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Simon Heffer's arguments are much more cogent than Matthew D'Ancona's.

Given his clear majority election as leader of the Party, DC should have acted immediately on the EPP question.

Any "consulation period" allows what should be a cut and dried decision with great ideological and political coherence behind it to become, yet again, a cause of public bickering and division.

Those Conservative MEPs who refuse to obey should know that they do so against the wishes of their Party and so risk (should that be, are a dead cert for) deselection at the next European elections.

Whereas the "A" List is a measure where consultation is essential.

Simon Heffer is absolutely right. One need only look at the calibre of many female Labour MPs to discover that these sorts of proposals lead to awful representation. If my Association had a candidate forced upon it I would struggle to put heart and soul into my work for the party. If you don't accept whatI say watch PMQ's to see the Blair babes ask a question - it is painful. Then remember Thatcher, Widdecombe et al, Tory women with class get into Parliament.

Absolutely Sean. The "A List" is a hugely controversial thing. Possibly necessary but, nevertheless, a massive change in the way we do things.

Positive discrimination, by the very nature of the beast, lowers the overall standard of those selected. We should all be wary of it.

Absolutely brilliant piece from Simon Heffer. Sums the whole thing up perfectly. Especially about the fact that this idea has been adopted from one of the most unpopular of all Conservative MPs, Theresa "Nasty Party" May.

What a *great* job she has done enhancing the Conservative image in the past.

I've just heard Dan Hannan and John Redwood on the radio doing their usual stuff.

I've met Dan Hannan on a few occasions and I regret to say that he embodies many of the image problems faced by the Conservative Party.

I like the chap. I just feel I want to say to him, Dan, go and do some yoga, roll yourself a joint, chill out...the European apocalyse may never happen.

People want to be governed by genial types, And we 'new' Tories have to have a sense of humour and perspective. If I was David Cameron I would have him in for a chat and say, I want you to stop talking about Europe until after the next election. Can you do that for me Dan?

Then Redwood gets on and talks about the English and the bureaucrat terror. Aargh! Watch those new voters about turn just as they're thinking of coming back.

If this EPP thing doesn't go away quickly, Cameron will end up on the same path as IDS, Howard and Hague.

Sometimes people want the political parties to reflect the anger they feel.

They don't always want mellow and moderate.

Well then get used to staying in Opposition, John. People don't want people with their hands on "the button" if they're going to fly off the handle about stuff.

Personally,I would pefer Cameron to sort out the problem with the EPP now.He has been given a tremendous mandate by both MPs and the membership to lead and he should take it.
I have yet to hear a coherent argument for staying in and a long 'consultation period' will as the Editor says lead to more entrenched positions and ruin our new found image as a united party.

Agreed Malcolm. It's Cameron's best opportunity to show he is a leader in control of his party. If he faffs about for too long, or lets the MEPs hold him to ransom, we will all look ridiculous...

I agree with the majority here. The EPP issue was a straight forward pledge, so it should be implemented without delay. The "A" list was an option for consideration, which was not given particular prominence in DCs campaign, and therefore should be discussed with members.

I am not sure what the chances are but if I were DC I would at least pick up the phone and try to persuade certain other European leaders to follow me into creating this non-federalist right grouping.
It has to be worth a try and you only need a couple to create momentum.
Imagine the impact if he succeeded. He would be seen as the only UK politician capable of making things happen in Europe. There's a novelty.

"Well then get used to staying in Opposition, John. People don't want people with their hands on "the button" if they're going to fly off the handle about stuff."

Give me a break. I don't think this enters anyone's considerations.

Besides which, it's a combination. If you're too angry, you look like a loose cannon. If you're too "moderate" you look limp and ineffective.

As an MEP, what else is Daniel Hannan supposed to talk about, apart from Europe?

While Cameron obviously wants a good honeymoon, I think his motivation here is to not appear too authoritarian. Instead he’s being passive-authoritarian, seeking consensus when he knows he’ll get it. Personally, I’d tell EPP-ED trouble-makers to talk to the hand (well the Hague anyway), but Cameron is a very skilful politician and I suspect that his approach is the right one.

I don't think it's about moderation, John.

I think it's more about whether you project gravitas, whether you're a stable and capable pair of hands that people can trust to run the country.

It's a gut instinct that people factor in when it comes to standing in the polling booth with the ballot paper in their hand.

"Can I see this guy (or girl) running the place? Do I trust him/her?"

Well it's a little unfair for Daniel Hannan to be asked to stop talking about Europe - he is after all an MEP !
Some of us think the European "apocalypse" has already happened...!!
In any event, the relcalcitrant MEP's, along with Clarke and his ilk, should be put in their place. DC has a clear party mandate for that.
I'm not too worried about one month of bickering, as long as it is properly sorted within that timescale.

By all means consult with MEP's. But stick to the decision made or that's weakness. If the consultation is about implementation, then no problem.

Simon Heffer has a point but so does D'Ancona (especially his reference to Bonar Law). Personally I think the idea of an open primary style selection process(not just the Tories) is an interesting one.

These complaints about the A List are just whinges. Associations currently have to select from an approved list and nobody complains about that.

And frankly, D'Ancona is right: 4 more women MPs than we had in 1932 - it is not good enough.

I am more interested in returning a conservative government at the next election than arguring arcane points of the party's constitution. As a member of my assocation's executive council, I will still have an important role in selecting my local candidate. I trust (note that word) my new leadership to give me a appropriate, good quality long list to choose from.

There is little point returning a Conservative Government at the next election unless it plans to undo the mess that Labour has made. At present, it is far from clear that this would happen.

I also have limited interest in voting for a Party whose "modernising" Chairman is an ageing public school and Oxbridge-educated political retread who nevertheless thinks that he has superior insights when it comes to candidate selection. Entirely typical of Maude that he has behind a move which is top-down authoritarianism rather than bottom-up democracy (e.g. primaries). All of a piece with his concerted attempts over the summer to disenfranchise rank-and-file Party members.

I don't have a problem with the Approved List because it's not socially engineered to produce a pre-ordained outcome, is based (in theory at least) purely on merit, and applies to all constituencies.

The 'A-list' proposals risk being extremely divisive and providing our political opponents with considerable ammunition.

One minor improvement might be to have a 'rolling' list so that if, for example, a constituency selected a female PPC off the list, she would be replaced on the list by another female. This might work if gender were the only discriminant (and please note that word!), but it would get a bit silly if age, racial origin, creed, disability etc. also had to be taken into account. As other bloggers have asked - where do you draw the line in this (in my view inane) desire to have a list that slavishly reflects the make-up of the population as a whole?

Don't agree Michael. The worst Conservative government is ALWAYS better than the best Labour or Lib Dem outfit on offer. It's worth voting Conservatives if for no other reason than to keep that lot out of office and at arms length from important stuff, like the economy.

If you don't like the Party becoming less 'sound' or less attentive to members, why not work to get the Party elected, and then work from within to get others to come around to your point of view, and effect the sort of change you want to see? No point being cranky on the sidelines...

My previous post wasn't well thought-through because, of course, the 'rolling' nature of the list would destroy its main objective in that every constituency could then select a candidate with precisely the same characteristics.

In a way, however, this demonstrates the absurdity of having a fixed-size 'A-list' in the first place. I guess it will all come down to how far CCHQ is prepared to go in 'encouraging' Associations to choose from the list in preference to a well-qualified local candidate who doesn't happen to be on it.

"I trust (note that word) my new leadership to give me a appropriate, good quality long list to choose from."

I'm sorry, but I have a little difficulty here as this involves trusting the same party heirarchy that tried to convince us that stripping the membership of their vote in the leadership election would be a good idea.

There seems to be a large element at the top of the party who are convinced that it is the members of the party who are the problem.

I have news for them. They are entirely wrong. Most of the members I worked with through the election were in despair at yet another damn leaflet on crime or immigration. We wanted to hear the positive stuff, how a Conservative government would improve public services through radical reform and free the economy to grow by removing the burdens imposed by Labour.

Instead we got the 'Vote Labour and the bogeyman will eat you' campaign.

David Cameron claims to understand that our members are solid decent folk, we are the people who are school governors and charity volunteers. Cameron also claims we need to be 'consistent Conservatives.

Well, let's have a little consistency. More control for local people, less Whitehall and Westminster diktat. I argued this point with Raymond Monbiot during the debate about the leadership selection and the same arguments run here. How can we possibly claim that we are in favour of local people making local decisions when two of the most high profile debates within the party this year have been about the leadership trying to give individual members less control over who represents them.

Back in 1932 we had 470 Conservative MPs (Norah Rudge won Bermondsey for us!). Had we won 470 seats on May 5th, we'd have had 60 or 70 women MPs, so D'Ancona's comparison is not really valid.

The word being used about Associations is that they are "expected" to choose from the list. I would say the pressure is considerable to choose from it.

As for the social engineering, Ive said from the start and continue to say, it is social engineering. CCO is forcing the Associations to choose from a pre-determined set of candidates. When you fiddle with the characteristics a candidate requires to enter this A-List, the idea of merit changes with it. Merit and equality of outcome cannot be married. It doesnt logically work.

The post about anger is spot on.

The Conservative Party suffers from corporate alcoholism. A desire to rant about how bad the world is, rather than accepting that their obsessions are not shared by the electorate.

One of the 12 steps is to say sorry to all the people you have hurt. David Cameron should pick up the phone and say sorry to people like John Stevens and the other decent Conservatives who left the party because of its obsession with Europe.

The reason quality women candidates have not emerged in recent years is probably because someone was rude to them and put them off, some selection panel picked a male anti-European candidate instead.

Daniel Hannan should be put on a alternative Tory "Cool Britannia" task force - find out all the good things that represent modern Britain in popular culture that represent the new Conservative zeitgeist.

Therefore women would represent 15% of our parliamentary body. That is exactly the problem.

The next great challenge in regards women in politics is not to have highly visible, talented women achieving success and high office - we've (and the other major parties) already done that. The next challenge is breadth, not depth. When will we see the first cabinet with a MAJORITY of women, when will we see a parliamentary party with a MAJORITY of women. We have to look seriously at the barriers facing women entering political life in Britain and address them with equal gusto.

Brian was writing at the same time as me and I would wholly endorse his comments

"When will we see the first cabinet with a MAJORITY of women, when will we see a parliamentary party with a MAJORITY of women"

Why is that important?

I agree with you James. My point was that the existing Approved List wasn't socially engineered - at least, not explicitly.

I suppose supporters of the new 'A-list' would say that the existing list was, in fact, 'socially engineered' because both the interview process and subsequent selection meetings tended to favour people of a particular type.

For some reason men over achieve in politics and women underachieve.

Why is this so? Is there something inherently wrong with women that makes them unsuitable for politics or are their social forces at work which we as a political class can address.

What we want is not a socially engineered exact 50-50 balance but to less of an inequality, which should - if these social barriers are removed - happen naturally.

Punch and Judy is back! It only took 2 weeks!

Surely,SURELY the battle with our Europhile colleagues is over.What else has all the pain and disunity over the past 15 years been about.The Europhiles have lost.So there should be no apology to the likes of Stevens or Donnelly or anyone else of that ilk.
I am usually in favour of 'big tent' politics but the whole point of being a Conservative is the protection of the nation state.
If we can't do that then arguments over tax cuts,women in parliament or even Iraq are worth a hill of beans.

Sorry!Typo time! It should of course have read 'aren't worth a hill of beans'.Probably shouldn't have used an Americanism.

There party doesn't have enough ginger-haired MPs. Look around at the Conservative benches, and all you see is white or grey hair, occasionally brown, and then there's Boris. Why are ginger people so under-represented in the 21st Century?

I hope Dave will address this in the A-List.

Absolutely Coxy.As a slightly balding ginger haired bloke I've long been aware of this virulent discrimination.Would you nominate me for the A list please?

Here we see the debate over equality.

Surely the Conservatives should argue in favour of equality of opportunity, but accept that other factors will modify outcome.

For example does anyone actually know that women are equally interested in becoming MPs? If they aren't is that down to perception of the job or some of the mechanics of the job such as hours of work? These can be changed up to a point. However, if a lack of interest in many women is down to the fundamentals of the role then do go for dogma and try and engineer equality, or go for pragmatism and simply accept that more men than women want to be MPs and therefore there will always be more men than women in Parliament. This attitude does not preclude making sure that there are no artificial barriers to those women that do want to take their career in that direction.

It could be the case that no matter how women-friendly we are or how much we tinker with the mechanics of Parliament itself that the job of MP simply appeals more to men than women. In that case we won't get a 50-50 split unless we exclude promising candidates simply for being male, and promote less promising candidates for the virtue of being female.

Socialists have always favoured equality of outcome, forcing everyone to accept the same level of mediocrity. Is this the road we wish to travel?

Rather than starting at the top and trying to bulldoze some form of artifical equality into our candidates list, we need to start at the bottom and ensure that the party welcomes all people as members.

Maybe there are some members of the party who stand in the way of that. I'm sure we have all heard comments at branch or association meetings about not wanting 'that sort of people' in the group, whether that sort be gays, single parents, people from ethnic minorities or just people who happen to live in the 'wrong' part of town.

These people must be told they are in the minority.

This is the real challenge, the one or two individuals in a branch who are for the most part decent, hard-working and often long-serving members. However, due to their age and upbringing they have attitudes that are a little old-fashioned and can be very off-putting to new members. It is up to individual branches and associations how to deal with these individuals. It is not easy, just discussing it has shades of the 'nasty party' tag, but until we face up to issues like this all the rhetoric and effort at manipulating selection is doomed to failure.

It is attitudes like that at grassroots level, as well as the larger scale national perceptions of the party, that are a barrier to more diverse recruitment.

I also strongly believe that there is a real danger of over-simplifying and assuming that more women candidates will translate to more women's votes. Do we really believe that the gender of a candidate is such a defining factor.

I am not arguing for less diversity in our candidates, far from it. Making the party more welcoming, increasing the diversity of membership and letting associations choose the candidate best suited for their constituency will produce a more truly diverse set of candidates.

It has been pointed out on this site that the current proposals runs the risk of producing 'skin-deep diversity'. We do not need more barristers or professional politicans, regardless of gender or ethnic origin. We need more Conservatives who truly represent their local communities, are drawn from those communities and are selected by them.

Surely with their fiery personalities, redheads would be more likely to "fly off the handle" which would concern poor Alexander all the way back up there ^^^^

How can we possibly risk the inclusion of so many hot-heads and the disapproval of those who believe we should be entirely non-confrontational?

"Surely with their fiery personalities, redheads would be more likely to "fly off the handle" which would concern poor Alexander all the way back up there"

With such blatant racist stereotyping is it any wonder we don't have more ginger blues. ;-)


Alexander, I don't accept that the Conservative Party is always better than Labour and the Lib Dems. That is simply an assertion. The Conservative Party needs to get over its belief that it has a right of pre-emption over the votes of everyone with a centre-right outlook.

I don't want the Conservative Party is be more "sound". I want it to be more democratic, and not revert to being an authoritiarian gilded clique whose members scratch each others' backs. People like Francis Maude typify the modus operandi of the Tory Party in the 1950's.

I'm not being "cranky on the sidelines". I'm part of the mainstream 40% who didn't vote at the last election, unlike the 20% who flocked to the polls to vote Tory. It's a funny approach to winning over disillusioned swing voters to smear them as cranky.

John, I've got no problems with being confrontational, provided the confrontation doesn't reinforce a perception held by some that Conservatives are into a bit of biff for the sake of it.

Brian, you seem to assume that modernisation is synonymous with supporting the EU. But surely it is the palaeo-federalism of the EPP that is out of date. If you mean what you say about representing contemporary Britain, we surely ought to break with the EPP's 1950s model of integration. When David Cameron says that the Tories have to "change to win", he is not talking only about the profile of our candidates; he also wants us to have a modern outlook - on European as well as domestic issues.

The founding doctrine of the EU - "ever-closer union" - has never looked more outmoded. Modern Tories should stand for precisely the opposite doctrine, namely the exercise of power at the lowest practicable level. That same principle should inform our domestic agenda, by the way, but that's another story.

It is striking that David's most strenuous critics on the EPP issue are politicians of an earlier era: Geoffrey Howe, Michael Heseltine, Douglas Hurd etc. I am not - since you seem keen on contemporary popular culture - dissing them: they have stuck honourably to the point of view that has actuated them throughout their careers. But the rest the party - and, more important, the electorate as a whole - has moved on.

It is precisely because we want to be a modern party that we should break with the post-war federalists and embrace New Europe.

Michael, I'm not sure I implied that the Party had the right to expect that all right-of-centre voters would vote for them. I was simply expressing my personal preference that a Conservative government is always preferable to the alternative.

I'm not sure I accused you personally of being cranky on the sidelines either - I'm keen to see the Conservative Party do what is necessary to make it attractive to disillusioned swing voters, such as yourself. But why the concern about Maude's educational background? Or anyone else's?

Thanks, Alexander. Just to pick up on your last point: I have nothing against Maude's educational background per se. However, his whole pedigree and "de haut en bas" approach are reminiscent of an era when the Tory Party was run by an ingrown elite whose mindset was "Get out of my way, power is my birthright". Not surprisingly, in those days my family voted Labour.


I believe the Conservatives should be seen above all to be pragmatic and committed to achieving the best possible results for the residents of this country in every forum at every level.

Have you read Clifford Longley's 'God's Chosen People'? It is a fascinating account of the beliefs that underpin the idea of the nation state. The public school and Oxbridge tradition preserves its romantic mythology. But that mythology is an obstacle to a rejuvenation of the Conservative Party.

I lived in Bayswater for eight years. I shared my street with Italians, French and Germans. I organised a Golden Jubilee Street Party and it was attended by the old, tourists and foreigners. The British lot went to Europe for the long weekend.

Playing Elgar just doesn't work any more. Tapping into the European dance music culture might be more appropriate medium to connect with people's beliefs and aspirations.

We've all watched 'The World at War' on TV. That programme shows why we're in Europe because however wasteful and bureaucratic the project is, it is still better than slaughtering each other. Saying things like, wouldn't it be great if we were like Iceland just sends out all the wrong messages.

"We've all watched 'The World at War' on TV. That programme shows why we're in Europe because however wasteful and bureaucratic the project is, it is still better than slaughtering each other. "

Oh no. I smell the "only the EU has stopped all Europeans from slaughtering eachother these last 50 years" argument.

Surely the Warsaw Pact, NATO and trade did that?

Along with wasteful and bureaucratic Brian you might also mention corrupt and utterly ineffective in improving the living standards of the British people.
You may be right in that 'playing Elgar doesn't work anymore' but most people still owe their allegience to the nation state.That is true not only of the British but also the French,Germans,Poles etc.
Only perhaps in Belgium and maybe Luxembourg is the opposite perhaps the case.
It would be very interesting indeed if we could have a rational debate over the pros and cons of the EU and then put our continued membership to a vote.

That's very nice Brian, but most of would prefer to govern ourselves.

Anyway, the European debate is settled within the Conservative Party.

Unless Cameron can persuade a large number of continental conservatives to leave the EPP (including the CDU), we should remain with them. The deal we have with them at the moment is very flexible - for example although we sit with them, we don't always vote with them and have our own whip. But we are able to chair various committees and promote free-market policies. A large majority of our MEPs support the status quo. I can think of at least one Conservative MEP who dislikes the EPP/ED arrangement but I wouldn't trust him to butter my toast!

Why Justin why?What benefits exactly does being a member of the EPP bring to Britain?

"David Cameron should pick up the phone and say sorry to people like John Stevens and the other decent Conservatives who left the party because of its obsession with Europe."

That would be lovely, I'm sure. Although personally, I'd prefer him to get on with being leader of the Conservative Party, as he is doing, rather than handwringing over some faction I've never heard of.

"Whereas the "A" List is a measure where consultation is essential."

If that were the case, what are the odds that it would ever finally happen? Or would it get lost in the usual endless committees that have swallowed these things in the past in our Party?

My main concerns with this are two-fold:

1. That the list genuinely does reflect the best and the brightest that have applied - I have little doubt that it will. Some of us with any exposure to the candidates' list in the last parliament should have little doubt that it can be "top-sliced" to a greater or lesser extent.

2. That if the aim of this exercise is genuinely a diversity of candidates, then this diversity should not be just skin-deep. Equally or more important is that these candidates should reflect a diversity of life experiences, as well as gender, ethnicity and all the other demographic factors that show us that we are not drawing on the widest possible array of talent at present.

I had thought the European debate had moved beyond the "playing Elgar" type of argument. Plainly I was mistaken. For the record, I was not born or brought up in the UK. I write a column for a German newspaper, also speak French and Spanish and have lived and worked all over the Continent. I believe in the values that have traditionally shaped European civilisation: parliamentary democracy, personal freedom and the rule of law. It is precisely because I see the EU eroding these values that I dislike it.

If you don't like the concept of sovereignty, fine: let's call it democracy. But it amounts to the same thing, namely the right to hire and fire the people who make our laws.

The modern Conservative Party should stand for democracy, decentralisation and localism; for the taking of decisions as closely as possible to the people they affect. The EPP stands for precisely the opposite. That is the problem.

"The modern Conservative Party should stand for democracy, decentralisation and localism; for the taking of decisions as closely as possible to the people they affect."

The "A" list sounds like precisely the opposite too.

Daniel - you don't need to make the argument any more. Justin Hinchcliffe is in favour of staying in the EPP. That's a knock-down clincher for leaving.

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