Conservatives are selecting fewer women in winnable seats than in 2010


The Conservatives are selecting fewer female candidates in winnable seats than the party did at the election in 2010, undermining attempts by David Cameron to solve the Tories’ “women problem”.

Research by The Independent shows that while the proportion of women selected as candidates for seats so far shows a slight increase on the percentage of women selected in 2010, the proportion of women chosen to fight in marginal seats that the party hopes to win looks set to drop.

So far, the Conservative party has selected 123 candidates to fight for seats at the 2015 general election. Of these, 43 are women (35 per cent) – up from just 24 per cent of candidates in 2010.

However, when it comes to key marginal seats – those with a majority less than 5 per cent, which the Conservatives will be desperate to claim to hold on to power – the statistics aren’t as encouraging.

Thirty-two candidates have been announced for these marginal seats so far, with only seven of them being female (21.9 per cent).

In contrast, the percentage of women chosen to compete for seats with a majority of less than 5 per cent in 2010 was 26.4 per cent – meaning the Conservatives are currently looking at  a marked drop in female representation for these seats.

Of those candidates selected in seats where the current MP is standing down, 32 per cent are women – also below the average figure.

However, Conservative sources said they were making good progress in increasing female representation on its candidates list. They stressed there was not a direct correlation between those seats with small majorities and those on the party’s target list.

The Prime Minister has ordered party chairman Grant Shapps to get more women into winnable Tory seats. But while it appears this has been working to an extent, there is still a lack of women contesting the seats that are most winnable.

Daisy Sands, head of policy the Fawcett Society, a charity for women’s rights and equality, said that the lack of women contesting marginal seats represents a “missed opportunity” for any party.

“A general election is the most significant opportunity a party has to increase the number of women in Parliament,” said Ms Sands. “Failure to field a sufficient number of women to stand in marginal seats is a missed opportunity for all parties.

“However, concentrating women in marginal seats is not a reliable method of ensuring long-term change to the gender balance of Parliament. The parties must also ensure female candidates are prioritised for safe retirement seats which are likely to be safer in the long run.”

Privately Mr Cameron has become increasingly frustrated at his party’s local associations for failing to shortlist and then select more women when deciding on candidates, despite his repeated pleas.

There have been calls for the introduction of all-women shortlists – a method pioneered by Labour in the 1990s and one that remains deeply unpopular with some sections of the Conservative party.

The Prime Minister has said he would be “open” to such an approach, as has Liberal Democrats leader Nick Clegg – and Ms Sands believes such an idea could benefit all parties.

“When progress is so painfully slow, all parties must have a hard look at whether their current approach is working and, where necessary, consider the use of positive action measures such as all-women shortlists,” Ms Sands said. 

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA celebration of British elections
Life and Style
Arts and Entertainment
The Ridiculous Six has been produced by Adam Sandler, who also stars in it
filmNew controversy after nine Native American actors walked off set
Ed Miliband, Nick Clegg and David Cameron appeal to the audience during the Question Time special
Danny Jones was in the Wales squad for the 2013 World Cup
rugby leagueKeighley Cougars half-back was taken off after just four minutes
Life and Style
Google celebrates Bartolomeo Cristofori's 360th birthday
techGoogle Doodle to the rescue
Life and Style
The original ZX Spectrum was simple to plug into your TV and get playing on
techThirty years on, the ZX Spectrum is back, after a fashion
  • Get to the point
2015 General Election

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living