Labour's National Executive Committee yesterday set a course for achieving a record 90 women MPs at the next election after resolving to impose all- women shortlists for selections in seven seats.
The move brings to a close the operation in England and Wales of the controversial quota system reserving for women half of all winnable marginals, and of safe seats where a Labour MP is retiring.
Labour's north-west region will be expected to select five key marginals and one safe seat for women-only lists in the next few weeks. Members of the national executive felt that there was no option but to impose the lists in the face of determined resistance from activists.
One list will also be imposed in the London region but a timetable has yet to be set. The party said about 50 women would fight in safe or winnable seats in addition to the 40 already sitting as MPs.
The NEC has signalled its determination to fulfil the quota in all regions by imposing all-female lists in Gravesham, Slough and Great Yarmouth. The North-western had proved particularly intractable in their resistance. Six sitting MPs are standing down and there are 12 marginals, requiring three women-only lists in the first category and six in the second. But only one target seat and two in which the sitting member was retiring had volunteered.
In the capital, the choice will be between Hayes & Harlington, Eltham and Bethnal Green & Bow, where a section of the membership has protested against the imposition of a list because the selection process had already begun.