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Labour could be forced to scrap all-women shortlists as more than half its MPs are female 

Could equality law end all-women shortlists? Labour could be forced to scrap the practice as more than half its MPs are female

  • Leaked papers shows party has stopped using shortlists for first time since 1997
  • Women now account for 51 per cent of the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP)
  • Labour source says party will ‘fight tooth and nail to advance women’s rights’   


Labour may be forced to scrap all-women shortlists for parliamentary candidates as more than half its MPs are now female.

Leaked papers from the party’s national executive committee show it has formally decided to stop using the shortlists for the first time since 1997. That year, when Tony Blair entered Downing Street, 101 female Labour candidates – dubbed ‘Blair’s babes’ – were elected using all-women shortlists.

Women now account for 51 per cent of the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP). Under the Equality Act, all-women shortlists can only be used where females are under-represented. The leaked documents state: ‘Legal advice suggests that now the PLP is majority women (in no small part because of the great success of all-women shortlists), it will not be possible to use positive action in favour of women for selections in the run-up to the next general election.’

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer Rachel Reeves and Angela Rayner, Shadow Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. The party may be forced to scrap all-women shortlists for parliamentary candidates as more than half its MPs are now female

A Labour source said: ‘We don’t have any choice under the law as it stands.

‘We’ll fight tooth and nail to advance women’s rights, and if that means changing the law again, we will.’

The papers note that women could suffer a ‘catastrophic’ fall in representation unless rules are passed preventing local members from challenging their MPs via trigger ballots.

Labour frontbencher David Lammy praised the use of the shortlists to boost the numbers of women running for Parliament.

However, he criticised the party for failing to do enough to ensure black men run as MPs.

Praising the use of all-women shortlists, the Tottenham MP said: ‘I do think we have to do a serious analysis about those barriers and removing those barriers… that does mean a degree of positive discrimination if you are to bring people forward.’

Mr Lammy, one of just three black men who are Labour MPs and the only black man in Sir Keir’s shadow cabinet, said the party needs to do ‘considerably more’ to fix the problem by removing barriers to entry.

Labour frontbencher David Lammy (right) praised the use of the shortlists to boost the numbers of women running for Parliament. However, he criticised the party for failing to do enough to ensure black men run as MPs

Labour frontbencher David Lammy (right) praised the use of the shortlists to boost the numbers of women running for Parliament. However, he criticised the party for failing to do enough to ensure black men run as MPs

The party’s justice spokesman said the party has been ‘slow’ to realise the issue and called for some form of positive discrimination to resolve it.

Speaking at a fringe event at the Labour Party conference in Brighton, he said: ‘There are so many barriers to entry and when we’re talking about black men the barriers to entry are huge.

‘And the party has been slow to pick that up and understand that and we need to do considerably more.

‘I do think we have to do a serious analysis about those barriers and removing those barriers as that does mean a degree of positive discrimination if you are to bring people forward.’

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