Conservative Diary

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The homophobic, sexist and racist Tory grassroots?

The Tory grassroots are one of the last groups that it is acceptable to mock and caricature but there is more and more evidence that they deserve a much better press.

Yesterday Jonathan Isaby published an analysis of seat selections in top and target seats. He showed that of 51 selections in Tory-held seats during this Parliament, 31.4% of selected candidates were women and 7.8% from a minority background. This is not the false progress that would have been produced by All Women Shortlists but, then again, who wants another generation of 'Blair Babes'? Tory members are choosing women and minority candidates in roughly the same proportion as they are applying to be on the overall candidates list. It's not stratospheric progress but it is sustainable progress because the women and minorities who will form about 20% of the next parliamentary Conservative Party will all be there on merit.

At the weekend Therese Coffey won the battle to succeed John Gummer as MP for Suffolk Coastal. Her Euroscepticism and Thatcherite style won over an Association that didn't care if she was a man or a woman. They liked her politics. Second in that selection was Nadhim Zahawi.

Sajid Javid was selected for Bromsgrove. He is the third candidate from a Muslim background to be selected for a top target or Tory-held seat. Already selected is Zahid Iqbal in Bradford West and Rehman Chisti in Gillingham.

Party members are also selecting gay candidates in the safest seats. Nick Boles in Grantham being the most prominent example but there are numerous others.

The average Tory member is blind to the colour and gender of the people that want to be their MP. If their politics are right they'll happily embrace them. Given that the average Tory activist gives so much time freely to the party - without any hope of reward - it's beyond time that they got a little more respect.

Tim Montgomerie


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