Whatever the result, we will not get the change we really need in parliament – more women MPs

Whatever the outcome of the general election, we will not see the change we really need in parliament – many more women MPs to reflect our true society.

Data shows that although the three main political parties are fielding a record number of women candidates for the 2010 general election, the results are unlikely to result in a dramatic increase of women MPs, perhaps around 5% or even less.  Both the Conservative and the Labour parties have record numbers of women candidates, but the Liberal Democrats have fewer than in 2005. 24% of Conservative candidates are women (19% in 2005), 30% of Labour (26% in 2005) and 22% of Liberal Democrat (23% in 2005). Overall, 25% of candidates for the main three parties are women, as opposed to 23% in 2005. excellent Centre for Women and Democracy is closely monitoring these figures and shares my disappointment. It points out that the unusually high numbers of sitting MPs retiring created a unique opportunity to make dramatic progress. Both Labour and the Liberal Democrats have achieved a rate of 50% women candidates in seats with retirements, while Conservatives managed only 25%, which is very disappointing considering David Cameron’s pledge to increase female parliamentarians.  152 male MPs retired and 28 female, and they were replaced as candidates by their parties with 87 men and 65 women.

Projections based on the current UK Polling Average (Con 33%, Lab 27%, LD 29%) suggest that on those poll shares (or any similar to them) the percentage of women MPs would rise from 19.5% to 23% – only 3.5%. CFWD has been monitoring the polls for the last six weeks, and this percentage increase has remained much the same regardless of how the parties’ relative positions have changed. This is because the increase in women candidates in seats with retirements is balanced out by the number of women for all parties standing in marginal seats. In addition, the fact that a disproportionate number of women MPs in the last parliament were Labour means that the lower the Labour share of the vote falls, the more women MPs are likely to lose their seats.
There are 11 constituencies where the Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat candidates are all women, and 262 in which they are all men. I find this figure quite alarming.

This is not the change we need to drive forward much needed reforms in parliament. I have written about this issue several times before, and the election result could mean that prescriptive action and quotas will be introduced to ensure that Britain catches up with the rest of the world instead of being a poor relation. On an international scale, Britain is 58th on a league table for the number of women elected into lower houses, the equivalent of our House of Commons; Rwanda is top followed by Sweden, South Africa, Cuba and Iceland.


  1. I think there should be more people like me in Parliament. Me in fact…

  2. Steve Cass

    Afternoon Ellee. Was just browsing some advertised blogs from Iain Dale’s blog and read your piece.

    I was going to explain why artificially increasing a certain segment of the population in Parliament as opposed to encouraging under-represented segment people to get fully engaged with politics and then get a candidacy on merit was a bad idea. But as that’s what almost everyone else has already told you, It hardly seems necessary.
    The really sad thing is I suspect that even if 10 million people told you you were wrong on this you still wouldn’t get it.
    MERITOCRACY MUST WIN THE DAY. What we need to do is find better ways of encouraging everyone who wants to to get involved with how their communities are run and, over time, the councillor and parliamentary racial, sexual and age demographic will change.

  3. Nilsson

    Why do “we” need more women rather than, say, more working class MPs, more who aren’t lawyers or lobbyists but industrialists or scientists, more who have only one leg or are autistic, more who are over 65 or under 35?

    Why is one way of carving up the human race (British electoral branch) deemed to be so supremely important that it should trump all others, even to the point of fiddling selection procedures?

    Why should Parliament be contrived to become a stratified sample of the population like a market research panel anyway? We are electing legislators and administrators, not trying to get an accurate fix on why one brand of dog food is more popular than another.

    And was the influx of Bliar’s Babes in ’97 such a shining enhancement of politics that we should be falling over ourselves to give pushy careerist middle class women a leg-up over all the other special interests?

  4. The system needs changing.

  5. John Kimble

    So we need more women in parliament? – you mean like Jacqui Smith, Harriet Harman, Barbara Follett, Ann Keen, Patricia Hewitt, Margaret Moran etc?

    No thanks.

    Quotas just increase the number of terrible MPs because they aren’t there on merit, thus are of a lower standard.

  6. I’d rather have the right people, not a quota of women in the Commons.

  7. disaffected

    Ellee do stop harping on about having more women , what we need is quite simple .
    More decent , honest and true MPs of whatever gender.
    By the way I gather that Jim Paice could now on dangerous ground with the stand down of the Labour candidate.

  8. Interesting and I’m particularly surprised that the LibDems are fielding less women candidtaes than in 2005. We do need more women in Parliament but I don’t believe you can legislate for this – people should get candidature through merit.

  9. I dont really understand why we need more woman in parliament surely we just need people that can do the job right and what sex they are is of no importance


  1. Ellee Seymour - MCIPR, PRESS CONSULTANT, JOURNALIST, POLITICAL AND PR BLOGGER. » Will John Bercow’s reform plans for parliament include more women MPs? - [...] Reviving the Chamber“.I want to see if he will keep his word about the need to increase women parliamentarians…

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