GE2019 – Analysing Candidate Gender


This analysis wouldn’t have been possible without the years of incredible work invested by Democracy Club and thousands of volunteers, who believe that democracy is better served by open, accessible data. We certainly think so, and we thank them for their incredible contribution.

About This Data

This blog is 50:50’s analysis of the candidate data for the 2019 General Election. You can view a granular version of this data on our website at 5050parliament.co.uk/5050data. In this blog post we analyse the data in an effort to understand the aggregate picture.

We have made some assumptions in preparing the data:

  • The majority of candidates identify as male or female. Many candidates have limited online presence making it hard for volunteers entering the data to ascertain their gender. Therefore most genders are assigned based on, e.g., pronouns used in news articles, social media profile images, or first names.
  • The incumbent party for each constituency has been defined as the party of the MP on the day Parliament was dissolved, according to TheyWorkForYou, with the addition of the Conservative MPs who had the whip restored and the defection of 5 MPs to the Liberal Democrats
  • There is unlikely to ever be a “final” dataset. The nature of the crowdsourcing and manual data entry inevitably leads to mistakes, which Democracy Club fix over time. The data presented in this blog post does not update automatically but may be refreshed from time to time.

We welcome both feedback on these assumptions and any comments or feedback on the quality of our analysis. We would be happy to share our code (Python). Contact brian@5050parliament.co.uk for more information.

Total Candidates

There has been a total increase of only 16 candidates between 2017 and 2019. This is a small change compared to 2015/2017, when the number of candidates decreased by 667

20193320 candidates
20173304 candidates
20153971 candidates

The 2019 and 2017 numbers differ very slightly (by 1 or 2) from the BBC / Wikipedia reported numbers. We are using Democracy Club’s numbers

How Many Female, How Many Male?

There are more female (and fewer male) candidates than there were in the last two elections. There are more female candidates than any UK election in history

At the time of writing, the total number of female candidates (1123) differs by 1 from the BBC’s count of 1124; we have four candidates remaining with an unknown gender.

As a proportion of all male and female candidates, the 2019 election will again break records. 2019 has seen the same percentage point increase in the number of female candidates as we saw between 2015 and 2017.

These percentages are calculated as total female over total male+female (i.e. excluding candidates with unknown and non-binary genders)

How Do The Parties Compare?

Most seats are won by party candidates (as opposed to independents), so next we look at the same data again, but filtered to only the major parties. We see that the parties are slightly out-performing the rest of the candidate field, with 4 percentage points more female candidates. This was similar in 2017 and 2015.

The parties included in this chart are Greens, Lib Dems, Labour, Plaid Cymru, Conservative, SNP, Sinn Féin, Brexit, DUP and WEP

Single Gender Ballots

One very tangible impact of an unequal spread of genders is an unusual number of single-gender ballots, where the voter chooses between candidates all of the same gender.

We have seen a 23% drop in all-male ballots between 2017 and 2019, an improvement on the 10% drop between 2015 and 2017. However, there are still 71 all-male ballots (compared to 4 all-female ballots).

The chart above is difficult to interpret. It is clear that those constituencies offer no choice of gender for voters, but given the vast majority of votes go to the major parties we will repeat the chart below but this time filtering to only the major parties (and only for 2019).

We can see that removing the independents and fringe parties increases the number of single-gender ballots. There are 15 more all-male and 10 more all-female. This is perhaps a better way to understand the choices facing most voters on December 12th.

The parties included in this chart are Greens, Lib Dems, Labour, Plaid Cymru, Conservative, SNP, Sinn Féin, Brexit, DUP and WEP

Party Leaderboard

The chart below shows how many female candidates each of the main party fielded in each of the 2019, 2017 and 2015 elections (all bars show number of female candidates, one for each year for each party).

Because parties field very different numbers of candidate, we will next look at the party breakdown as percentages. Note that the order of parties in the chart below differs to the one above.

We can see the gain made by Labour in 2017 (33% to 40%) has increased again to 53%. This is the first time in history one of the two main parties has fielded more female than male candidates.

In 2019 the Conservatives and Lib Dems both trail Labour by 23 percentage points, with 30% female candidates. This is an increase of 2 percentage points from 2017, which in turn was a 2 percentage point increase on 2015

Retirement Seats

According to BBC analysis, the House of Commons will lose more than 1,000 years of parliamentary experience as more than 70 incumbents have decided not to stand for election. This is an increase from only 31 retirements in 2017, but fewer than any other election since 1979

Below we look at the gender of the candidates parties have chosen to run in these retirement seats. For example, Ken Clarke has served as an MP for almost 50 years – making his Rushcliffe constituency a male seat for the duration. Who the Conservatives choose to stand in his place – and in the place of the other retirees – is important. In the absence of landslide elections (which arguably the UK has not seen since Labour’s in 1997), retirements are a way for political parties to affect the gender balance of Parliament.

Labour Replacements

Labour have 24 retirements. Over half of their male retirements (10 out of 17) have been replaced with female candidates. All of their female retirements have been replaced with female candidates

Conservative Replacements

The Conservatives have 32 retirements. Just under half of their male retirements (11 out of 13) have been replaced with female candidates. Half of their female retirements have been replaced with male candidates (4 out of 8)