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Concepts of Representation and the Passage of the Sex Discrimination (Election Candidates) Bill

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The Sex Discrimination (Election Candidates) Bill was introduced to the House of Commons in October 2001, gaining Royal Assent in February 2002. The Bill followed the decrease in the numbers of women elected in the 2001 General Election. It permits political parties to introduce positive action in the selection of candidates. The Bill received cross party support and had an easy passage through both Houses of Parliament. Informed by feminist concepts of representation this article examines the arguments employed by MPs and Peers in support of the legislation. Arguments associated with the claim that women have a different political style received little support. There was greater discussion of, and support for, arguments based on symbolic representation and substantive representation, although many MPs were reluctant to make the strong claim that women's substantive representation is dependent upon women's presence. However, the most widely supported argument in favour of the Bill was the justice argument, namely, that women are currently being denied equal opportunities in the parties' selection processes.
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Keywords: Britain; Members of Parliament; Representation; legislation; political recruitment; women

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 September 2002

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