Labour acts on sexual equality

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Indy Politics
LABOUR edged closer to fulfilling its equality pledges yesterday as the parliamentary party voted to increase the quota of female candidates for annual Shadow Cabinet elections, writes Patricia Wynn Davies.

There are 37 female Labour MPs out of 271. Approval of the change at the weekly Parliamentary Labour Party meeting means that four of the votes cast by each MP for the 18 Shadow Cabinet positions must go to women. A procedure review report had urged an increase from the current quota of three to reflect an increase in the number of female Labour MPs from 21 in the last Parliament.

The new rule, to be implemented for October's contests, will not guarantee that more women are elected. It is a modest, rather than radical, advance in the battle for greater representation of women in positions of power. Even so, 31 of the 90 MPs present felt moved to vote against it.

There are currently four elected women in the Shadow Cabinet: Mo Mowlam (Citizen's Charter and Women), Harriet Harman (shadow chief secretary to the Treasury), Ann Taylor (education) and Ann Clwyd (national heritage). Margaret Beckett, the deputy leader, is not elected.