Record number of women candidates for Labour in south west London

By Milly Veitch
November 29 2019, 17.03

Women make up a record 70.6 percent of Labour candidates in south west London for the General Election.

Of the 17 south west London constituencies, 12 of the Labour candidates running are female, helping the party to become the first major political party in the UK to offer a majority of female candidates.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn had previously pledged to have 50% of Labour MPs to be female by 2020.

Yet half of the seats female candidates are running for are currently held by other parties.

Only six of the prospective female MPs are also from BAME backgrounds, making up 35.3% of the Labour candidates.

Jackie Schneider, the Labour candidate for Wimbledon, spoke about the importance of equal representation in 2019.

She said: “Our MPs should reflect the communities they seek to represent.

“It is unacceptable that too many of our representatives are drawn from a very narrow pool of privately educated white men.”

Ms Schneider added: “It is shocking to me that Wimbledon has never had a woman MP, I intend to put that right.”

Labour candidate for Croydon South, Olga FitzRoy, acknowledged that work still needed to be done to ensure that women were properly represented.

She said: “Our All Women Shortlist system works, but it is a means to an end, not an end in itself.

“We’re not there yet, and we need equal representation of women and minorities in all parties so that our parliament looks like the country.”

A Labour Party spokesperson commented: “We are proud that the Labour Party has more BAME MPs than all other political parties combined and that our Shadow Cabinet contains more ethnic minority members than any Cabinet or shadow Cabinet ever.

“Britain is increasingly diverse and politics should have representation from all stakeholders in our society including ethnic groups and women to reflect this.”

Yet the Labour Party has been criticised for not going far enough to achieve equality within the party.

Women’s Equality Party London Assembly candidate Korina Holmes said: “I am pleased to see the Labour Party aim for an equal number of female MPs as male, but lofty targets mean nothing without concrete plans beneath them to remove the barriers to women’s political participation.

“Too often female candidates, particularly BAME women, are asked to stand in marginal seats where they have to fight much harder than their counterparts to win.

“At a minimum, the Labour Party should use all women shortlists in any safe seat departed by a male MP.”

The lack of female MPs has also been linked to the growing of abuse towards women in Parliament.

Several female MPs have decided not to run again in the next election citing the abuse they’ve faced as a one of their reasons.

An Amnesty study found that Labour received the most abusive tweets per female MP in the run up to the 2017 election, with three Labour MPs (Diana Abbott, Emily Thornberry, Angela Rayner) making up the five women MPs receiving the most abuse.

Jess Phillips, former Labour MP and prospective candidate for Birmingham Yardley, had the police called to her home three times in one weekend last month.

“The abuse women MPs receive is shocking and a very real threat to women’s representation,” said Ms FitzRoy.

She added: “I get messages every day from colleagues suffering from abuse.

“This is not legitimate casework or disagreement on policy, it is abuse and bullying, mainly from strangers online.

“All politicians need to work together to stop this, and the first step is listening to victims and taking their experience seriously.”

Ms Holmes spoke on the need to amend the Recall Act so that MPs who engage in harassment or abused could be recalled by their constituents.

“The Labour Party, as with all the other parties, urgently needs to show leadership in stamping out misogyny and harassment among its own ranks,” she said.

“Until Parliament makes it clear that this kind of abuse of power will not be tolerated, it will never be a welcoming environment to women.”

Read more about what’s important to south west London constituencies in our 24-page General Election preview special.

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