The-Latest - EXCLUSIVE
There will be plenty of fresh-faced high-flyers, lots more women and an increase in African Caribbean and Asia MPs in the British parliament this year, according to a group of leading political lobbyists.
But a special study by Insight Public Affairs has found that the Conservative Party, which pollsters say are likely to win the May General Election, is failing to pick women candidates in its safest parliamentary constituencies and Labour is skipping a generation - selecting a large number of twentysomethings in prized seats they currently hold.
Women make up just 25 per cent of Conservative candidates in nine out of the 36 seats where the party has selected prospective parliamentary candidates (PPCs) – potentially a net gain of just two. This compares with 61 per cent (45 out of the 76 seats in which Labour have selected PPCs) of female candidates selected in Labour’s held seats – potentially a net gain of up to 27 women. The use by Labour of all-women shortlists - something party chiefs have refused to allow African Caribbeans and Asians - has been a huge success.
The Conservatives have selected four new candidates (five per cent) who describe themselves as either African Caribbean, Asian or mixed race, compared to 10 new candidates (14 per cent) for Labour, including Lisa Nandy, who inherits Wigan with a 40 per cent majority and Yasmin Quereshi in Bolton South East (with a 33 per cent majority).
Black campaigners say the current crop of 15 African Caribbean and Asian MPs (13 Labour and two Conservative) would have to be quadrupled to reflect the population. Experts predict possibly eight new African Caribbean and Asian MPs and perhaps a couple already in parliament losing their seats because of a swing away from Labour to the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats.
John Lehal, managing director of Insight Public Affairs, himself a former Labour PPC, said: “The next parliament will look and feel markedly different to the current one. The change may not be of the order of magnitude the parties would like, but between them the new candidates will more closely resemble the electorate they seek to represent. Labour will have a lot more women in safe seats and plenty of 20 somethings, whilst Conservative associations finally seem to be selecting Black and Asian candidates in safe seats."
The research, published today assesses the 138 seats in which sitting MPs are retiring at the next election. To date, 91 Labour MPs, 37 Conservatives and seven Liberal Democrats have announced their intention to stand down.
Just eight per cent of Conservative PPCs currently work in the public sector. Special advisors to politicians and other people on the inside track are over represented compared to PPCs with a public sector background. Both parties have drawn heavily from the existing apparatchiks. Twenty four of the 138 candidates have spent time working for sitting MPs, ministers or advising government or are already MPs who have been selected in different seats. Four government special advisers have been selected in the seats of their former bosses.
The professional background of Labour v Conservative PPCs highlights arguably the biggest difference between the two. Conservative MPs after the next election will be largely drawn from the private sector. Seventeen per cent have backgrounds in "consultancy", 25 per cent work in "business" and 14 per cent in the legal profession.
By contrast, almost a third (32 per cent) of Labour’s candidates work in the public sector and 13 per cent work in law. Of the 70 Labour candidates that have been selected, 51 per cent have served as councillors – compared to just 22 per cent (eight of 36) of Conservative candidates.