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Centre for Women & Democracy
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Main parties field record number of women candidates

23 Apr, 2010
Between them the three main political parties are fielding a record number of women candidates for the 2010 general election. Overall, 25% of candidates for the Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat parties are women, as opposed to 23% in 2005.

Both the Conservatives and Labour are standing more women candidates than ever before, but the Liberal Democrats have fewer than in 2005.

24% of Conservative candidates are women (19% in 2005), 30% of Labour (26% in 2005) and 22% of Liberal Democrat (23% in 2005).

The unusually high numbers of sitting MPs retiring created a real opportunity to make dramatic progress. Both Labour and the Liberal Democrats have achieved a rate of 50% women candidates in seats with retirements, but the Conservative party has managed only 25%. These numbers are significant – in all 152 male MPs retired and 28 female, and they were replaced as candidates by their parties with 87 men and 65 women.

However, this is unlikely to result in a dramatic increase in women MPs. Projections based on the current UK Polling Average (Con 33%, Lab 27%, LD 29%) suggest that on those poll shares (or any similar to them) the percentage of women MPs would rise from 19.5% to 23%. CFWD has been monitoring the polls for the last six weeks, and this percentage increase has remained much the same regardless of how the parties’ relative positions have changed. This is because the increase in women candidates in seats with retirements is balanced out by the number of women for all parties standing in marginal seats. In addition, the fact that a disproportionate number of women MPs in the last parliament were Labour means that the lower the Labour share of the vote falls, the more women MPs are likely to lose their seats.

There are 11 constituencies where the Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat candidates are all women, and 262 in which they are all men.

CFWD is currently conducting an analysis of candidates for the nationalist parties, for the smaller UK and English parties, and for independent candidates, and will be publishing this next week. A full analysis of both candidates and results will be published after the election.