Only 350 seats have any chance of a woman MP

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Indy Politics

About half of this election's voters will not have the chance to vote for a woman MP on polling day, a report published yesterday found.

About half of this election's voters will not have the chance to vote for a woman MP on polling day, a report published yesterday found.

The analysis of seats found that Westminster politics is set to remain male dominated after the election, while the number of female Tory and Lib Dem MPs could even fall.

Women have no chance of winning 300 of the 646 constituencies in the UK because the major political parties have selected male candidates.

A report by the Fawcett Society found that the Tories and Liberal Democrats had "failed" to do enough to boost women MPs.

Only Labour, which has introduced all-women shortlists for some seats, has significantly boosted its female candidates.

Labour has women standing in almost two-thirds of its winnable seats - up from 22 per cent in 2001 - even though big names such as Estelle Morris, former education secretary, are standing down.

The report predicted that the number of female Tory MPs would fall from 14 to 13 after the election. Only 12 per cent of the candidates selected for the Conservatives' 50 most winnable seats are women, down from 14 per cent at the previous election.

The Lib Dems, who have six women MPs, may not gain a single extra woman MP after the election and could find themselves with only five seats occupied by women, the report found.

"Increasing the proportion of women in Parliament should not depend, as it does, on the electoral fortunes of one party. It is the responsibility of all parties to play a part," said Dr Katherine Rake, director of the Fawcett Society."

But the Tories and Liberal Democrats disputed the figures and said targeting marginal seats meant they would gain more than the society had predicted.

"Their maths is wrong," said a Conservative Party spokeswoman. "Of those 14 women MPs we have now, three are retiring. But we have three female candidates standing in Tory held seats. Say we have no swing, we will still have the same number of women. We are confident of getting more."

The Lib Dems said the Fawcett Society had underestimated the number of women the party would return - even though their sitting women MPs, including Sarah Teather in Brent East, are defending some of the party's most marginal seats.

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