The Labour party is dropping all women shortlists to choose candidates for the next general election, HuffPost UK can reveal.
The decision comes after the party received legal advice warning that continuing to use them for Westminster seats would be “unlawful” because the majority of their MPs are female.
However, it is understood they will continue to use the system for other elections.
HuffPost UK revealed in November that continuing to use AWS for general elections could put Labour in breach of the 2010 Equality Act.
That provoked a backlash, with one party source saying: “Labour women had to fight hard to bring in AWS, which has proven to be the only effective way to increase women’s representation in parliament.
“Scrapping the use of AWS would put our women back decades.”
But the party has now confirmed that they are being ditched ahead of the next general election.
Anneliese Dodds MP, Labour’s party chair and shadow women and equalities secretary, said: “Labour has a proud record of increasing women’s participation in politics.
“From all-women shortlists to the Jo Cox women in leadership programme, to a gender-balanced shadow cabinet, we have taken decisive action to promote equal representation at all levels of government.
“That is why there are now 104 women Labour MPs at Westminster — over half of the parliamentary Labour Party — with Paulette Hamilton the latest following her election in Birmingham Erdington this week.
“The Labour Party is committed to continuing to use positive action, including AWS, in all situations where it is able to do so.”
However, the decision to stop using all-women shortlists for Westminster was met with dismay by some party sources.
One Labour insider told HuffPost UK: “Women make up the majority of the PLP. This historic achievement was hard fought and won through the use of all women shortlists.
“I hope this decision to drop them doesn’t result in equality backsliding. Unfortunately I fear it’s fairly obvious this will happen and the leadership will promote their favourite sons without regard to ensuring gender parity.”
Another added: “The decision by the leadership to scrap AWS is weak-willed and risks taking us decades backwards in terms of women’s representation.
“The legal advice could have been challenged but sadly the boys responsible in Southside didn’t seem to think it was worth the hassle.”
Labour first supported all-women shortlists for selecting parliamentary candidates at its 1993 conference, and it has since been credited with increasing women’s representation in politics. When the party used the policy in the 1997 general election, a record 101 women were elected to parliament.
Current high-profile politicians in today’s parliament — including Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner and MPs Jess Phillips and Stella Creasy — have all been selected under all-women shortlists.