Conservative women's minister Nicky Morgan arrives in Downing Street on April 9, 2014 after being appointed to the post. Photograph: Getty Images.
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Tories "categorically" rule out all-women shortlists

The party rejects women's minister Nicky Morgan's suggestion that "no option is off the table".

Nicky Morgan, the recently-appointed women's minister, has made some headlines with her suggestion that the Tories would consider all-women shortlists to improve their level of female representation. She told a Mumsnet chat: "I think we need to see where we end up in 2015 and if we are still struggling to get more women MPs then no option is off the table."

At present, just 16 per cent of Conservative MPs are women, compared to 33 per cent of Labour MPs (the only one of the three main parties to use all-women shortlists) and positive discrimination is often regarded as the only way to significantly improve representation.

But in response to Morgan's comments, the Tories have made it clear that they won't be going down this path. A senior Conservative source told me that it was "categorically not an option" and pointed to the fact that more than 30 per cent of 2015 Tory candidates are women as evidence of progress. But Morgan's comments are a sign that some in the party believe a more radical solution may be needed.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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Lord Sainsbury pulls funding from Progress and other political causes

The longstanding Labour donor will no longer fund party political causes. 

Centrist Labour MPs face a funding gap for their ideas after the longstanding Labour donor Lord Sainsbury announced he will stop financing party political causes.

Sainsbury, who served as a New Labour minister and also donated to the Liberal Democrats, is instead concentrating on charitable causes. 

Lord Sainsbury funded the centrist organisation Progress, dubbed the “original Blairite pressure group”, which was founded in mid Nineties and provided the intellectual underpinnings of New Labour.

The former supermarket boss is understood to still fund Policy Network, an international thinktank headed by New Labour veteran Peter Mandelson.

He has also funded the Remain campaign group Britain Stronger in Europe. The latter reinvented itself as Open Britain after the Leave vote, and has campaigned for a softer Brexit. Its supporters include former Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg and Labour's Chuka Umunna, and it now relies on grassroots funding.

Sainsbury said he wished to “hand the baton on to a new generation of donors” who supported progressive politics. 

Progress director Richard Angell said: “Progress is extremely grateful to Lord Sainsbury for the funding he has provided for over two decades. We always knew it would not last forever.”

The organisation has raised a third of its funding target from other donors, but is now appealing for financial support from Labour supporters. Its aims include “stopping a hard-left take over” of the Labour party and “renewing the ideas of the centre-left”. 

Julia Rampen is the digital news editor of the New Statesman (previously editor of The Staggers, The New Statesman's online rolling politics blog). She has also been deputy editor at Mirror Money Online and has worked as a financial journalist for several trade magazines. 

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