What the snap election means for women in Westminster – Elin de Zoete, Managing Director at PLMR

Big Ben

Elin de Zoete is managing director at PLMR, one of Britain’s fastest growing political lobbying and media relations companies. As managing director, she is responsible for leading the team, as well as providing senior counsel and strategic advice to clients across the business. Elin is a Member of the Institute of Directors and Women in Public Affairs, holds a Master’s Degree in International Development from the LSE and achieved First Class Honours at UCL in Politics and East European Studies.

Elin de Zoete

Elin de Zoete

 “…don’t forget that if you want to influence the outcome, it is so important that you get out and vote…”

Knowing your boundaries

In November last year I wrote for Womanthology about the potential impact of the boundary review on our parliamentary make-up and why there was a need to look carefully at the impact that a reduction of seats would have on the number of women in Westminster.

With currently only a third of all MPs being women, parliament is not yet leading from the front in terms of gender parity. The stated aim of the boundary review was to reset the boundaries so that constituencies are more ‘fair and equal’ in size, however critics argued at the time that the proposed boundaries had been drawn to favour the Conservative Party.

Snap election – how are women faring in the selection process?

Five months on and that whole debate has now been kicked into the long-grass as the Conservative Government, surging to a twenty-point lead in the polls over Labour, saw a quicker route to shoring up their majority. On April 18th when Theresa May called the snap election, the boundary review went out the window and everyone swiftly retreated to their existing constituencies or target seats to get the fight under way. But how are women faring in the selection process?

Shaping shortlists

Theresa May, a former Minister for Women and Equality and co-founder of Women2Win with Baroness Anne Jenkin of Kennington, has been a subtle champion for rebalancing the make-up of her parliamentary party. With more central influence over selections from No.10 and Conservative Campaign Head Quarters (CCHQ) than we have seen for decades, Ms. May and her team have an unrivalled opportunity to shape the shortlists of three candidates that Conservative Associations go on to vote on.

I would suspect that it is no co-incidence therefore that, as ConservativeHome has reported, there will be a woman in the final of every Tory-held constituency yet to select. We already have Esther McVey making a return to politics as the selected candidate for George Osborne’s Tatton seat and Julia Dockerill has won the support of the Conservative Association in Hornchurch and Upminster.

LaptopOver the other side of the fence in the Labour Party the selection process has been run a little differently. In each seat where an MP is retiring or a new candidate is required for a target seat, there was a short window where open applications were invited. In some seats, where the retiring MP was a woman, the Party said that it would invite only women applicants to run for selection.

So far, so fair…

In the Labour Party, it is then the central governing body, the National Executive Committee (NEC) that makes the decisions about which candidates will be selected. So far, so fair… However, it doesn’t appear that the Labour Party is playing by its own rule book in every case.

In Slough, where the retiring MP is Fiona McTaggart, the party advertised to attract an all-woman shortlist. There was much surprise then, when the successful candidate was announced as male Gravesham Borough Councillor, Tan Dhesi. A disappointed female candidate has said, “I’m surprised it is male. It is not something I expected. It is not what the Labour party said they would do. I suppose we will know in the coming days why this decision was taken.”

There are certainly questions to be asked of the Labour NEC here, as this decision appears to not only be unfair on the women who applied, but to aspiring local male candidates who didn’t get a shot at an open selection process.

Use your vote, have your say

We will all be waiting with baited breath as our new parliament takes shape after June 8th and at PLMR, we will be providing rapid analysis through our blogs and social media (@plmrltd). You can follow all of the action there, but don’t forget that if you want to influence the outcome, it is so important that you get out and vote. You need to register by the 22nd May to be able to cast your vote in the general election. Sign up here: https://www.gov.uk/register-to-vote

 

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