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Friday, 13 March 2015

ERS predicts 44 more women in the next parliament

New report shows some progress on female representation likely in 2015, but our broken voting system is a major barrier to change. The number of women in the next House of Commons could rise from 148 to 192, according to a new report by the Electoral Reform Society (ERS).

This 6.6% increase would be the fastest rate of progress since 1997, when the number of female MPs doubled. But according to the new ERS analysis, that rate would be much faster if it weren’t for our broken voting system.

In the new report, Women in Westminster, the ERS finds that:
  • 192 female MPs are likely to be elected in May 2015 (up from 148 now), representing 29.5% of the Commons. This is 6.6% up from the status quo
  • The UK could move from 56th to 36th in the world rankings for female parliamentary representation
  • The Greens, SNP and Labour outperform other parties in terms of female candidates
  • Our First Past the Post voting system is a major barrier to growth in women’s representation in Parliament; ‘seat-blocking’ incumbent male MPs continue to act as a brake on increased female representation, due to the prevalence of unchallenged ‘safe seats’

The report reveals that the Conservatives could go from a 16% female parliamentary party to 20%; Labour from 34% to 41%; and the Lib Dems could be left with just one female MP. Women in Westminster also finds that the longer an MP has been in Parliament, the more likely he is to be male. Of those incumbent MPs first elected in 2001 who are standing again in 2015, just 14.6% are women; this figure drops to 10.5% of those who were first elected in 1987.

Darren Hughes, Deputy Chief Executive of the Electoral Reform Society said: "“One of the chief reasons why people are increasingly alienated from our politics is the fact that Westminster looks so little like the people it is there to represent. At the moment, barely one in five MPs are women, which simply isn’t good enough. “We desperately need to see more women in Parliament, and a general election gives parties a chance to correct the imbalance. Our analysis suggests that parties are starting to step up to the challenge."

“But progress is still incredibly slow. It’s made slower by our broken voting system which creates hundreds of artificially safe seats and works against parties trying to force change. After this election, we want to see parties redouble their efforts to select women in winnable seats. But above all, we want to see the UK introduce a voting system that would give us a Parliament that more closely represents the people.” Darren Hughes added.

Additional findings in Women in Westminster include:
  • In Labour’s top 100 target seats, 54% have female candidates; the Conservative equivalent number is 29%
  • In Labour’s top 100 safe seats, 36% have female candidates; the Conservative equivalent number is 19%
  • The East of England is likely to come bottom of the women’s representation league, with less than 19% of its MPs projected to be women