‘Bothered’ Lisa Nandy wades into Labour sexism row over all-white male candidate list
Labour frontbencher Lisa Nandy has criticised her own party for selecting five white male candidates for the upcoming by-elections forced by Tory and SNP woes.
The senior shadow cabinet member said it “certainly” bothered her Labour had gone with an all-white male slate for the crunch votes in the months ahead – insisting that “diversity matters”.
Female Labour MPs are said to be outraged at the decision, warning that it could set back the opposition’s mission to reflect the make-up of the UK population.
Asked if it “bothered” her that Labour’s candidates were all white men, Ms Nandy told BBC’s Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg: “It does. It certainly does. Diversity in politics matters.”
Ms Nandy stopped short of calling for a return of Labour’s use of all-women shortlists – but praised the policy first brought in by the party for the 1997 general election landslide.
“I’m someone who stood on an all-woman shortlist, and the reason that they mattered – and that it mattered that Labour pioneered them – is because it changed the perception of what a member of parliament looked like,” said the shadow levelling up secretary.
Ms Nandy added: “We can’t use all-women shortlists in the Labour Party now, but I’m very committed to making sure we continue that diversity – particularly at local level. If we’re going to hand power back to communities, the local leaders have to look like the communities they serve.”
Danny Beales is fighting for Boris Johnson’s old seat in Uxbridge for Labour, while Keir Mather has been selected in Selby and Ainsty, where loyal Johnson supporter Nigel Adams has also quit.
Meanwhile, Alistair Strathern is Labour’s candidate for Mid Bedfordshire by-election – the seat Nadine Dorries has promised to resign but has yet to formally do so.
Neil Guild has been selected for Somerton and Frome, where David Warburton has quit following his admission of cocaine use and allegations of sexual misconduct, which he continues to deny.
And Michael Shanks will compete in Rutherglen and Hamilton West, if a petition to oust the SNP’s Margaret Ferrier successfully hits the threshold to trigger a vote.
“It is really disappointing to see that all five of our candidates for the five upcoming by-elections are men,” one female Labour MP told Politico after the full candidate list emerged on Friday afternoon.
“It appears that we may struggle to keep the number of Labour MPs in parliament at the current 51:49 ratio of women to men, which reflects the make-up of the UK population. But we also need to make sure we do more to select disabled candidates and those from Black and ethnic minorities.”
Labour Women’s Network said the by-election selections were “a shame”, adding: “We might be doing better against other measures, but being prepared to put up equal numbers of women when the stakes are highest does matter.”
It emerged last year that Labour was dropping all-women shortlists to select candidates for the next general election, after advice received in the wake of the 2019 election, when 51 per cent of its MPs were women.
The party reportedly received legal advice warning that continuing to use the process would be “unlawful” since the majority of their MPs are female.
It comes as Ms Dorries looks to have run out the clock on a by-election coming before parliament’s summer recess. Instead of taking place alongside voters in the other three Tory-held seats on 20 July, the Mid Bedfordshire battle looks set to take place in the autumn.
The Johnson ally has been accused of wanting to inflict maximum pain on Rishi Sunak by prolonging the damaging campaigns and the embarrassment of another potential defeat.
Ms Dorries has refused to formally resign until she has received more information from the government about why she was denied a peerage in Mr Johnson’s resignation honours list – lashing out at “posh boys” Mr Sunak and his adviser James Forsyth.