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Last Updated: Saturday, 10 September 2005, 21:14 GMT 22:14 UK
Tory Party 'needs more women MPs'
Theresa May
Mrs May is seen as a potential leadership candidate
The Conservatives need more women MPs in order to re-connect with voters, its most senior female MP has said.

Shadow family secretary Theresa May, a possible Tory leadership contender, said the party was perceived as too male and too white to win an election.

"We will win more seats, attract more support, take better decisions and form a better government if we have a more even split," she said.

There are 17 female Tory MPs - 9% of the parliamentary party.

'No-brainer'

Mrs May, who was addressing the Fawcett Society on Saturday, acknowledged that gender-specific targets were a "painful" issue for some in the party.

She said: "Looking at its elected representatives, you will see a predominantly white, male party.

[People] probably don't even think we like them
Theresa May

"Given that we now see an ethnically diverse society, where women increasingly play a major role, the Conservative Party just doesn't look like the people that it is claiming to represent."

She said the reason the Tories lost the last election was the "ultimate no-brainer".

"Quite simply, people don't think we resemble or understand them or their priorities. In fact, they probably don't even think we like them."

Mrs May called on the party to draw up an "A-list" of its 100 most talented would-be MPs, of whom 50 should be female.

Those candidates should be allocated to the 100 most winnable target seats to ensure a large influx of female MPs at the next election, she said.




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