There can be no doubt that in order to see more women elected to our political institutions, political parties need to stand more women candidates.
Yet there is no official information on the diversity of those being selected for election at any level of government.
Without knowing who is putting themselves forward and getting through the selection process we don’t know where the problems are, so we don’t know the best way to fix them. To improve accountability, and act as a source of pressure to improve, transparency about the diversity of candidates is essential.
Equality legislation already exists which would make this information transparent. Section 106 of the Equality Act (2010) requires political parties to publish diversity data on candidates standing in elections to the House of Commons and devolved administrations. The problem is that the government has yet to enact it.
Today the Equality and Human Rights Commission has published a report calling for Section 106 to be brought into force. This report details how fragmented and inconsistent diversity data is at present, making monitoring the diversity of British politics impossible.
The EHRC report makes four straightforward recommendations to ensure consistency and transparency across the data, and they include a recommendation that local government should also be included in the legislation. We welcome this step. With women making up only 33% of local councillors, only four out of 16 elected mayors, and no directly-elected metro-mayors, the issue of women’s representation extends well beyond the national level.
The Women and Equalities Committee’s 2017 report on women in the House of Commons also urged the government to bring Section 106 of the Equality Act into force. The Speaker’s Conference on Parliamentary Representation called for it too, back in 2010. The range of cross-party voices from Parliament to civil society is growing louder.
The legislation is ready to go – now it is time for the government to deliver on its own commitments.