Wendy Morton, Kirstene Hair, Victoria Prentis, Anne-Marie Trevelyan, Jo Churchill, Amanda Milling, Mary Robinson, Vicky Ford, Gillian Keegan, Michelle Donelan, Trudi Harrison, Mims Davies, Antoinette Sandbach, Maggie Throup, Suella Fernandes, Helen Whateley, Julia Lopez, Maria Caulfield, Victoria Atkins, Andrea Jenkyns, Rachel Maclean, Kelly Tolhurst, Kemi Badenoch, Caroline Johnson, Lucy Frazer, Seema Kennedy, Rebecca Pow, Lucy Allan, Sarah Newton, Nus Ghani.
We apologise to anyone we’ve inadvertently missed from this list of woman Conservative MPs returned to Parliament for the first time in the last two general elections. In 2015, they represented just over a third of the then new intake. Two years ago, that proportion fell to one in five. In 2010, it was one in four. So while it wouldn’t be true to say that women are a rising percentage of the Parliamentary Party, they are none the less present in larger numbers than they were during the pre-David Cameron years.
When the next Conservative leadership election takes place – which can’t come a moment too soon, as far as this site is concerned – the presence of these newish MPs will matter. Obviously, female Tory MPs won’t vote as a block any more than male ones will. Nor does our list break down any more or less easily into ones who are left-of-Conservative centre and right-of-Conservative centre. But these women will be an important presence in the contest – and most of them turn out, other views aside, to have a feature in common.
Their presence will carry a certain weight because they are well represented in the Ministerial ranks. For years, women were under-represented in the Parliamentary Party. The choice of those available for front bench service was therefore limited. This is less so now. Yesterday, Frazer was made Solicitor General, moving to the post from the Justice Government. She is a likely future Attorney General when Geoffrey Cox moves on or up: like him, she is a QC – a rarity on the Tory benches these days.
A band of Conservative women were promoted in the last shuffle. Some of them will be moved up again at the next one (assuming that the Government lasts long enough to hold it). We’ve no wish to curse anyone by predicting their elevation to the Cabinet, but Victoria Atkins will surely make it sooner or later. Six members of the seventeen members of the Whips Office are female – though all bar one, for the moment at least, are junior whips. Penny Mordaunt has just become the first woman Defence Secretary.
The feature in common is that, whatever their place in the spectrum of party opinion may be, a significant majority are Government loyalists. Very few vote with the European Research Group. Perhaps the best test is to scroll down the long list of 118 Conservative MPs who opposed Theresa May’s deal first time round: Allan, Suella Braverman (then Fernandes), Caulfield, Jenkyns, Lopez and Trevelyan are on it. But this is very much a minority of our list at the top of this article.
Some claim that the Party has a problem with women voters. This is wide of the mark. It has a difficulty specifically, as Rebecca Lowe pointed out on this website, with younger women voters – a point amplified by the recent Onward research. But that is an important demographic, and one that preoccupies Conservative strategists. If you doubt it, look at the Party’s website: seven of the eight people pictured on its front page, apart from in a group photo of campaigners, are women, most of them younger ones.
This will be part of the conversation when the leadership contest comes, and may matter especially at the first stage of the election. The five front runners in our monthly Next Tory Leader are all men. Two of them, Jeremy Hunt and Dominic Raab, were photographed last weekend with their wives. Like Michael Gove, Sajid Javid and Boris Johnson, they will need to have on board not only supportive spouses, but active women who can hold down big posts in a recast Conservative Government.