All-women Shortlists - United Kingdom - 2005 Election

2005 Election

Following the reduction in women MPs after the 2001 general election and increased lobbying by gender equality advocates, Labour introduced the Sex Discrimination (Election Candidates) Act 2002, which allows parties to use positive discrimination in the selection of candidates. They will remain legalized until the end of 2015, due to the "Sunset Clause".

In contrast, in 2001 the Liberal Democrats rejected a proposal to use AWS, suggesting such shortlists were illiberal and unnecessary. Prominent women MPs of the party opposed the all-women shortlists. Party members argued that the main problem was not discrimination, but a lack of female candidates. Instead the party set a target of having 40% female candidates in winnable seats.

In the 2005 General election, the shortlists helped to increase the number of female MPs in Parliament to 128, with the Labour Party's 98 women constituting 77% of the total. However, a Labour-controlled "safe seat" was lost when explicitly anti-AWS independent candidate Peter Law won the Blaenau Gwent constituency in Wales beating Maggie Jones who had been selected using Labour's All-women shortlist policy. The loss was widely blamed on controversy over AWS, though a scholarly analysis suggests that additional factors may have been at play, and noted that overall there was no significant anti-AWS backlash during the election.

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