Headlines: July 3rd, 2008

The next General Election will not see a big increase in the number of women MPs according to research published by the Electoral Reform Society. It has analysed lists of parliamentary candidates and says the political parties have not done enough to ensure an increase in the number of women in the Commons is even a possibility.

The Society says that eighty years after universal suffrage and the so-called ‘Flapper Vote’, women are still being passed over by local parties selecting candidates for winnable seats. The research shows that if, as is widely predicted by the opinion polls, the Conservatives increase their share of the vote, the number of women MPs will at best remain the same and may even go down.

The study shows that at the moment women make up 20 per cent of MPs, which is almost unchanged since 1997. The Liberal Democrats and Conservatives, the study says, are set to improve their own gender balance but the expected loss of dozens of marginal seats which are currently held by women Labour MPs would offset these gains in women’s overall representation.

The Chief Executive of the Electoral Reform Society, Dr Ken Ritchie, said, “Which ever way you spin it, the next election simply cannot prove a watershed moment for women in politics. Progress has always been hard fought, and the parties are simply not picking their battles.”

Beatrice Barleon, the Society’s Women’s Officer, said the political parties talked about the need for greater equality but in every likely scenario for the next election, they could not deliver. “The blame can’t just lie with the parties. Our voting system fails women and minority groups. The evidence from around the world is unambiguous, where there is a fairer, more proportional system, countries have more women and minority representatives,” she added.