I’m not surprised that there’s a lot of debate about our Priority List. Change is never smooth or straightforward. So here’s my reaction to some of the comments that have appeared on this site and in the press.
Please don’t confuse means with ends. The objective is straightforward: to make the Conservative Party more representative of the country we seek to govern. It’s a total scandal that less than 10% of the Parliamentary Conservative Party is female. I made this point repeatedly in the leadership election and made clear that changing this situation and getting more Conservative women into Parliament was top of my agenda. Party members voted overwhelmingly for this change. Of course we can argue forever about the precise mechanism used to make the change that the Party voted for. No system is perfect. But anyone who believes in Party democracy should wholeheartedly support the drive to get more women and BME candidates selected in safe and winnable seats. We’ve been willing the end; it’s time we willed the means as well.
Please don’t insult the hard-working, dedicated people on the Priority List. This site has published the names of many of the initial selection of priority candidates. Have a look at them. Leaders of councils. Candidates who’ve stood in difficult seats in difficult times. Years of hard graft for our Party. Some with less experience in politics, but with great potential, who need to prove themselves. These people have all been through a Parliamentary Assessment Board or fought hard seats in the past, and then through a further selection process. There’s a wide range of people from a wide range of backgrounds. Our Party believes in opportunity, doesn’t it? Our Party believes in giving people a chance, whatever their background. People should not be criticised because they fail to fit a certain Tory stereotype.
This Priority List is not the end of the process. Many more candidates will be added as selections proceed, both from the existing Approved List and new additions to the Approved List. And we have explicitly provided for Associations to interview outstanding local candidates in addition to those on the Priority List. I know full well that to fight a marginal seat you need to be dug into the local community. You need to be local to begin with, or else you need to get deeply involved in local issues quickly. We need the best candidates to win our most challenging seats. But we also need candidates who when taken together reflect the face of modern Britain rather better than we currently do
Of course, there are many dedicated and loyal people who have not been appointed priority candidates - inevitably many more men than women. I am sorry for them - but I hope they will stay the course. Politics is sometimes a disappointing and brutal business, but it also requires perseverance and resilience. If you are really determined to make it, you are far more likely to succeed than if you despair of the system. Let's face it. Politics is competitive. The problem we had before was that the women were being crowded out by the men. At the last election, we had a list of 25 per cent women. Despite a real effort, we only got 19 per cent of target and Conservative-held seats to select women. Worse still, only 12 per cent of the new in-take were women. We have to accept that our previous processes were consciously or unconsciously, directly or indirectly, discriminatory against women. This also put women off from even trying to become Conservative MPs. I am determined to correct this injustice, which was wrong in principle and bad for our party and for our country. This is about raising our game across the board. It can't be done by excluding so many talented women or people from black and ethnic minorities.
There’s actually been very little opposition from Associations currently selecting candidates. Our members mostly do understand and support what we’re trying to do. Nothing very surprising there. After all, they voted for change last December when they elected me as Leader. And change is what we’re going to deliver.
And incidentally, the Bromley and Chislehurst by-election was never going to be a "test of the 'A' list". Procedures for choosing by-election candidates are completely the same as before and rightly so. The only test of the new arrangements is if Conservative Associations in Conservative-held and target seats choose substantially more women.
If you want to respond to this message please note that comments left on this GoldList blog will only be published after they have been checked by the Editor or Deputy Editor. ConservativeHome's comments policy is posted here.
David Cameron's previous article for ConservativeHome was posted on his 100th day as Tory leader.