Labour to impose all-women shortlists

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The Independent Online
Labour is today expected to order its south-eastern region to draw up women-only shortlists for parliamentary selections in order to meet its target under the party's quota scheme.

The decision of the National Executive Committee to crack the whip over the policy of reserving half of all safe Labour seats or winnable marginals for women will come as part of a highly-charged session, which is likely to see the committee withhold endorsement of the left-winger Liz Davies as candidate for Leeds North West.

In another controversial decision, the committee is expected to approve moves for the party's central region to draw up an approved list of candidates for next May's local elections in place of the suspended Walsall District Labour Party.

The NEC's decision to effectively impose all-women shortlists in two south-eastern constituencies comes in the wake of the imposition of such a list in Slough, Berkshire. Regional officials were in discussions yesterday over which two of the seven available marginals, including Brighton Pavilion, Norwich North, Waveney and Great Yarmouth, should be nominated.

Despite Tony Blair's concession that the quota system was "not ideal at all" and suggestions that it could be applied flexibly where there was strong local opposition, a report by Peter Coleman, director of development and organisation at Labour's Walworth Road HQ, presses for the policy to be continued.

The directive to the south-eastern region will be followed up next month with moves to ensure a greater London constituency is nominated for a women-only list.

Walsall District Labour Party was suspended last month. Today's NEC meeting is expected to endorse a report by Labour's chief local government officer, David Gardner,which urges council leaders to carry out greater public consultation over their reorganisation plans. It also proposes reorganisation of the district party through new rules, new delegates, a revamped annual general meeting and by having an NEC officer at meetings.