before the 1997 Election. It was a clear and decisive measure, which allowed the number of Labour women in parliament to increase rapidly compared to Conservatives and Lib Dems. It is now starting to bear fruit at the very top level. The other two main parties – whose laissez-faire philosophies are reflected in their selection processes – have never had the same success.

Cameron is keen to detoxify, and some have criticised his efforts to promote women as purely cosmetic. I myself try not to be too cynical, and welcome the advancement of women across all the political parties. However, to create genuine gender parity among MPs both the Tories and the Lib Dems will have to adopt a more serious, long-term policy – starting at grass roots level. If they do not then both parties’ top teams will, in fifteen or twenty years’ time, be undergoing exactly the same struggle to make themselves look modern.

Liberal-Democrats dither over increasing female MPs

Labour Party

Now that the Liberal-Democrats have gone back to their constituencies to prepare for whatever coalition they think may give them some chance of being in government, this blog will use one post to review their performance.

The only item of real substance was Ed Davey’s call for more female Lib-Dem MPs. The party’s current standing – only 12% of its MPs are women – is pitiful, even compared to the generally low bar set by the British Parliament (which is only 22% female). Davey said it was “not good enough”. For a so-called progressive party the figures must be particularly galling. Even the world of finance – hardly a pioneering sector on these types of issue – does better than the Lib-Dems, with directors at UK banks now 20% female.

As a champion of gender equality in politics I would love to see more women across the British political parties. But unfortunately the Lib Dems’ lukewarm reaction to all-women shortlists does not fill me with hope. Minister for Care Norman Lamb, who purports to be an advocate of more women, nevertheless said he was “not very keen” on the policy. Others in the party complained that all-women shortlists would be undemocratic, by taking power away from constituency parties, and a survey found that the idea was deeply unpopular among Lib Dem activists.

Fears of positive discrimination or ‘tokenism’ make people wary of all-women shortlists. But the policy helped Labour, whose MPs are now 31% female, without detracting from the calibre of its candidates. And the European Parliament does even better, with 34% of MEPs now female. As several studies show, diversity drives standards up, not down.

The current 4:1 ratio of men to women in the UK Parliament is unacceptable. And the idea that quotas for women means a lower quality of candidate really doesn’t wash unless you think men are four times as equipped as women to run the country.

So how do we change this? Well, in my view concrete action rather than big talk is what is required. We need more all-women shortlists which have been proved to have an impact on the number of women in politics.

Unfortunately for the Lib Dems decisive steps of this kind seem to run counter to the laissez-faire ethos of the party. As a result I fear that very little will change for them in the immediate future, and they will continue to lag behind rather than lead the gender equality debate.


All Women Shortlists: Guest Blog by Emma Burnell

Labour Party

The last week has shown more than ever how vital All Women Shortlists are. Changing the culture of politics away from the misogynistic boys club that tells women to accept sexual harassment as part of the price they pay for being political will take more than fine words. It needs real, concerted action from all parties.

Now I can’t do much to affect the numbers in other Parties. They will go their own way.

The Lib Dems are encouraging their MPs to stay on for the next election to take advantage of their incumbency factor. Given that Fabian Research shows that five of their ten most vulnerable seats are held by women (and they only have seven overall). The Lib Dems may have had a good week, but they would have to produce miracles to keep all of these women in their seats. The other two are in constituencies where the swing against the Lib Dems in Eastleigh of 14% would also see them lose.

The Tories have done better in selecting female candidates and their number of women MPs was raised significantly by the A list at the last election to a whopping 16% of their MPs. But the A-List has been abandoned. There is a new assertiveness from Tory activists, but they look like this:


A representative bunch I’m sure you’ll agree.

Some – especially Lib Dems – will argue that the imbalance in representation is a result of first past the post. But on current evidence, this is extremely hard to prove. The European election uses PR and while Labour, the Greens and to be fair, the Lib Dems have reasonably equal representation, the other Parties don’t – particularly the Tories and UKIP. So the UK delegation to the EU Parliament as a whole is still nearly two thirds male. Nor is this a problem that only occurs at a national level. In the 2010 Census of Councillors, 68% were male. This is clearly a problem at every level of elected politics.

Equally, it is a problem with the institutions that surround politics. While there are some superb women in political commentary, in think tanks and in the media, there are far too few. The BBC have never had a female Chief Political Correspondent  for example, and Newsnight and the Today Programme are roundly criticised for having far too few female guests.

Think tanks are massively imbalanced too, with men taking both the lion’s share of the roles and also dominating those roles where they will learn the kind of skills – like public speaking and press writing – so likely to come in handy when it comes to getting selected to be a candidate.

It is quite clear from the figures that Labour’s efforts – through balanced lists at European level and All Women Shortlists for the House of Commons that our methods for changing the equality of representation are working. This must continue until by changing the cultural signifiers, we change the culture. All positive discrimination should have the initial impact simply of rebalancing the inequality it finds. But ultimately it should be possible that this rebalancing should change the culture around it. Normalise that equality.

In that normalisation, the process should make itself obsolete. Eventually, All Women Shortlists and other measures to encourage female candidates should become unnecessary. They should and must be a temporary measure that corrects a long-standing historical imbalance and forces wider cultural change. But sadly, as we have seen over the last week, despite increases in female representation at many levels, that cultural change – while started – is still lagging. We are still a long way from equality.

We have some amazing women in the Labour Party. Those who have made it to the top are great role models. These women recognise the value of bringing up other great women behind them. AWS is sadly still essential to doing that.

While that remains the case, all Labour members – male and female – who recognise the value of equality should continue to champion AWS as the way Labour have successfully made themselves the most representative party in the UK Parliament and in the European Parliament.

Emma is a socialist, feminist, environmentalist and proud long-standing Labour member. She is a regular contributor to Labour List and has her own blog, Scarlet Standard.