Meghan Gallacher is the Conservative Group Leader on North Lanarkshire Council.
When I joined the Conservative Party in 2013, I had no idea what an “all women shortlist” was. My Association at that time was chaired by a woman, and we have selected a female Regional MSP since 2003. I always assumed that all political parties and their local Associations chose the right person for the job, regardless of their gender. But I guess that was a naïve perspective – from someone who had just entered the world of politics.
It was only when I stood as the candidate for Motherwell and Wishaw in the 2015 general election that I soon learned that other political parties, such as Labour and the SNP, force equality on their memberships, in favour of the unfair “all women shortlist policy”.
Labour introduced these shortlists in 1997, and the Scottish National Party voted for them overwhelmingly at their Party conference in 2015. But what problems does this bring? Is forced equality the best way of securing a 50:50 gendered Parliament?
The simple answer in no. The Conservative Party has had two female Prime Ministers – selected naturally – whereas Labour is yet to elect its first female Party Leader. It would appear that Labour is content with implementing superficial women to men ratios, with their male MP’s dominating their front benches, whilst talented women sit quietly at the back.
I don’t think anyone would disagree that Westminster is still male-dominated, but all-women candidate shortlists are not the answer. It would be wrong to see a woman gifted a ‘safe’ seat in a winnable constituency just because there is a lack of female MPs.
I would also argue that it would be a disservice to the current women in Parliament, who have worked hard to secure their candidacy. Standing to be a Member of Parliament is something that should be taken seriously, and the selection process should be natural and fair throughout all party constitutions. After all, women shortlists discriminate against our male counterparts and all political parties should be aiming to achieve a 50:50 Parliament naturally, instead of creating a false playing field.
Labour has faced criticism over its handling of all-women shortlists in recent years. This was due to it including transgender women to stand in seats in which there were all-women shortlists. Labour women – who were upset by this decision – wrote a letter declaring that the policy ‘reeks of male authority and male supremacy’. This raises more questions: Where does equal representation end? Are all women shortlists the beginning of several different shortlists to ensure optimum equality within Westminster?
But this isn’t the end of the problems Labour face by introducing all women shortlists. They have become increasingly desperate due to the current state of their party, and senior figures are openly discussing Jeremy Corbyn’s successor.
This is hardly surprising, since no Labour Leader has survived two consecutive election defeats and, judging by recent polls, Corbyn will need a miracle to enter the doors of Number Ten. But instead of talking about credible candidates of differing genders, race and religion, the Shadow Chancellor, John McDonnell, has called for the next Leader to be female. He has said that “if Jeremy is hit by the No 57 bus, or whatever it is, there’s the next generation coming through. And the reality is the next Leader should be a woman. It’s high time to have a woman”.
Whatever happened to the best person for the job? Labour is engrossed by quotas and has been enveloped by the far-left doctrine of forcing equality instead of nurturing it.
I must question the political parties which need all women shortlists: is it because they don’t think their women members are as good as their male colleagues, so they need to gerrymander the selection process? It is bizarre that Parties such as Labour and the SNP feel the need to point local Associations in the right direction of selecting women candidates, as if they cannot be trusted to do so on their own.
As a Conservative woman, I am relieved that our Party has chosen not to endorse this unfair and discriminatory policy. We have adopted the right approach by encouraging more women to become involved within the Party and to put their name forward as a potential candidate
For example, we have groups such as Women2Win and Conservative Women to ensure women are supported and succeed within the Party. The purpose of these groups is to train and help women overcome the challenges that may prevent them from standing, such as childcare, culture and confidence. At the same time, the Conservative Party does not discriminate against hard -working, talented men, who deserve to be selected by their Local Association to represent our Party. If we continue this pattern, I am sure that we will achieve a natural balance.
It should always be the right person for the job. Achieving equality within Parliament is important – but all-women shortlists are not the answer.