Why aren’t more women winning “open” Labour Party selections?


Update: The list I had seen of open selections appeared to indicate that Warwick and Leamington was an open selection. I have since been shown evidence that Warwick and Leamington was an AWS selection – that means that no women have been selected in open selections in target seats since 2010. The below post has been amended to reflect that change.

Earlier this week the party’s powerful Org Sub met to discuss the latest list of selections – including which would be “open” selections and which would be All-Women Shortlists (AWS). The use of AWS has been criticised by some in recent weeks, and some may never be reconciled to a system which stops them getting selected seeks to address the chronic gender imbalance in parliament.

To those who suggest that there is no need for AWS, it might be worth considering recent party selections that have taken place. So far there have been 22 AWS selections in target seats, all of which have obviously selected female candidates. There have also been 19 Open selections in target seats in this parliament – the results of which are below. Can you spot the trend?

Constituency Candidate
Loughborough Matthew O’Callaghan
Bedford Patrick Hall
Cambridge Daniel Zeichner
Hertsmere Richard Butler
Ipswich David Ellesmere
Norwich South Clive Lewis
Watford Matthew Turmaine
Waveney Bob Blizzard
Crewe & Nantwich Adrian Heald
Chatham & Aylesford Tristan Osborne
Gillingham & Rainham Paul Clark
Milton Keynes South Andrew Pakes
Reading East Matt Rodda
Bristol North West Darren Jones
North Swindon Mark Dempsey
Stroud David Drew
Burton Jon Wheale
Cannock Chase Janos Toth
Warwick & Leamington Lynette Kelly

Of 19  18 “Open” selections in target seats, 18 have been won by men.

In the only “open” selection won by a female candidate – Warwick and Lemington – the only other shortlisted candidate was also female. When presented with a choice between a man and a women in a target seat selection, the party hasn’t selected a woman since before the last election.

Ah – I hear you cry – but what about by-election selections? They’ve selected female candidates. I’m glad you raised that, because you’re right. Here are the by-election selections since 2010:

Constituency Candidate
Eastleigh John O’Farrell
Croydon North Steve Reed
Middlesbrough Andy McDonald
Rotherham Sarah Champion
Cardiff South & Penarth Stephen Doughty
Corby Andy Sawford
Manchester Central Lucy Powell
Bradford West Imran Hussain
Feltham and Heston Seema Malhotra
Inverclyde Iain McKenzie
Leicester South Jon Ashworth
Barnsley Central Dan Jarvis
Oldham East and Saddleworth Debbie Abrahams

Out of 13 by-election selections (which are always “open” selections) only 4 of the candidates have been women – and one of those was in Rotherham, where the only other shortlisted candidate was also female, which led to a walk out at the selection.

That means in total out of 32 31 open selections since 2010, 27 have been won by men. 

Since May 2010, only three women – Lucy Powell, Seema Malhotra and Debbie Abrahams – have beaten male candidates in an open selection.

For whatever reason (and I sense that many of the strongest female candidate are choosing to go for AWS seats, which will play a part), open selections are becoming almost entirely male dominated. Those who would remove AWS need to explain why this is happening, and how they would ensure equal representation for women without AWS in a system that currently seems skewed towards male candidates…

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