Labour Blow as All-Women Lists Outlawed

Article excerpt

JOHN RENTOUL,

STEPHEN WARD

and DONALD MACINTYRE

The Labour Party suffered the acute embarrassment yesterday of having its policy of selecting some Parliamentary candidates from women-only shortlists branded as unlawful sex discrimination.

The surprise decision is a serious blow for the party, which introduced the policy in 1993 to boost women's representation in Parliament. But while senior Tories were jubilant yesterday over the rebuff for Labour, it could also have a dramatic effect on the Conservative Party, which may now have to treat its selection processes as being covered by the Sex Discrimination Act.

The unanimous declaration by Leeds Industrial Tribunal forced Labour to suspend all 14 outstanding all-women selections, but a party spokeswoman insisted the position of the 34 women candidates already chosen from all- women short lists would not be affected.

The decision was held as a "historic judgment" by a "delighted" Peter Jepson, the part-time law lecturer and would-be candidate for two London constituencies who brought the case with Roger Dyas-Elliott, who was rejected as a candidate for Keighley, West Yorkshire.

Mr Jepson said: "The Labour Party has got to rewrite its selection procedures."

Shocked senior party sources last night strongly indicated that an appeal was certain after the tribunal issues its written judgment on 25 January. Mr Jepson said the tribunal's decision was so emphatic that an appeal would be "lunacy", and called on Labour's National Executive Committee (NEC) to consider re-opening the 34 completed selections as "a matter of utmost urgency".

But Nicola Kuterpan, a leader of the anti-quota Campaign for Real Equality in the party - while welcoming the ruling - said it would be wrong to expect the party to "tear itself apart" by reopening the already completed selections. Instead, it should abandon attempts to force them through in another 14 seats. …