“Parties must not slip back on diversity this election,” campaigners warn

Posted on the 28th October 2019

  • Statement from the Electoral Reform Society for immediate release, Sunday 27th October.
  • Contact Jon Narcross, mediaoffice@electoral-reform.org.uk / 07794728820 for interviews or more information.

A coalition of over 100 campaigners, charities and political groups have warned that women’s representation in Parliament risks slipping backwards and called on political parties to take action by publishing diversity data for political candidates.

The Centenary Action Group, a coalition of campaign groups and charities [1] made the call in a letter published today in the Sunday Times [2] from Dr Helen Pankhurst CBE, women’s rights activist and great-granddaughter of suffragette leader Emmeline Pankhurst.

The letter calls on parties to commit to a fair and equal parliament collect and publish diversity data for political candidates.

The coalition have also written to the main political parties urging them to begin to turn this tide on women’s representation and enact section 106 of the Equality Act 2010 and publish data on the protected characteristics of the candidates selected to stand for the party.

Section 106 of the Equality Act 2010 would require political parties to publish diversity data on candidates standing in elections to the House of Commons, Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly. The legislation already exists, it just needs to be enacted [3].

In March the Equality and Human Rights Commission published a report calling for Section 106 to be brought into force [4]. The report details how fragmented and inconsistent diversity data is at present, making monitoring the diversity of British politics impossible.

Dr Jess Garland, Director of Policy and Research, Electoral Reform Society said:

“In the lead up to the next general election, we are calling on parties to take candidate diversity seriously and support the call to enact section 106 of the equality act.

We are also asking that parties take a lead themselves and commit to collecting and publishing prospective candidate diversity data. A voluntary approach on its own is not enough. But it is a start.

“We cannot allow progress on diversity to slip back in a snap election – parties have to open up and step up. A truly representative parliament should not be fifty years away.

“With a potential general election just around the corner, political parties have a major role to play in delivering political equality, a fight that began over 100 years ago.”

Full text of the letter below

“101 years ago, women won the right to vote in the UK and, for the first time, women could stand as Members of Parliament. Women’s representation has come a long way since then.

“However, on current trends, women will not be equally represented in Westminster for another 50 years.

“This needn’t be. It shouldn’t be. It wouldn’t be – if parties showed their commitment to a fair and equal parliament by putting into force Section 106 of the Equality Act 2010.  It calls on parties to collect and publish protected characteristic data for prospective candidates in elections to our national bodies.

“Businesses are now required to publish their gender pay gaps. As talk of a general election grows, we believe it is time for parties to practice what they preach and publish their ‘gender diversity gaps’.

“In the centenary of the first woman taking her seat in Parliament, we are asking all parties to show they are serious about improved representation by publishing this data now and by publicly committing to #Enact106.”


Notes to editors

[1] The Centenary Action Group is a cross-party campaigning coalition #StillMarching for women’s right to take part in the decisions that affect their lives.

For a full list of members see here: https://www.centenaryaction.org.uk/our-members

[2] https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/letters-to-the-editor-brexit-will-be-our-biggest-mistake-qgx8kbbst

[3] https://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/latest-news-and-research/parliamentary-briefings/enacting-section-106-of-the-equality-act-2010/

[4] https://www.equalityhumanrights.com/en/publication-download/diversity-candidates-and-elected-officials-great-britain

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