Harriet Harman, the acting leader of the Labour Party, has said that in future that the party's shadow cabinet should be divided equally between men and women.

Ms Harman, speaking at a conference being held by trade union Unite in Manchester, claimed that her party was the only one that represented women in Britain. Under the previous government Ms Harman was minister for Equalities.

Despite urging women in the party to "step out of the shadows" she has declined to take part in the current Labour leadership election. So far six candidates are in the running, only one of which is a woman.

Ms Harman, in words which are likely to further alienate her from Britain's male population, said, "We have some excellent experienced women and some brilliant new women MPs. The Labour men are great - but they are not twice as good as the women."

Despite portraying herself as the champion of women and equality, in both of her House of Commons appearances opposite the new Prime Minister David Cameron she has pressed him on the issue of anonymity for those accused of rape, some have accused her of hypocrisy.

Although she favours shortlists comprising only women and ethnic minorities in the selection of candidates for MPs, she has been seen to apparently take a different line for her immediate family, for example in the selection of her husband, Jack Dromey in a safe Labour seat.

Mr Dromey, a trade unionist and Labour Party Treasurer and now a newly elected MP, was mocked by the Prime Minister as being the first man in history to have been selected from an all-women shortlist.

In addition Ms Harman's own constituency of Camberwell and Peckham has a huge black and ethnic minority population. Despite this an all-black shortlist for candidates has not been applied there, giving the large numbers of black voters of the safe Labour seat a white MP, an odd outcome for someone who favours a Commons which represents Britain's diversity.

On the Labour leadership race Ms Harman said, "The contest will be open engaging and energising. It will be a chance to invite supporters to join the party to have a vote. Our biggest loss of support was from hard-working families who, worried about housing and jobs, felt insecure and concerned about immigration.

"Now there is our chance to debate these issues throughout the party and through the contest for the next Labour leader."

She also said that Labour would need to fight against its enemies who wanted to belittle its achievements during its 13 years in office.

"For every child who, instead of being cooped up in a flat, is playing in a brand new children's centre, that is our legacy," she said.

"For every patient who instead of waiting in pain is cared for by doctors and nurses in a brand new hospital, that is our legacy.

"For every villager in Africa whose life has been transformed by cancelling third world debt, that is our legacy."