A record number of women MPs were elected at the 2017 General Election. Apart from the usual breakdown of women MPs by party, this blog piece will examine the distribution of women candidates across constituencies and what this means for their election.
How many female MPs were elected?
208 female MPs were elected at the 2017 General Election, 32% of all MPs and a record high. Previously in 2015 the General Election returned 191 women, 29% of the total.
Labour has the highest number of female MPs (119), 20 more than in 2015 and 45% of all Labour MPs. The Conservative have 67 women MPs, 21% of the total; this is one fewer than in 2015. The number of female SNP MPs decreased from 20 in 2015 to 12 in 2017, 34% of the total. Four out of 12 Lib Dem MPs are women, up from zero in 2015.
How many female candidates were there?
At the 2017 General Election there were 973 female candidates, out of 3,304 (29.4%). Although the number of female candidates was lower than in 2015, the fall was even greater for men, so the proportion of candidates who were women rose.
Despite that, there were 105 constituencies without a single female candidate (16% of all constituencies). In contrast, there was just one constituency (Glasgow Central) with no male candidates. 39.1% of constituencies had one female candidate and a further 28.5% had two.
According to our recent blog on candidates, there were on average 5.1 candidates per constituency across the UK. In comparison, there were 1.5 female candidates for every UK constituency.
Were women in winnable seats?
208 of all 973 female candidates were elected. That’s a success rate of 21.3%, compared with 16.6% for the 2,331 male candidates. Out of 256 Labour female candidates, 191 were elected (74%), while of the 184 female Conservative candidates, 67 were elected (36%). 2% of Lib Dem female candidates (184) are currently MPs. Some of these differences can be explained by looking at the type of seats the major parties fielded female candidates in. The chart below shows the proportion of women candidates fielded by the Conservatives, Labour, Lib Dem and SNP by seat marginality in 2015.
Marginality is the difference in percentage vote share of the party’s candidate from the winning candidate – or, in seats won by the party, from the candidate in second place at the 2015 General Election. A positive value means that the party won the seat in 2015, while a negative value means that another party held the seat in the previous Parliament.
In other words, seats located further to the left on the chart are harder to win than seats located further to the right.
Labour had the highest proportion of women candidates in safer seats. These are seats where the party has won a comfortable majority in 2015. 70% of Labour candidates in constituencies they won in 2015 by a margin of 20%-30% were women, compared with 26% of Conservative candidates and 35% of SNP candidates.
In marginal seats (those with a 0% to 10% majority to be overturned), the SNP had the highest proportion of female candidates compared with the other major parties. This, however, can be misleading as the SNP won all but 3 seats in Scotland in 2015 and had a female candidate in two of those in 2017. The Lib Dems had the second highest proportion of women candidates in marginal seats (56.3%), followed by the Conservative (43%).
We’ve also published a blog on female MPs’ participation over the years: read it here.
Picture credit: Women Members of Parliament Stand Together, copyright UK Parliament / Jessica Taylor (2016)