Tory all-women shortlists get the nod
21 October 2009
Conservative leader David Cameron appeared to contradict himself when he told the Speaker's Conference – a look at how to increase the number of women, ethnic minorities, gay and disabled people in the House of Commons – that he could consider women-only shortlists for future elections. Not only that, but he appeared to upset his own party as well.
Admitting that the Conservative party had a big problem in the poor representation of minority groups and women – there are 19 women Tory MPs and he would like around 60 – Cameron told the inquiry, also attended by Labour leader Gordon Brown and Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg: "It's my intention, if we continue as we are, that some of those shortlists will be all-women shortlists to help us boost the number of Conservative women MPs."
Claiming to have the support of his party on this issue, Cameron said: "I think it's become very much part of the Conservative Party's modernisation, so that if I get knocked over by a bus this would continue."
But Jenny Combe, a member of the Devizes Conservative Association in Wiltshire, said: "He has got this wrong. The candidate should always be the best person for the job. This is reverse sexism. I am very unhappy about it. I have got where I have on my ability, not my sex."
And Ann Widdecombe told the BBC: "I think it's very bad for women because I believe that every woman in Parliament should be able to look every man in Parliament, from the prime minister downwards, in the eye and to know she got there on exactly the same basis. If she can't do that she's a second class citizen."
Less specific than Cameron was Brown who said Labour would "increase support for" lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender candidates at the general election when he also wanted to see between 120 and 140 female Labour MPs elected.
And Clegg said the fact his party had no ethnic minority MPs was "a source of real, real regret to me and needs to change. I am hopeful it will change and change dramatically".