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Gender representation in Wales: new approaches to candidate selection in UK's devolved legislatures and beyond

Stirbu, Diana, Larner, Jac and McAllister, Laura 2018. Gender representation in Wales: new approaches to candidate selection in UK's devolved legislatures and beyond. In: Cordero, Guillermo and Coller, Xavier eds. Democratizing Candidate Selection: New Methods, Old Receipts?, Cham: Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 201-230. (10.1007/978-3-319-76550-1_9)

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Gender represents a very important, yet often neglected, element of political and constitutional change. The UK is an example of a state in relative constitutional flux where gender and constitutional reform have been closely intertwined. Alongside, the constitutional change has developed a ‘new’ politics, derived from democratic renewal (especially devolution in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland post-1997). This has created conditions for a renewed debate on women representation in UK’s political and public life and has also stimulated some innovations (and in some cases, transformations) of internal candidate selection strategies within parties. This has resulted in a degree of better representation for women elected to the various UK legislatures. Nevertheless, twenty years on from devolution, progress for women is stagnating at subnational level (and desperately slow at UK Parliament and local government level). This chapter explores changes in the electoral opportunity structures for women in post-devolution UK, using Wales and its National Assembly as a case study. It will focus specifically on how internal candidate selection processes within the main political parties in Wales—Labour, Conservative and Plaid Cymru—have changed against a backdrop of constitutional reform, whilst also unpacking gender from the recent electoral success of UKIP. We explore the impact the changes in candidate selection processes have had on women’s electoral fortunes and the descriptive representation of women in UK legislatures. We draw on empirical work on UK’s constitutional transformation undertaken by the authors since the beginning of devolution. Our findings highlight the importance of endogenous and exogenous factors, both structural and cultural, in diversifying pathways into politics for women through innovative approaches to candidate selection strategies within parties, and through addressing structural barriers outside political parties. We argue that whilst the ‘new’ politics has brought some changes to electoral opportunity structures for women at subnational level, there has been no real cascading effect of positive changes at other levels, a culture of bias still stifling the internal party processes of selecting candidates.

Item Type: Book Section
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Department of Politics and International Relations (POLIR)
Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan
ISBN: 9783319765495
Last Modified: 27 Jan 2022 10:32

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