Last year, I was selected as a Prospective Parliamentary Candidate in a seat that Labour has held for fifty out of the last fifty-five years. Despite the initial expectation that this seat would be an all women shortlist, just before the selection started the party decided against it. At this point, I was advised by several friends that I should consider other seats where there were all-women shortlists. I was told in no uncertain terms by these same friends that I didn’t stand a chance in an open shortlist.
Needless to say, I was furious. I was interested in the selection because I wanted to represent my hometown in Parliament regardless of the selection procedure. However, this reaction nearly shook my confidence. Politics is to a large degree about perception. If my friends didn’t think I would be considered as a serious contender, wouldn’t local party members be of the same opinion?
Anyone reading this who has been through the tough, gruelling and extremely personal experience of a parliamentary selection will understand the importance of retaining one’s self-confidence. Lose that and you are done for.
Fortunately, I had other supportive friends who encouraged me and gave me much better advice. I got my head down, worked hard, managed to turn my background and experience to my advantage – I have local roots as well as national experience of Government. After a lengthy process of many ups and downs psychologically, I won to the amazement of several onlookers but not to the surprise of the more perceptive and astute amongst them.
I don’t want to go into the arguments for and against all women shortlists. Although, I could quite happily write several pages on the subject.
The purpose of this posting is not only to recount my experience but to encourage women reading this to go for open selections. My fear is that open shortlists are being considered as the preserve of men. Even with all-women shortlists, women will still not make up fifty per cent of Labour MPs in Westminster. Achieving that parity in representation is our objective and we should not shy away from working single-mindedly towards it.