Leaders pressed to advance women candidates

By Andrew Grice,Marie Woolf
Wednesday 22 January 2014 02:03

Pressure is mounting on the Tory leadership to bring in tough measures to ensure more women are chosen as Parliamentary candidates. Andrew Lansley, a senior Tory MP will call today for a quota system under which 50 per cent of the candidates offered for selection to local constituency parties would be women.

Only one in five of the prospective Tory parliamentary candidates selected so far is a woman. Mr Lansley, MP for South Cambridgeshire, said the party had to become more representative and it would be "unacceptable" if, after the next election, only a few Tory MPs were female.

He said he did not want to "parachute in" individual candidates. But at the last general election, he added, "Sixteen per cent of the candidates offered to constituencies were women and 16 per cent of the candidates selected were women", which suggested a quota system could work.

Sir Malcolm Rifkind, the former Foreign Secretary, said: "Drastic action is needed." Although he opposed a formal quota, he suggested at least one woman should be included on each shortlist.

But the calls are likely to be resisted by the leadership, which is wary of "positive discrimination". Theresa May, the Tory chairman, insisted efforts to recruit a more diverse range of candidates were going well. But she refused to rule out a quota system. Barbara Musgrave, southern region chairman of the Conservative National Women's Committee, said: "We want many more women on the shortlists, but we can only persuade the associations, not force them."

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