Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Women in Suits

Just found an interesting piece of analysis from CFWD, Centre For Women and Democracy. The total number of candidates in this General Election stands at a high for recent times and probably longer. At 4134, that is over 6 per constituency. This is no doubt due partly to the more established smaller parties, (BNP, UKIP and Greens) fielding record numbers of candidates and contesting territory new to them.

Given the much reported disillusionment with the 3 major parties this could have a considerable impact on the results, depending upon where they are standing. The smaller parties may pick up one or two seats each but the real question is what impact they will have on the votes of the major parties in marginal or closely contested seats. That’s anybody’s guess.

This General Election is also unique in modern times, and probably longer, in that it coincides with the London and Metropolitan District Local Elections. What impact that will have, again, is unpredictable.

Anyway, to the point of the title of this post – Women Candidates.

There is also a record number of women candidates – but at 877 it is still only 21% of the total. In the last parliament women MPs accounted for 19.5% and CFWD are predicting little change. According to another source the UK has less women in parliament than Afghanistan, Pakistan and the United Arab Emirates. Well, I never…..

How do the Parties fare?

Top of the pops are the Greens with 33%. Then Labour on 30%. Followed by Conservatives on 24%. The Liberal Democrats are on 21%. The BNP on 16% just beating UKIP on 15%.

Of the regional parties the SNP are the bee's knees with 29%, with Plaid Cymru on 18% and the English Democrats bringing up the rear on 8%.

In Northern Ireland it’s Alliance 33%, SDLP 28%, Sinn Fein and UUP both on 18% with the DUP on a round 0%. The numbers here are quite low compared to the mainland so the odd one or two can make quite a difference to the percentage.

Looking at the trend there has been a big increase in the percentage of women candidates between 1974 and 1992 but not much of an increase since. However, the number elected doubled in 1997. They were “Blair’s Babes” and the result of positive discrimination, but they haven’t done too well have they? They had their chances and for the most part have been sidelined.

Is it the case that positive discrimination reduces quality or did they just hit the glass ceiling? What other factors are in play here? Is there a cultural dimension to politics, or specific parties, that puts women off or one that undervalues their skills and inhibits advancement? Do those organisations that take a more relaxed approach to equality, [building it into the fabric] rather than force it, fair better? Do we want “Women in Suits” or do we want the value of an alternative perspective? I’d kinda like to know.

Note: Yesterday was the Women’s FA Cup Final. It finished Arsenal 2-3 Everton. And the Ladies World Snooker Champion is Reane Evans. I wonder how many of those women [or indeed male] candidates know that?

UPDATE:There were 142 women elected as MPs. That’s 22%. More from CFWD

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