All-women shortlists 'illegal'

THE legality of Labour's plan to have women-only shortlists of candidates in some Parliamentary seats was questioned last night.

A lawyer said such a policy, agreed by the party, could fall foul of the Sex Discrimination Act. But its supporters say opponents are simply making 'bluster and noise' to try to derail the proposal.

Under the plan, 50 per cent of seats winnable by Labour - where the sitting Labour MP is standing down, or in a marginal seat held by the Tories or other opponents - will have an all-women shortlist. It is up to each region to select which ones will be dealt with in that way.

David Pannick QC, said in a speech in London last night that the Sex Discrimination Act prohibited sex discrimination against men as well as against women, 'by any person who confers an authorisation which is of assistance in gaining access to your profession or occupation'.

Mr Pannick said: 'Being an MP is certainly a profession or occupation.'

He was supported by Ann Carlton, co-convenor of Labour for Real Equality, who said: 'Women-only shortlists are sexist and are counter-productive for the party electorally.'

But Clare Short, Labour MP for Birmingham Ladywood, said: 'All sorts of people have threatened legal action. I don't think it will happen. They are making a lot of bluster and noise to try to derail us. We are going on with it.'

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