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8 May 2015

How many female MPs do we have now?

This election's seen the biggest increase since 1997 - but it's still not speeding us towards equality. 

By Barbara Speed

Last night, for a brief moment, we only had two MPs: both in Sunderland, both women, and both Labour. Sadly, on the second point at least, it was all downhill from there. 

Earlier this week we predicted an increase of 45 female MPs this election on last time’s total of 148. This was reliant on a roughly hung parliament between Labour and the Conservatives – something that hasn’t happened. Instead, we’ve had an increase of 43, bringing the total to 191. 

This will leave us with a 29 per cent female party, an increase on 2010’s 23 per cent: 

The lion’s share of these female MPs – 99, so over half-  are Labour, making up 43 per cent of their seats. One (Caroline Lucas) is Green, 20 are SNP, and there’s one each for Plaid Cymru, Independents and SDLP. The Conservative party, which will sit as the majority party in government, has 68 female MPs, who will make up only 21 per cent of their parliamentary party. Ukip, the DUP, and the Liberal Democrats have no female MPs at all.

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So is this an impressive leap historically? In terms of raw numbers, yes: 

It’s the biggest rise in female representation we’ve had since Labour stormed the 1997 election alongside 60 new female MPs. The increase this year is, once again, largely thanks to Labour’s reliance on all-female shortlists. As a party, they’re nearing 50 per cent female representation.

Yet even if we added 30 new female MPs every five years from now on, it will take us until 2035 for the proportion of women to hit 51 per cent (the proportion of women in the UK as a whole). And this type of rise every year is very unlikely: no parties except Labour and the SNP have voted to use all-female shortlists, and progress is sure to be slower without them.

There’s also the incumbency effect: any MPs voted in before the mid-90s are far, far less likely to be women, and at this election only about 30 per cent of seats had any chance of changing hands. 

This piece is based on best estimates as of 1pm this afternoon, with seven seats still to announce. We will confirm all figures with official Parliament data later this afternoon. 

To campaign for better female representation in parliament, you can sign the 50:50 Parliament petition here