Mark Valladares wrote:
We used to have a selection system (inherited from the SDP) which produced shortlists for candidate selection which were so far as possible gender-balanced - until we were advised part-way in to the Blair-Brown administration that it breached sex discrimination law. Labour then introduced the Sex Discrimination (Election Candidates) Act 2002, which decriminalised all-women shortlists but apparently did not allow balanced shortlists. I see from the wikipedia entry that the Act is due to lapse at the end of this year unless extended, so an early task of the new Parliament must be to look again at the whole question of positive discrimination in candidate selection.
As to the first point, if the worst happens, and we fall below 30 seats after 7th May, only one Liberal Democrat woman would survive. Dropping just seven seats would mean that eight of our MPs would be women (16%), slightly better than the seven out of 57 at the start of the last parliament. But an increase to a total of 100 MPs would see a further sixteen women, giving us 24%. This would not be as good as Labour's 2010 rate of 33.3%, but ahead of the Conservatives' 15.7%. (This all assumes uniform swings, of course.) More relevantly, it would produce healthier and probably more productive debates.