Election 2015

Women 'to lead' coalition talks, Lib Dem president says

Nick Clegg and David Cameron
Image caption David Cameron and Nick Clegg unveiled their 2010 pact at Number 10

The Liberal Democrats have lined up two leading women to run negotiations on any post-election coalition, the party's president has said.

Baroness Brinton claimed in hindsight the all male "love-in" between David Cameron and Nick Clegg at Number 10's rose garden in 2010 had been "wrong".

Labour's Harriet Harman said she did not think men should be left alone to make decisions without women.

Tory Theresa May said Labour would have to rely on a woman - Nicola Sturgeon.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Lynne Featherstone (rt) will lead any Lib Dem coalition talks

In a Woman's Hour debate, involving seven leading female politicians on BBC Radio 4, Lady Brinton indicated that the 2010 press event at Number 10 - where Mr Cameron and Mr Clegg unveiled their coalition - was unlikely to happen again.

Instead, Lib Dem candidate Lynne Featherstone and life peer Baroness Kate Parminter would be among a five-strong team leading the negotiations for the Lib Dems in any post 7 May deal, she said.

"The love-in in the rose garden, in hindsight, was not helpful - it was wrong," she told the BBC.

"It was the first coalition in 60 years and I think both parties took the view they wanted it to appear strong."

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Image caption Harriet Harman: Decision making without women is 'old fashioned'

She added: "Over the last five years both parties have learnt to be able say publicly what their differences are, and I suspect in any arrangement after May 8 that will be much clearer.

"On coalition negotiation teams, my party was very aware that there weren't any women in it. Nick's appointed five people this time - two women - and as the president of the party, I'll also have a clear role in reporting back to the party... it's certainly an improvement."

Labour deputy leader Ms Harman said that while her party was in the race to win the election, she did not think men should be the sole negotiators for any coalition.

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Image caption Caroline Lucas: 'No deals behind closed doors'

"I don't think that men can be left on their own whether it's in the rose garden or anywhere else," she said. "Actually decision making is better if it's a balanced team of women and men.

"I think all-male decision making with women biding by it is wrong. It's old fashioned and it's not the way we should be doing things - so I think that at every party, at every part of every process, women should be involved.

"We have still got to break down those areas - we haven't got to feminist progressive heaven yet - there's still a default position of women having to fight their way in."

BBC News Timeliner: Women in politics

Only a century ago, there was not a single female Member of Parliament. Chart the changing role for women in UK politics with the BBC archive.

Watch video from the vaults on the BBC News Timeliner

Home Secretary Mrs May said all Conservative candidates were "aiming to win".

But in a jibe at SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon's offer to prop up a Labour administration, she said: "On women being involved... were Labour to get into government, they could only do that on the backs of the SNP, in which case decisions would be heavily influenced by one woman - Nicola Sturgeon."

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Image caption Theresa May: 'Coalition talks may not be necessary'

Caroline Lucas, the Green Party's only MP, said she was not surprised women were put off politics, describing the Commons chamber as "unedifying".

On any coalition negotiations - and to accusations of "rubbish" from Lady Brinton - she said: "What we don't want to see is yet more men going behind closed doors cooking things up and then presenting an outcome, which as in the case of the Lib Dems, completely undermined what they said right up until that point.

"That massively means that people lose confidence in the political process."

Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood said she had a "good relationship" with the female leaders of the SNP and the Greens, describing it as a "collaborative approach" based on a lot of common ground.

The SNP's Eilidh Whiteford said she hoped the election would produce more women MPs.

"I definitely think strong female voices would transform Westminster," she said. "At the moment around 22% of MPs are women. I hope there will be more women's voices - I think we've seen through this campaign how strong women leaders have come to the fore."

UKIP's Diane James said women played "a very major part, a key part" in her party.

"If I had any input whatsoever, into what UKIP would be putting forward - not as a coalition partner, we've made that abundantly clear - but [in a] supply and confidence vote, I would be wanting to see support for SMEs [small and medium enterprises] and women entrepreneurs."