‘We need to do better’: Twickenham Tory admits party weak on gender

By Tom Holmes
December 10 2019, 10.40

The Conservative Party is behind Labour when it comes to putting up female candidates according to the Tories’ Twickenham candidate Isobel Grant.

Mrs Grant has four children between the ages of eight and 14 and has taken a month off work to stand at the election, which she said is a huge commitment.

She also argued that all women shortlists weren’t the answer to the party’s problems.

She said: “We are much behind Labour on this and we do need to do better.

“It’s not just about the number of candidates, but how many candidates are actually going to get into Parliament.

“But I would urge caution before we step into positive discrimination.

“I’m not sure that that’s right and it’s not what I want for my party.

“If anyone suggested I got where I am because I’m a woman, if there’s even a hint of positive discrimination then it pulls the rug out from under you and destroys your credibility.

“At the moment, I would rather be in this position on merit.”

When Parliament dissolved, just 59 of the Conservatives’ 298 MPs were women, compared to 111 out of 243 for Labour.

And it looks to be a similar story in this election, with women making up just 30% of the Conservatives’ candidates but 53% of Labour’s.

The Tories have had the country’s only two female Prime Minsters: Margaret Thatcher and Theresa May.

And Mrs Grant spoke more broadly about her experience of sexism in politics.

“If I tell some people I’ve got to go and pick up my child, they sigh and think I’m flaky,” she said.

She added: “It’s a huge problem for our democracy that it’s really hard for anyone with childcare responsibilities to be in politics and that still disproportionately affects women.

“I’m having to run my own race just to get to the starting blocks.

“People don’t believe or listen to what I have to say until I can prove myself.

“There is a base level of misogyny that runs all the way through our society.

“There’s some people who will always say – we want more women, but not those women.

“I want to see women of all backgrounds with all opinions represented – be they on the left, the right or in the centre of politics.”

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

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