Mathew Parris claims the reason why the Conservative Party has failed so significantly in its attempt to achieve some level of gender balance in its list of MPs is down to a lack of swagger in the many otherwise competent female applicants. He identifies one example of the small group of exceptions being Anna Soubry and presumably he might consider Esther McVey and possibly Nadine Dorries as being others within the party. However Parris also identifies two MPs who presumably do not possess swagger but who have been successful for other reasons. These are Sarah Wollaston and Heather Wheeler who Matthew claims won through the selection process because of their local reputation for excellence in their previous roles as GP and Councillor respectively. The theory of Mr Parris appear in his column in the Times on Saturday. Matthew claims to have gained this insight in his role as ‘mediator’ of the various internal debates to allow local parties to select their candidates.
Sadly there is no comparable article for the warts on the inside of the Labour Party. They have certainly been a great deal more successful in identifying female candidates for their seats which is reflected in a much larger proportion of female MPs. However just like the Conservative Party, Labour are very happy to parachute in candidates into areas where the candidates have absolutely no previous experience of the community concerned, and just like the Conservative Party, these candidates cannot dodge the idea that their relocation and in time election owes a huge amount to the Party first, the local Association second and to the local voters third. This means that local residents who are not party supporters cannot expect to be high on their priority list once their families and career ambitions are taken into account.
Matthew is completely wrong, we don’t need more female candidates with swagger, whatever that really means, instead we need more candidates who are local to the constituencies concerned. It is clear from the article in the Times and other reading that both Labour and Conservative Parties have finishing schools full of ‘suitable’ candidates who are willing to travel to any vacant constituency to help the party succeed and their career to take off. These people are committing their time, energy and even money to climb a pole that should not exist. Although I am not a traditional supporter of the Conservative Party, I have enormous respect for Sarah Wollaston. If there were 650 MPs like her or Caroline Lucas or the small number of other MPs who understand that all of their constituents matter a great deal more than the party structure, nationally and locally then we would not now be contemplating enquiries into the tawdry behaviour of some of the worst offenders.