This week, the selection process for the London Assembly opens for candidates across London, and it should be a moment for the party to reflect on how we engage with Londoners, a breed of voter that is becoming increasingly tricky for Conservatives. Those of us involved with local associations across the city know how hard fought the recent local elections were for many councils in London, whilst the last General Election left a bitter taste in the mouth for members across Battersea, Kensington and Twickenham.
As CCHQ calls for a 50/50 split of our Parliamentary candidates, now is also the time for the Conservatives to look at equal representation of our London Assembly nominees too.
At the Tory Reform Group, we’ve been doing some number crunching recently, and it seems that there is still much to be done in terms of Conservatives properly representing Londoners and the gender split up of the city as a whole.
The Tory Reform Group found that since 2000, there have only been five women Conservative London Assembly Members. Those five served for only eight out of a total of 46 seats per term, which means that Conservative women were only represented for 17 per cent of the total time of the London Assembly.
Elizabeth Howlett represented Merton & Wandsworth for two terms (2000-2008), Angie Bray for three for West Central (2000-2012), and Victoria Borwick, a list candidate standing for two terms (2008-2015) with two further candidates replacing her – Kemi Badenoch and Susan Hall.
With Kemi now the MP for Saffron Walden, and leading on the candidates drive for CCHQ, now is the time more than ever to assess whether this is really the right legacy for the party that has given Britain its only two female Prime Ministers.
All of these excellent women have done a great deal to empower more Conservative women in the Capital to stand for council and GLA roles, and many of them continue to serve the party in various roles across both local and national politics.
Now is not the time for complacency, and this shouldn’t deflect from what remains a pretty dismal record for the Party overall. We need to consider what more can be done by Associations to remedy this gender imbalance.
Firstly, this reflects declining female membership within the Party itself – events are often in the evening, which makes it difficult for those with young children to attend, whilst Association executives are typically rather male heavy. Change is afoot. With London associations selecting in target seats, there are reports of concerted efforts to have more women represented on selection panels, and of course excellent organisations such as Women2Win and the Conservative Women’s Organisation are making strides in supporting potential candidates.
But more must be done.
As the selection process for the London Assembly opens this week, the Tory Reform Group is calling on more women to consider putting themselves forward. The TRG is here to support potential candidates – be they looking to apply for council, GLA, or parliamentary seats, and together we want to help.
Let’s use the London Assembly selection as the first step for the party in getting a more equal, representative, and above all Conservative voice in power.