David Cameron’s only female MP in Yorkshire has denied the Conservative Party has a problem with women but accepted the all-male front bench which lined up in the Commons this week was “an own goal”.
Anne McIntosh, the Tory MP for Thirsk and Malton, insisted her shock de-selection by her local Conservative association last week was down to her own “particular circumstances” and not part of a wider Tory Party malaise.
Mr Cameron came under heavy fire from Labour at Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday when he lined up alongside a front bench without a single female face, just days after the Thirsk and Malton party chose not to re-select Miss McIntosh –one of the Tory Party’s most senior backbenchers – as its candidate for 2015.
The PM has pledged to increase the number of female Conservative MPs but has since seen four of his 2010 intake either resign or announce they will not stand again.
Asked about the PMQs row yesterday, Miss McIntosh said: “What I would say is yes, it was unfortunate that on the day that the Home Secretary was busy elsewhere and Maria Miller, as the Culture Secretary, was preparing to go to the Sochi games, it did look like a bit of an own goal. But no, I don’t believe that we have a problem with women.”
However, her comments came as another female Tory MP criticised Mr Cameron for failing to promote women backbenchers fast enough.
“We certainly have a long way to go, but so do the Labour Party,” said Margot James, the MP for Stourport. “There are the same number of women Cabinet Ministers in this Government as there were in Gordon Brown’s.
“I think the problem is really that we started later than the Labour Party. Really David Cameron was the first leader to make a real concerted effort.
Asked whether enough was now being done, Ms James replied: “I do think you have put your finger on an issue which I hope the Prime Minister will resolve, which is that women are not promoted fast enough into Government.
“If... the Prime Minister wants a third of his Government to be female by the time of the next election, then clearly he is going to need to promote at a faster rate.
“I would try to influence the PM to look at the lower ranks and make sure there are more women from those roles that he can consider for promotion.”
Comment: Page 12.