By Frances Scott, Founder & Director, 50:50 Parliament
5 Dec 2019
Today is Democracy Day.
What a great day to support 50:50 Parliament! 50:50 want to build a better democracy, one in which draws upon the widest possible pool of talent and experience, including that of the 32 million women living and working in the UK.
During the last Parliament men dominated the corridors of power, outnumbering women by 2:1.
50:50 have a clear aspiration and are taking positive action to inspire and support women to stand with our #AskHerToStand and #SignUpToStand campaigns. So, if you know a woman who would make a good MP go to our website and inspire her to stand by clicking on www.5050Parliament/askhertostand. Over 900 women have gone on to #SignUpToStand via 50:50 and our New Girls Network of 50:50 Buddies are encouraging them to take the next step to get selected and elected.
Many other organisations are promoting #DemocracyDay, including Make Votes Matter, The Electoral Reform Society and Unlock Democracy. They are all calling for voting reform to allow for proportional representation. This type of electoral system does tend to lead to better gender balance in Parliaments.
Why does it matter? Parliament is meant to be a representative institution. Women account for 57% of undergraduates and make a massive contribution to the economy with their paid and unpaid work. Representation shapes policy and women’s involvement in government leads to more responsive, better informed and resilient decision making. Parliament should be leading the way in showing respect for women, their talent and experience.
After the 2017 election only 12 extra women gained seats in the Commons. This brought the total of women MPs to a record number of 208 out of 650. At the rate of 12 extra women per election it will take over 50 years for women to have equality in the Commons.
So how will this election fair for improving women’s representation at Westminster? 50:50 have done some analysis to summarize :
More women are standing
1123 (34%) of 3,320 registered candidates are women. This is 169 more than in 2017. This election there are the highest ever proportion of female candidates.
Women still not being selected
However these figures of successful candidate selection disguise the disappointment that some women have experienced in not being selected to run in 2019. There is still no public data available on applicants for seats, and the selection processes are opaque.
Councillor Andrea Johnson says:
“I’m disappointed to receive a stock response ‘please try again next year’ email from Conservative HQ. I applied to become a Conservative candidate after attending forum in June 2019…At a time when politics has become ugly, where women are routinely targeted on social media, I put my hat in the ring knowing this would be the toughest job of my life. I’m a city councillor, a shadow portfolio holder, a scrutiny chair, I’m association Treasurer, a major campaigner. What more would the Conservative Party like me to do to show my commitment to the cause? I’ve now been advised to reapply and get involved in campaigning for others in this General Election.”
71 Constituencies have All Male Ballot Paper – these are seats for men.
This figure is down from 92 in 2017 but still demonstrates how far we still have to go to ensure that our democracy is inclusive of women. Only 4 constituencies have only women on the ballot, 3 more than in the last election.
Both main parties have replaced around half their male retirees with female candidates
There are a number of high-profile retirees this year, so there should be some focus on who is replacing them. The volumes are small but significant because this is an opportunity to include women and redress the gender balance. Labour have 24 retirees; Conservatives have 31.
Both parties have replaced around half their male retirees with female candidates, Labour slightly more than half, Conservatives slightly less. However, while Labour have not replaced any female retirees with men, the Conservatives have replaced around half of their female retirees with men.
53% of Labour Candidates are women.
Labour have selected 335 women to stand in this general election. This amounts to 53% of their candidates and is an increase of 110 on 2017 and 141 more than the Conservatives. The number of women standing for the Conservatives has gone up by only 13 since 2017.
All party leaders have confirmed that they would like to see a gender balanced Parliament, Labour have made the greatest progress towards this commitment.
50:50 will be counting the women in after Polling day. It would be great to see some real progress but the final number of women taking seats in the Commons will depend on which Party gains a majority and whether women were given a chance to contest key winnable seats.
Our campaign to inspire and support women to elected office will continue until women have equal seats and equal say in running the country and planning the future!
JOIN 50:50 at www.5050Parliament.co.uk. It costs nothing to join our campaign for change.
About 50:50 Parliament 50:50 Parliament is a cross party campaign taking action to get more women elected to Westminster. With their #AskHerToStand and #SignUpToStand initiatives 50:50 aims to inspire, encourage and support political engagement. Join 50:50 at www.5050parliament.co.uk; 50:50 Parliament on Facebook; 50:50 Parliament on Twitter; 50:50 Parliament YouTube; sign http://www.change.org/5050parliament.
#5050Parliament #AskHerToStand #SignUpToStand