A SENIOR Labour politician has said that more needs to be done to address the problem of a lack of female Asian councillors in East Lancashire.

Harriet Harman, who is shadow deputy prime minister, visited La Dolce Vita cafe, in Colne, to hold a listening panel event for older women.

Women raised issues including how older women are discriminated against in the media and how it has become increasingly difficult since the recession for older women who are made redundant to find work.

Speaking after the meeting she suggested an all-women shortlist system used to select some parliamentary candidates should be implemented in council areas where there are problems with proportionate representation.

Currently there is not a single Asian woman on Blackburn with Darwen council, the county or any of the five boroughs in the area — Burnley, Pendle, Rossendale, Hyndburn, or Ribble Valley.

She said: “We want our councils and we want parliament to be representative.

“Asian women in local communities need to know that their voice is being heard.

“Where there’s an under-representation we need to take quite firm measures. People don’t like it because it feels like it’s interfering with choice, but we’ve got to do it where it’s the only thing that’s going to work because it will do good in the end.”

Blackburn MP Jack Straw backed the idea. He said: “I very strongly agree that this is needed.

“Thanks to Harriet’s leadership over the past twenty years we’ve got more women coming forward for parliament, there still aren’t enough, but we can see parliament getting better.

“But there is still a particular problem getting Asian women into council seats, and as we have done nationally, I think all-women shortlists will almost certainly be nec- essary.”

Rossendale and Darwen’s Conservative MP Jake Berry said it was up to the Labour Party how they chose to select candidates, but said he did not agree with all-women shortlists.

He said: “I don’t think all-women shortlists is the way to go.

“The Conservative Party has the women to women organisation that works actively in East Lancashire, and I’ve supported their work locally. I think we have some excellent women Conservative councillors in my constituency, who make great role models for other women.”