A number of this morning’s newspapers speculate that Theresa May is interested in standing for the Tory leadership (see here and here). This speculation followed a giveaway moment when, on yesterday's Today programme, she referred to “ourselves” when discussing the Tory leadership candidates. But it was Mrs May’s strong defence of Conservative Party democracy that really stood out in the interview.
Commenting on last week’s indicative vote – by MPs – to strip grassroots members of any say in the leadership election, she told Radio 4’s Today programme:
“We must be acutely aware of the message that such a decision would send to voters. If this is indeed representative of how we plan to behave, then we will be out of touch and out of power.”
Mrs May endorsed the idea of an open primary leadership election – an idea first promoted on conservativehome.com (see point 1 of this memo). Under a primary election a winning candidate would have to win the support of target (as well as committed) voters. Theresa May argued:
“I believe that such a system would have huge merits in the election of any leader. Adopting primaries would also be part of the process of accepting that the days of party mass membership have gone. Primaries would instead reflect the need to embrace and encourage the concept of registered supporters, in part by making it worthwhile for people to register their support in order to have a say in the future of the party.”
As Tory Chairman Mrs May pioneered primary elections for a number of constituency candidate selections.
Last week Theresa May called for an ‘A list’ of candidates to be drawn up for the Tories’ top 100 seats. She hoped that this ‘A list’ would include 50 women. In this morning’s Times, Mary Ann Sieghart believes that Mrs May’s putative candidacy – alongside her campaign for more female MPs - could help the Conservative Party to understand why it is failing to connect with the 52% of voters who are women. Ms Sieghart writes that the Labour Party’s increased number of women MPs agitated “for the party to pay more attention to the issues that female voters really cared about: public services, childcare, work-life balance”.