The early editions of the newspapers are online (see Times and Guardian) and they contain details of David Cameron's tough new measures to increase the number of women candidates. The new measures will delight modernisers and many of those members who want to see a 'Wysiwyg' politician that is determined to deliver on his key pledges - one of David Cameron's being to create a parliamentary Conservative Party that looks more like Britain. At the same time the measures will appall party democrats who value the freedoms of grassroots members.
Editor's note: "These reforms are deeply disappointing. It appears that the party leadership has learnt next to nothing from last year's failed attempt to rob rank-and-file members of their say in the election of Tory leader. Unless Association Executives agree to a discriminatory all-women shortlist then rank-and-file members will lose the final say in who their candidate will be. CCHQ expects volunteer activists to devote years of fundraising and envelope-stuffing to the party but they no longer trust them to choose their parliamentary candidates. This move will do nothing to increase party membership.
CCHQ has calculated that Executives are more malleable and they may well receive the kind of charm offensive described in the memo leaked from David Cameron's office in April:
"Constituency officers from selecting seats would be invited to a meeting with Bernard Jenkin, which would take place in DC's offices. DC would drop in on these meetings whenever possible - and they would be coordinated with his diary."
If they do not choose an open primary method of selection - which is what ConservativeHome now strongly recommends as the only way of members retaining a meaningful say in selections - grassroots members will only be left with the job of identifying three or four candidates from a field of approximately 12 to 15. These meetings will either last impossibly long or are unlikely to give members much time to assess applicants' relative strengths.
There does not appear to be anything in the new set of proposals to address the issue of financial exclusion - a long-held concern of this website. David Cameron's office has offered to submit an article to ConservativeHome later today about the proposed changes to candidate selection. I hope after this editorial we'll still receive that article! I hope the Conservative leader will use any contribution to address this issue of candidates' costs and the need for a fuller definition of representation. If the Conservative Party is to really look more like Britain it must also include many more people with northern backgrounds, for example, and with experience of the public and voluntary sectors."