His outburst came as Clare Short, MP for Birmingham Ladywood, delivered a personalised attack on Neil Kinnock, the former leader, for also expressing strong reservations at a Labour meeting last month. The plan for the compulsory installation of women candidates in half of winnable seats where there are vacancies was approved at the party conference this year. But signs of a backlash were confirmed on a BBC On the Record survey showing that 21 out of 37 male candidates who fought marginal seats in the 1992 election said they had reservations.
Mr Hattersley said that the idea would 'cause chaos' and, while he was in favour of positive discrimination, this should be limited to ensuring a woman went on the shortlist. Special treatement should also be extended to the 'pathetically under-represented ethnic minorities'. Ms Short said that Mr Kinnock was not 'in good shape' and had been very irresponsible to criticise the system. She said electorates were always offered only one candidate from any party and added: 'This is just lots of choice for any selector, but the outcome will be a woman.'