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'Men Could Be Frustrated': Labour Increases All-Women Shortlists for UK MPs

© REUTERS / Peter NichollsBritain's opposition Labour Party shadow foreign secretary, Emily Thornberry with party leader Jeremy Corbyn after her speech at the Labour Party Conference in Brighton, Britain, September 25, 2017.
Britain's opposition Labour Party shadow foreign secretary, Emily Thornberry with party leader Jeremy Corbyn after her speech at the Labour Party Conference in Brighton, Britain, September 25, 2017. - Sputnik International
Britain's Labour Party has confirmed candidates for nearly 50 of its top 76 target seats will be picked from all-women shortlists. But is that fair on men who want to be Labour MPs?

The Labour Party in Britain has confirmed at its annual conference a decision by the National Executive Committee to make the majority of 76 target seats available only to women candidates.

Under the plan approved by the NEC and ratified at the party's conference in Brighton this week, 46 out of the 76 seats will be selected using all-women-shortlists.

Few men in the Labour Party dare to stick their head above the parapet and criticize all-women shortlists, for fear of offending a powerful lobby.

Peter Kilfoyle, a former Labour MP who stood down in 2010, said he felt all-women shortlists could "frustrate male candidates" whose talent would be lost to the party.

He said he was part of Tony Blair's team in the 1990s and he recalled a time when Blair asked for his advice about the introduction of all-women shortlists.

"I said I was against anything that disbarred anyone from standing as a candidate, but I said it was the lesser of two evils and something needed to be done to get more women Labour MPs. Now 20 years on there are a lot of women in the PLP (Parliamentary Labour Party) and I don't really see the need for all-women shortlists, certainly 100 percent," Mr. Kilfoyle told Sputnik.

"It strikes me that you end up with a very fractured party, focused on single issues, when the main issue is advancing opportunities for working people and that includes men as well as women," the former MP for Liverpool Walton added.

He said it was "fatuous" to try to judge a party simply because they had a gender balance among MPs.

"The original idea was to alter the gender imbalance and I would say that it's by and large been met, when you look at the number of women in the Shadow Cabinet," Mr. Kilfoyle told Sputnik.

"There should definitely not be any barrier to women becoming candidates but you can get lost in statistics and I think this is a bit of an arbitrary figure and a pointless exercise," he added.

Jeremy's Gender Balanced Parliament

In 2016, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn — who wants to see 50 percent of Labour MPs being women — suggested going even further and said all selections for new MPs should be free all-women shortlists.

"This genie is not going back in any bottle," said Mr. Corbyn when he launched a document called Equality for Women in 2016.

In September 2017, Alice Perry, a member of the NEC and a councillor in Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry's Islington South constituency, wrote:

"As part of the preparations for another snap general election, the NEC discussed arrangements for parliamentary selections in 76 key marginal seats in England."

"Jeremy Corbyn is committed to achieving a 50-50 gender balanced parliament. With that in mind, the NEC agreed that 46 of the 76 seats will select using all women shortlists. Local parties will be informed of the outcome of the NEC decisions shortly so selections can get underway as soon as possible," Ms. Perry added.

Labour party members in Carlisle, one of the seats on the list, voted against an all-women shortlist earlier this month but it will have one imposed on it.

It is also expected all-women shortlists will be imposed on many seats where the incumbent Labour MPs are elderly — including Bolsover (Dennis Skinner is 85), Cynon Valley (Ann Clwyd is 80), Coventry North West (Geoffrey Robinson is 79), Huddersfield (Barry Sheerman is 77), Birkenhead (Frank Field is 75), Derby South (Margaret Beckett is 74) and Rother Valley (Kevin Barron is 70).

UK Falling Behind 

After June's general election there are now 208 women MPs — out of 650 — with 45 percent of Labour MPs being female, compared with only 21 percent of Conservatives, one of whom is of course Prime Minister Theresa May.

The next general election is not due to be held until June 2022 but, with Theresa May having to rely on the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) for a majority, it is widely expected there will be a poll long before that date.

Iceland has the highest percentage of women MPs in Europe — 47 percent — followed closely by Sweden (43 percent), but in Rwanda a majority of MPs (61 percent) are female.

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