An article appeared on The Guardian website last week asking the question “Why is local politics still dominated by men”.  This article refers to a report by the Fawcett Society “Sex and  Power 2013 – Who runs Britain?”.  This report is about the representation of women in politics and public decision-making in Britain.  The figures particularly relating to local councillors in England are that 32% of local councillors are women and just 12% of council leaders are women.

At the last full Dartford Borough Council elections in 2011, 34 men councillors (77%) and 10 women councillors (23%) were elected.  There have been three by-elections since that time, with one pending, but at present the balance is 33 men and 10 women (although two out of the three candidates in Stone are women).

In 2011, there were a total of 125 candidates for all of the seats, 85 men (72%) and 40 women (28%).  However, 20 of the women candidates effectively had very little chance of being elected because of their particular party and the ward they actually stood in.

From the two main parties with elected councillors following the 2011 election, the Conservative Party put up 41 candidates, 29 men (71%) and 12 women (29%). Similarly, the Labour Party put up 44 candidates, 28 men (64%) and 16 women (36%).

Looking at the most senior positions on Dartford Borough Council, the five cabinet members are all men and just one of the seven lead members is a woman. Therefore, of the twelve most senior positions, female representation accounts for a mere 8%.

The Guardian report raises such issues as should there be a quota to ensure political parties have a certain number of female councillors and if there should be a greater selection of women, it should not be about “ticking a box” or having a “token woman”.

It would also be interesting to learn whether either of the Conservative or Labour Groups in Dartford perceive this to be an issue.  Also, whether there are any schemes in place within both parties for offering mentoring or similar to assist potential women candidates?

With the next full Borough Council elections due in May 2015, perhaps now is the right time for these groups to start planning to try and ensure that the Council elected in 2015 reflects a better balance of men and women.

If you are a woman reading this post and have thought (or are indeed thinking) about standing as a local councillor, why did you decide not to stand and what assistance or help do you think could have been offered.  Indeed, if anybody has any comments on this subject (and it would be nice to get a reply from the Conservative and Labour Groups), please leave them on this page or if you would prefer, please email these to .

Written by @Andyclark57


About the author

Andy Clark is retired after a long career at Lloyds Register and subsequently the Civil Service. He has lived in Dartford for his entire life.

3 comments on “Why is Local Politics Still Dominated by Men”

  1. Phil Byrne Reply

    Andy I would love to see more women but more importantly I want the best person for the job! The day selections are based on quotas rather than ability will be a very sad day indeed.

  2. Richey Estcourt Reply

    Some interesting points. Personally I don’t like to quotas, because, as Phil says – they’re contrary to meritocracy.

    Having said that, there are cases for them, particularly in areas such as corportate leadership and governance where ‘old boys networks’ can take root if unchecked, and boards of Directors look distinctly homogenic. I don’t think this is quite the case at the top table of DBC just yet, though.

    On a slightly wider note, it’s reasonable to expect that the ethnic constitution of Dartford will diversify further over the next ten years. I hope the political parties operating locally should take note of the minorities’ opinions and concerns, and ensure that their candiates are truly representative of the population.

  3. Mike Smith Reply

    “Quotas” is a term that’s used to legitimise the deliberate selection of an inferior candidate solely on the basis of sex, colour or whatever. However you dress it up, that is ultimately what it amounts to.

    In my view, there is no such thing as positive discrimination as all forms of discrimination have victims. All that we achieve in this scenario is to add a new group of people to the list of those who have been discriminated against. Furthermore, the consequences of allocating positions to individuals who are not best qualified may even end up serving to reinforce the prejudices that existed in the first place.

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