Please see below for NEC candidate Ann Black's response to our letter on AWS
I support all-women shortlists (AWS) as the only proven method of
increasing women's representation in parliament and local government.
In fact the NEC does not have the power to change policy - that lies
with annual conference. However I believe that the implementation
could be improved:
First, there are more men than women at every level, from individual
members to applicants to candidates to councillors and MPs. In the
non-target seats, often the first step towards a parliamentary career,
three-quarters of the candidates are men. Some CLPs who accept
AWS with interest and even enthusiasm are disappointed when few
women apply. Open seats are dominated by male applicants and very
few are won by women. There is a risk of creating parallel men's seats
and women's seats and entrenching separate development, rather than
using AWS as a necessary measure on the road to equality.
It is not enough for the NEC to sit in London and tell constituencies that
there are plenty of good women: we have to do more to ensure that
the many good women out there come forward for selection. I hope
that the post-election review of selection processes will look at barriers
and how to overcome them.
Second, the way in which seats are designated as open or AWS is not
sufficiently open and transparent. They may be seen as earmarked for
favourite sons or daughters by particular individuals or interest groups,
or conversely as designed to exclude certain candidates. The
perception of fixing then undermines the credibility of decisions which
are genuinely made on objective grounds. And while the views of local
parties cannot always be satisfied, given that over 80% would prefer
open selections, they do need to be treated more consistently and with
Clear criteria for determining which seats are AWS could help to build
confidence. If this is too difficult, one of my correspondents suggested
drawing lots, so that AWS and open selections would be assigned
randomly. I'd be interested in whether readers think this is completely
off-the-wall, or the only cast-iron way of excluding improper influence.
And third, the interaction of women's representation with other equality
strands - ethnicity, LGBT, disability, age, class - needs attention, so
that disadvantaged groups are not played off against each other.
All these tensions will become more acute as the general election
approaches and more MPs stand down in safe seats, so please contact
me at email@example.com or 07956-637958 with your thoughts