Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Gender and the UK general election

A few interesting links on gender and this election. Only a couple more days and I can go back to writing to MPs rather than about them.

The Centre for Women and Democracy has some interesting reports on the gender balance of candidates.

One thing that they've found is that there are only ten seats (out of 650) where the candidates for the three main parties are all women. If all parties were 50% balanced, this should be about 1 in 8 (81 seats). Approximately 30% of Labour candidates, 24% of Conservative candidates, and 20% of Lib Dem candidates are women, so 10 is about the statistical expectation.

There are 205 seats (32%) where all the candidates for the three main parties are men. The largest all-male candidate list I've found is 8 (both Barnsley Central and Barnsley East). I gave up looking after A-B, but I'd be surprised if there were many larger than that, since candidate lists larger than 8 are rare in general. There are, as far as I know, no all-female candidate lists.

The bias is difficult to overcome by doing nothing. Being a candidate is much easier for people with lots of free time (to campaign) and money (to deal with lost earnings for taking time off work to campaign). The main parties aren't doing nothing, but they aren't doing enough either - CFWD estimates 2065 as the year in which Parliament will be 50% women (though 30% is widely considered a "critical mass" point beyond which further progress becomes easier, and that is estimated to be achieved around 2025).

The Fawcett Society has the results of a survey of candidates (via Cruella-blog).

Getting answers of any sort out of candidates around election time is difficult at best, because just about everyone is trying to do the same on their own issues, while meanwhile the candidates are trying to campaign and get votes (and don't view answering inconvenient questions from the more politically-active members of the electorate as a high priority, perhaps?). Nevertheless, even given that, the response rates were low for the Labour and Lib Dem candidates, and the Conservative response rate was terrible (only 15 replied to say they agreed with all three largely uncontroversial points).

ETA: Fawcett have the full list of responses up now. - 8 Conservative PPCs responded to say No to all 3 questions. (When you consider how much less likely a 'No' response is than not saying anything, for most who disagree, 15:8 looks a very scary ratio).

Jackie Ashley writes in the Guardian about the Lib Dem's equality problem.

This year they're the only (large) party to have a reduction in the number of candidates who are women compared with the previous election. The Lib Dems have the problem that they oppose all-women shortlists as an idea, but haven't yet found anything even close to being that effective in the short term to use instead. Given that the logic that's usually used in rejecting all-women shortlists usually misses both the point and anything resembling a consideration of privilege, I'm not at all sure if they can come up with anything better if they won't take steps to actively cancel structural inequalities.