David Cameron could introduce ‘voluntary’ all-women shortlists if the Conservatives continue to struggle to recruit female MPs, senior Tory sources have said.
The Prime Minister has also set party chairman Grant Shapps ‘on the case’ to remedy the current situation, whereby women are less likely to be selected for safe seats. But he is also interested in local associations using all-women shortlists on a voluntary basis after the next election if his party fails to make sufficient advances.
Cameron does not want to impose shortlists on constituency parties, although of course ‘voluntary’ can cover a multitude of sins: many people ‘voluntarily’ work longer hours than those stipulated on their contract, but have little choice about the matter. The Tories could conceivably pressure associations in safe seats to use shortlists without forcing them – although this sort of behaviour rarely works, and tends to land campaign HQ with awkward headlines about meddling or parachuting.
This week a number of female MPs are expected to get promotions in the reshuffle to help with the perception of a women problem in the Conservative party. But given only 16 per cent of Tory MPs are women, the Prime Minister is having to promote from a very small (but disproportionately talented) pool. It would be easier to promote female MPs if more existed – and women already in ministerial positions such as Nicky Morgan are beginning to conclude that all-women shortlists could be the only solution.