Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Breaking News - Darlington to be "Open" in Labour Selection Contest

"Breaking News" - insofar as I can't find it anywhere else on the net - Labour's National Executive Committee ruled this afternoon that the selection proces in Darlington will be open to men and women. Conversely, the shortlist in Durham North West, where Hilary Armstrong is standing down, is to be "all women".

The BBC's Richard Moss posted on his blog a little while ago about the competing demands amongst various North East Constituency Labour Parties for "open" status. It seems like it came down to a straight choice for the NEC - was it to be Darlington or North West Durham that was going to select from an all-women shortlist?

Quietly, I was always fairly confident that Darlington would be 'open'. Local sentiment strongly supported that outcome, but I doubt that was a deciding factor. More likely is the understanding in the Party that where where women MP's stand down, they will be replaced with women candidates. Although there have been 2 or 3 seats where this hasn't happened, for the most part the consensus has held. To have thrown this principle in the bin could have risked opening up uncertainties in those other places where female Labour MP's are retiring. That would have produced many more headaches for the NEC in the the future.

Having said all that, I wouldn't have objected had Darlington been an "all women" shortlist. No-one who is remotely interested in fair representation in Westminster can be happy with a situation where just 20% of MPs (128) are women, 81 years after the success of the women's suffrage movement.

The figures are stark. Of those 128 MP's, 98 are Labour, 17 are Tories, 10 are LibDems and 3 belong to other parties. The graph above tells its own story - it's only since Labour adopted a policy of promoting women-only shortlists that the Party began to address the discrimination in its selection procedures. The Tories and LibDems are still bumping along the bottom.

So I strongly support the mechanism the Party has adopted. I start from the reality that had I been an ambitious female Party member in the North East at anytime between 1901 and 1992, I probably wouldn't have had a prayer getting selected as a PPC - in some areas that goes for standing for councillor too. Without the mechanism of women-only shortlists, Labour's record on female representation would be as shameful as that of our opponents right now.

Still, Darlington is to be an open fight. And with several very talented contenders limbering up - male and female - it promises to be a fascinating contest.


Ian W said...

In this day and age dictating which sex can stand sounds a bit sexist and discriminatory.

If I advertised a job vacancy that both sex's could do was only open for women applicants some do gooder would be on my case before you could say Alan Milburn.

Darlington Councillor said...

Thanks Ian.

I simply feel that the graph speaks for itself. Without women-only shortlists (and the change in legislation which confirmed they were legal), it's very likely that Labour would have significantly fewer female MP's right now.

The records of all the parties are poor enough - we have to ask ourselves why so few women emerge victorious from selection processes. The answer isn't hard to fathom - anyone with a basic grasp of the inequalities in the workplace and society as a whole can work that one out.

So how long are we prepared to tolerate 50% of the population being represented in our Parliament by 10% of the MP's? Is it important?

I think it is, and until someone comes up with a better system that delivers better equality for women now in the selection process for MP's, I'll carry on supporting women-only shortlists.

ex-labour said...

Is this not just a case of changing the legislation to make it suit NuLabour, what would happen if a male complained to the court of human rights or equality, remember Nick we now answer to our lord's and master's in the EU. Seems very fishy to me that this legislation was passed.

Is it not because so many men are deserting the Labour party and you now will take anyone?

Nu Labour are SEXIST!

miketually said...

I'd be interested in seeing how the parties stack up when looking at the percentage of their MPs who are women.

nancy said...

I hope you know that it is my and your best interest to submit to google buzz and to tweet, and I'll be back to show my friends