POLITICS

Grant Shapps Rules Out 'Draconian' All-Women Short Lists As Tories Try To Battle Their 'Women Problem'

29/06/2014 16:19 BST | Updated 29/06/2014 16:59 BST
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LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMEBER 05: Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron (3L) chairs the first cabinet meeting following a ministerial re-shuffle, in Downing Street on September 5, 2012 in London, England. The Prime Minsiter had to defend his choices over his new cabinet in the House of Commons today at the weekly Prime Minister's Questions. (Photo by Neil Hall - WPA Pool/Getty Images)

David Cameron’s critics say he has a "women problem", but the Tory Party chairman has appeared to slap down a suggestion on how to improve the number of female MPs within the party.

Women's minister Nicky Morgan apparently urged the party to consider all-women short lists to balance out the sexes.

But Grant Shapps has branded the idea "draconian" and said he was "very confident" the party was "making great progress".

Only 16% of Conservative MPs are women whereas for Labour – the only major party with all-women shortlists – the tally is 33%.

The Liberal Democrats have the worst record. Only 13% of their MPs are female. Last month Nick Clegg suggested he would consider all-women shortlists unless things improved after 2015.

Only 27% of available top posts in the civil service, those at Permanent Secretary level, have gone to women in the past three years.

Financial Secretary to the Treasury Ms Morgan was reported in a recent Mumsnet chat to have suggested that no option is off the table in considering how to boost the number of females in the Tory party in the future.

But Mr Shapps told Sky News' Murnaghan programme: "We're massively increasing the number of women. I don't think we'll need to do things which are draconian like that. It's better if you can attract people because they want to join the party, because they want to be part of it.

"And as I say, with about 35% now and rising selected for our seats as women, I'm very confident that we are making great progress in this area."

He added: "We made dramatic progress at the last election, getting far more women elected on the Conservative side than ever before. Of course the Conservative Party was the first party to have a female MP, a female Prime Minister and we gave women the vote, so we've got a good track record. But there's much, much more to do."

"We live in a country where half the population are women. I'm absolutely determined as party chairman to be as reflective of the overall population as possible and we've got good news on this front. In fact the positive news in terms of the number of women being selected as candidates for us, including in our most winnable seats has actually continued to rise."