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Labour still underperforms in selection of women and BAME council candidates

Leeds Town HallFigures reported to Labour’s national executive committee yesterday show that, whilst it may be doing better than other parties, it is still failing to ensure that its candidates for English local councils reflect their populations. With selections now having taken place in the vast majority of winnable seats, the proportion of women candidates is as low as 26% in the Eastern region and 28% in the North West where candidates have already been selected for 94% of  contests. The best performing region for female candidates is the Northern, where 45% of candidates are women.

Performance on BAME candidates also falls similarly short of what is required. Yorkshire has achieved 39% women as well as 12% BAME (compared with 11% in its population). The full details are in the following table:

[table id=30 /]

Under the party’s rules (Appendix 4B for those who are interested), it is regional directors of the party who have responsibility for enforcing equality targets and they have a number of positive action measures they can use.

For authorities with all-out elections, they are supposed to agree a list of winnable wards with the local campaign forum, in which those with two or three members must select at least one woman (though they could be required to select two) or be forced to re-run its selection. There are also powers to enforce sufficient all-women shortlists in councils which elect in thirds or halves.

Some regional directors obviously do much better than others in enforcing these procedures. Surely, their performance should be monitored by the NEC who should set targets? Although there is allowance for local campaign forums to adopt “new and innovative procedures” with the NEC’s permission, there is no explicit provision for using positive action to improve BAME representation.

It should be possible to change the composition of Labour council groups more quickly than the parliamentary party because, at least in principle, there is mandatory reselection of councillors. Unfortunately, the rules do permit a shortlist which contains all  the sitting councillors and no others, whereas normally there would be more potential candidates at selections than vacancies, but at least this can be over-turned by the selection meeting.


  1. Robert says:

    Now try it with working class and disabled people.

    How many people on the front bench are not Spads and have not been hand picked by the leadership dropped into seats and are university types in other words not people with real life experience.

    Gays, lesbian, and of course Asian and Polish we have to have to have a few of those.

    Equality of course between the gender is OK so long as the people coming are not like my MP, floating down on a labour parachute, bit like Kinnocks son.

    1. David Pavett says:

      I agree with your points.

      You are right to say that the concern is for some groups and not for others. The thing is though that if the concern for exact proportional representation were pushed to its conclusion we end up with a destruction of democracy i.e. with the idea that only a woman can represent women, only a gay person can represent gays, only a working class person can represent working class people etc., etc. This seems to me to be nonsense.

      Also it would be possible to increase the participation of women, say, while reducing the participation of working class people. The discussion about such things has always been woefully inadequate.

      There are broader grounds for wanting to see an approximate correspondence between representatives and the population as a whole.

      The shortcoming of this approach, in addition to the one mentioned above, is that historical class and cultural differences produce very different levels of participation in the political process. Are we saying that the proportionality of representatives and general population should match irrespective of the different levels of participation? That’s a genuine question. I have asked it many times but never had an answer.

      My overall feeling about all this is that it is a substitute for genuine politics and an attempt to replace its inadequacies with quotas. Real socialists and democrats would take it as read that an effort should be made to encourage the participation of under-represented groups. That should not need discussion. What does need discussion, and lots of it, is the pathetic state of Labour policies and internal democracy.

  2. John reid says:

    At this rate Euan Blair,or emily Benn maybe follow Harriet’s husband and win on a all BaME Shortlist

  3. Dave Roberts says:

    I see Jon Lansman conveniently ignores the ethnic make up of his the group of his favourite minority politician Lutfur Rahman in Tower Hamlets. His independent group on that council is 100% Bangladeshi and the council as a whole has a disproportionately high number of Bangladeshi councillors in relation to the population.

    The most under represented group everywhere in the country are white working class women, if there is going to be any form of discrimination it should be towards them.

    The idea, now of course unfashionable because of the Lee Grasper scandal among others, that in any given situation there will be an approximately the same number of elected officials to every ethnic minority group was always false.

    Some groups such as Bangladeshis and Pakistanis get involved in politics, other like the Chinese, Vietnamese and Turks don’t, it’s as simple as that. We also have the PC nonsense that all public bodies should reflect ethnically the communities they serve.

    This was exposed for the charade it is when a police force in the west country stopped recruiting white officers until it had the correct proportion of Chinese ones. It was pointed out that not a single Chinese person had ever applied to join the force. What a farce. Over to you Jon, let’s have your comments.

  4. Dave Roberts says:

    I have always found it significant that, and this is especially true on Comment is Free, that when an article is taken apart as this one has been there is silence from the person who wrote it.

  5. swatantra says:

    It seems that the Tories are more open to adopting BAME candidates than Labour! That doesn’t seem quite right. The 2010 intake brought in many excellent BAME MPs on both sides of the House, and this needs to continue and increase. Sitting MPs should not be automatically selected as seems the fashion, and Labour should introduce an age rule; so if you’re 71 plus, you call it a day.

  6. Robert says:

    Nope age does not come into it or gender it should be all about the members being able to vote for the person best for them, then the public can have the chance to say yes or no.

    Today picking an MP is all about donations, influence and whether the leader can get people close to them into seats of power, like my MP who worked for Blair backed Blair and got a free ride into the job.

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