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Poll: Why did no women make it to final three to replace Tim Yeo as Tory candidate for South Suffolk?

PUBLISHED: 15:12 09 July 2014 | UPDATED: 18:49 09 July 2014

MP Tim Yeo.

MP Tim Yeo.

The South Suffolk Conservatives today face female criticism for their selection of three male candidates to replace Tim Yeo.

The shortlist to replace Mr Yeo as Conservative prospective parliamentary candidate for South Suffolk was revealed on Monday – but none of the seven women on the 11-strong long-list made the final three.

An agent for the South Suffolk Conservative Association said the selection process was conducted in accordance to party rules.

Yesterday, Conservative St Edmundsbury and Suffolk County councillor Sarah Stamp posted on Twitter: “Very disappointing news that no women are in shortlist for #Conservative candidate in South Suffolk – why?”

Speaking to this newspaper Mrs Stamp, a working mother-of-three, said: “We need to do more to increase the number of women in public life. I’m not at all taking away from the three male candidates who are extremely strong, but I find it unbelievable I suppose, slightly incredulous, none of the female candidates – when there were more of them to start with - were worth taking forward.”

The matter was discussed during #SuffolkWomensHour - hosted on our website on Monday evening.

Green Party Suffolk County councillor Mark Ereira said it was important to represent the whole community, including women, a range of ages and ethnic minority groups.

“We have got to improve the situation in Suffolk,” he said. “It does look like we are stuck in the 1970s, we are stuck in the stone age.”

A spokeswoman for the Bury St Edmunds branch of women’s rights group the Fawcett Society said in situations like the one in South Suffolk people would always use the merit argument, but women faced many barriers - not least the perception that politics is just for men – that prevented true “meritocracy” from taking place.

She said: “The South Suffolk Conservatives would need to show that their scoring system, for example, contained no questions that prejudiced against female candidates in any way. All too often the ‘childcare issue’ is used to question the commitment of women in professional life.

“If true merit led to only male candidates being chosen, we have to question what the South Suffolk Conservatives are doing to encourage women to train and prepare to become viable representatives and why, out of seven women candidates, none of them were good enough, whereas 75% of the men were.”

Peter Burgoyne, agent for the South Suffolk Conservative Association, would not answer questions on gender, but said in a statement: “We are not prepared to issue the names of any of the candidates who have not moved forward to the final round.

“With regard to the selection process it was conducted in accordance with the party rules and we move forward with the three candidates who were selected to the final round.”

The three candidates who made it through are James Cartlidge, Jeremy Quin and James Tumbridge.

The 22-strong South Suffolk Conservative Association executive scored the three men the most highly, but Dr Rachel Joyce was also picked as a reserve.

Mr Cartlidge, Mr Quin and Mr Tumbridge will be interviewed at a Special General Meeting of the South Suffolk Conservative Association on Friday.

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