A fair cop for women? Female Police and Crime Commissioner candidates in less winnable seats

Electoral Reform Society,

Posted on the 20th June 2012

Yesterday, the Labour Party became the first party to finalise its candidates for the 41 Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) to be elected this November. There have been widespread fears that this new role will be heavily dominated by male candidates so Labour’s list gives us the first glimpse of how women might fare.

An initial glance gives us 15 women candidates to 26 men, or put another way, 36.6% of Labour’s PCC candidates are women. This is far from the ideal 50/50 split, but it is at least better than the paltry 22% which makes up the number of women in Westminster.

Further analysis paints a more worrying picture however. Picking women candidates is one thing, but they must stand a fair chance of getting into office if equality is ever to be achieved.

With this in mind I gave each candidate a ‘winnability rating’, an admittedly very rough estimate of how much chance each candidate had of being elected based upon Labour’s typical performances in that area. A candidate rated ‘1’ had almost no chance of being elected, a candidate rated ‘2’ was in an environment that leaned against them, a candidate rated ‘3’ was in a toss-up and so on. A higher number meant more chance of being elected.

The numbers broke down like this:

Winnability Rating 1 2 3 4 5
Males 8 4 2 2 10
Females 9 1 2 0 3

This produces a mean winnability of 3.1 for male candidates and 2.1 for female candidates, so women find themselves in significantly less winnable seats.

This is confirmed by a look through the list. For example, in Wales, there are four PCC candidates. Of those, just one is a woman, Christine Gwyther who is standing in Dyfed-Powys, which covers the parts of Wales with weakest support for Labour (I rated the election as a toss-up).

In the South West, four out of five of Labour’s candidates are women, but the South West is an extremely poor region for Labour. It is very difficult to imagine Rachael Rogers in Dorset, Nicky Williams in Devon and Cornwall or Rupi Dhanda in Gloucestershire getting elected. The one man nominated in the South West is Bob Ashford in Avon and Somerset. As that authority covers Bristol it is perhaps the only one which Labour has any real chance of winning (though I gave it a ‘2’ as I thought a Labour loss was still more likely than not).

In all these numbers suggest that, on the 15th of November, somewhere between 12 and 14 male Labour candidates are liable to be elected compared to just 3-5 female ones.

Additionally, it is worth considering that Labour is generally the best party when it comes to gender balance.

For example, looking at a breakdown of parties in the House of Commons by percentage of women we can see that Labour has slightly more than double the percentage of women MPs of the Conservative Party.

Party Conservatives Labour Lib Dems
Percentage of Women MPs 16.0% 32.6% 12.3%


Looking through the lists of potential candidates on sites such as topofthecops.com it indeed appears that the Conservative Party’s candidates are likely to be even more male than Labour’s.

All the political parties have a vital role to play in allowing female candidates a fair shot at election. Simply selecting women is not enough. Having woman candidates is one thing, but they must be placed in winnable seats if a respectable gender balance is ever going to be reached.

Women make up 50% of the population and pay the same taxes as men. They should have an equal say in how their streets are policed.

The Electoral Reform Society is part of the Counting Women IN campaign, fighting for 50/50 at all levels of UK government. Equality is simply good politics. Join us.

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