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Tory contender for Hampstead and Kilburn attacks Labour’s all-women shortlists

Simon Marcus, Conservative candidate for Hampstead and Kilburn, has attacked the use of an all-women shortlist to choose his Labour opponent. Picture: Nigel Sutton Simon Marcus, Conservative candidate for Hampstead and Kilburn, has attacked the use of an all-women shortlist to choose his Labour opponent. Picture: Nigel Sutton

Thursday, June 27, 2013
12:29 PM

The Conservative candidate for Hampstead and Kilburn – the Tories’ top target seat – has attacked the use of an all-women shortlist to choose his Labour opponent.

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Only women have been allowed to enter the contest to succeed Glenda Jackson as Labour’s candidate, as the party attempts to drive up the number of female MPs.

But Tory contender Cllr Simon Marcus, representing Hampstead Town ward on Camden Council, branded the tactic “patronising”.

He said: “The message an all-women shortlist sends out is that a woman can only win if you shut out half the population from applying.

“The women I speak to in the Tory party want to make it on their own abilities. A lot of them have told me they think quotas are patronising and reinforce prejudice.”

Cllr Marcus added that he works with the Conservative Women’s Organisation to try to get more women into politics.

His comments came as the Labour candidacy battle hots up, with a final decision due on July 14.

Ms Jackson, who is standing down at the 2015 election, dismissed Mr Marcus’s remarks as just “another example” of the Conservatives “dragging their heels in opposing this kind of prejudice against women candidates”.

Referring to her own electoral record, she added: “I can well understand his anxiety – it’s a woman representing my party who has defeated his party five times in general elections.”

But some women’s groups were reluctant to support the measure.

Claire Glasman of Winvisible, a Kentish Town-based organisation that fights for women with disabilities, said: “We would like to support women-only shortlists, but the sad reality is that many of the policies that hit women hardest are coming from women in Parliament.”

Meanwhile, Mike Katz, a Labour councillor representing Kilburn ward, admitted he would have been a candidate if allowed.

“On a personal level, I was disappointed,” he said. “But I understand the party’s decision.”

Some 31 per cent of Labour MPs are women, while that figure is 16 per cent for the Conservatives.

Labour has vowed to use all-women shortlists in about 50 per cent of main target seats and in many constituencies it already holds, such as Hampstead and Kilburn.

Labour will defend a majority of just 42 votes in the constituency.

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