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Murray McKintosh News Article

How has female candidacy improved in the 2017 election?

As the UK’s second female Prime Minister risks a majority in parliament to ensure the UK has ‘’strong and stable’’ leadership, pressure groups are looking toward the representation of women on the polling cards and seeing how this stacks up to previous elections.

Written by:

Jessica Kavanagh

Despite making it clear that there would never be an early general election, Theresa May has called for one to take place on 8th June. As the UK’s second female Prime Minister risks a majority in parliament to ensure the UK has ‘’strong and stable’’ leadership, pressure groups are looking toward the representation of women on the polling cards and seeing how this stacks up to previous elections.

Women have been underrepresented in parliament since its formation and the Women and Equalities Committee have suggested that laws must be altered if this serious democratic deficit doesn’t change after the next general election. The committee further believe that political parties failing to meet a minimum of 45% female candidates should face fines.

A report from the committee explains the need for further representation in politics:

“Women make up more than half the population of the United Kingdom and, at a time when more women are in work than ever before, there is no good reason why women should not make up half of the House of Commons”

Comparing the figures from 2015’s election with the candidates running in 2017 shows that there is an increase in representation on the ballot paper. However, the figures currently do not meet the proposed 45% minimum:

 

2015

2017

Change

Labour

34%

41% (256/631)

+7%

Liberal Democrats

26%

30% (191/630)

+4%

Conservative

26%

29% (186/638)

+3%

SNP

38%

33% (20/59)

-5%

(Number of female candidates/number of seats party is targeting)

In terms of equality, Labour is currently leading the way with a 7% increase over the past 2 years, but it is not as cut-and-dry as simply putting more female candidates onto ballot papers. Political parties need to win seats in order to achieve a majority in parliament, so while increasing the number of female candidates is in the best interest of all parties, it will only work if these candidates are actually able to win in their constituencies.

In total, there have been 455 female MPs elected to parliament since 1918. Currently, 195 female MPs are occupying seats in the House of Commons. As the general election nears, there are predictions that a record number of women could be elected into parliament. Most predictions foresee over 200 women winning on June 8th leading to one in three MP’s being female.

While that is an increase from the current 195, it is only a marginal increase on the 2015 numbers. Equal representation is an important goal that many, both inside and outside of parliament are trying to achieve. Harriet Harman, MP for Camberwell and Peckham & Chair of the Joint Committee on Human Rights commented on the need for women in parliament saying:

“Politics is every bit as important and relevant to the lives of women as it is to men.”

The Women and Equalities committee claimed that they would consider changing the law to help remove the barriers stopping women being selected as candidates after the 2020 election. However, with the election being brought forward to 2017, it’s unsure whether their actions will be based on this election or the next one, in 2022.

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© 2016 Murray McIntosh.

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