The Conservative Party has committed to ensuring that women make up half of its list of approved candidates for parliamentary elections.
The 50 percent ambition was announced by party chair Brandon Lewis, who said the party needed to “do more” to ensure its gender balance was a better reflection of society, and become the “party of equal opportunity.”
As the party began to select prospective MPs, Wednesday’s announcement outlined a series of measures that would encourage more women to stand as Conservative candidates, including the gender-balanced lists. Lewis did not set out a formal timetable for their creation though. 70 percent of currently approved candidates are male.
The MP for Great Yarmouth, also made clear that his party had to do better on maternity policies and encouraging more mothers into politics.
79 percent of current Tory MPs are male, compared to 55 percent for Labour, which has all-women shortlists for candidates in some seats.
Last year, a proposal Commons Women and Equalities Committee which aimed to put a 45% female representation target in place for Parliament and local councils was rejected by the government, which said parties themselves should take ownership of the issue.
‘Breaking Down Barriers’
Image Credit: UK Parliament/Flickr
Making the commitment, Lewis promised to commission a “substantial piece of research” into the issues that lead women away from political life. He said the party would use this to “break down barriers” where they exist, and provide “steps to overcome them.”
The Tory party chair clarified that he was not imposing quotas or operating all-women shortlists for candidates, however, and added that local Conservative Associations would have the final say in selections.
The Equality and Human Rights Commission has called for it to be mandatory for political parties to report details of the diversity of their candidates.
The commission’s executive director, Ben Wilson, said Wednesday’s announcement was “a positive step towards achieving gender equality” in politics.