« Tory poll progress puts pressure on Charles Kennedy | Main | David Cameron's five point action plan on candidates... »


It's a lovely morning in Leeds... clear, blue skies. Lets see if I can be swayed towards the 35%!

This looks like a real cruncher doesn't it. I guess we members all know the importance of strong local candidates from first hand experience on the doorsteps. Both members and voters want strong local representation at Westminster. Someone whose main loyalties are to those who voted her in.

But if you were sitting at HQ wondering how to get a Tory President elected nationally, you'd be wanting a whole raft of franchised "Dave's Dolls" (first and last time I intend to use that expression) who would give out a consistent message and whose first and last loyalty would be to the Pres.

Personally- at the risk of stating the bleedin' obvious- I think this shows once again why our constitution needs a fundamental overhaul. Why can't we split the executive and the legislature like everyone else? That way, voters get to choose a local representative AND a national Pres.

"That way, voters get to choose a local representative AND a national Pres."

You end up with not just a lame duck prime minister but a lame duck legislature, when we have Cameron as PM and Labour filling the legislature! (As indicated by recent opinion polls). You'd have to introduce PR for tyhat to work properly, and then you lose the local link. Then again it increases our chances of getting back into power!

Why not run the 'local' candidates in the marginals, and run the 'A-List' candidates in the safe(r) seats?

That implicity says that marginals are getting second rate candidates.

No, it implicitly implies that the safe(r) seats are getting the second rate candidates.

ie. the "Dave's Babes" who can only get selected if they have a leg-up, because they happen to be of the "correct" sex or race.

"No, it implicitly implies that the safe(r) seats are getting the second rate candidates."

Except an "A" list should by defintion carry the best candidates. Either way it provides the opposition parties with a big stick to beat both groups of candidates with.

Wat- adopting a US style system and overhauling our constitution is at times very appealing, however the time has certainly passed to do this, the US has the massive benefit of entrenching classical liberalism in its Constitution while any UK constitution would probably end up pandering to some sort of Social Democracy, HRA style. Perhaps after all the changes and liberalisations needed are passed (if that ever happens)then a seperation of powers could be an attractive idea again, after all legislative gridlock would work in our favour then. Until then no thanks.

How would Cameron know what registered Conservative voters there are? I thought the point of elections being a secret ballot is the point that people dont know how people vote unless the voter chooses to let other people know. I think this system is open to abuse.

Im sure the speech will explain. Hopefully this speech will detail it as opposed to what most of his previous speeches have done and been far too vague.

This is a really bad idea. A-list candidates will not be the best, only the best connected.

Young people who have worked tirelessly in the country will be unable to stand for their own seats because they are not part of the 'London Set'.

This demonstrates a real disconnection between the metropolitan elite and the country (let alone party) outside.

Francis Maude does not know who will be best placed to win a seat in Edinburgh anymore than Champion the Wonder Horse does, that decision has to be made on the ground.

I am very disappointed with Cameron for coming up with such a counter-productive proposal.

As I said yesterday, Thanet South NEEDS a local candidate, If an outsider campaigns no-one will know them and the Tories wont win Thanet South. Thanet is very much an isolated part of the country.

If Cameron and Maude wants the scalp of the Transport Minister Stephen Ladyman as much as I do, I would strongly suggest to them to allow a local candidate to stand. Im sure this scenario is played out in a bunch of other key marginals round the country.

I agree with wasp and James Maskell. Where I come from, a female Surrey-born management consultant or a black merchant banker will be treated in a perfectly friendly manner by the voters.....and then ignored as someone who has no understanding of locals' lives and problems. The Tories are in third place in the North Midlands having been leapfrogged by the Lib Dems. The Lib Dems never make the mistake of not picking local candidates. If they are wimen or from ethnic minorities, that's fine too but is not the main reason for picking them.

James, I agree, and your point is accurate and valid all over the country. I'd ask, though: would Thanet South qualify for an A-List candidate? I don't think so. It seems that the elite team will not need to be blooded by first standing in NotWinnable Central, but will be parachuted straight into the sort of places that you could stick a rosette on a lamppost and still just weigh the ballot boxes rather than count them. Thanet South would still have to be won the hard way, but with the extra millstone of "2nd rater" hung round the candidate's neck by his opponent.

Ladyman has a majority of 664. Its a slim majority.

I would think the A-List would be pointless if those candidates will only stand in safe seats. I thought the point of it was for the key marginals. I cant see any exceptional circumstances... Its a hard battle. Thats why Thanet South needs to be allowed to select its own local candidate as soon as possible. 4 years to campaign and I could bet my future children on winning Thanet South.

I don't think "local candidates" in certain seats are as important as being suggested. I would agree that in very rural constituencies it is a major consideration but in some of the more urban areas it really is less of an issue. What is more important is that the candidate campaigns on local issues and involves themselves in the community. Where the candidate's home is situated (as long as within a reasonable distance) is much less important.

Sorry James, I wasn't clear in my post that I do understand how marginal TS is. My point was that we mustn't forget that our Party selected, for example, Jacob Rees-Mogg who infamously canvassed in Fife Central in a Rolls-Royce with his nanny. Are these the sort of people we now want to fast-track into safe seats to project a more modern image? Perhaps because of a surname and the right connections on a national selection panel? Wasp is right. Always pick horses for courses. It isn't just in marginal seats - we should show respect to our voters in no-chance areas by putting up credible local candidates who can also work hard on councils and in local organisations. That's the way the LibDems have crept up on everyone.

Local candidates can make a big difference. In Bury North (hardly a rural seat) our candidate was from Sheffield for some reason unknown to me. Our share of the vote fell and it was only for the Lib Dems (who had a local candidate) that we reduced the Labour Majority. Surely in a seat which since its creation has only ever been held by the governing party we should be able to come up with a high quality local candidate.

Louise: one of the important points (in my opinion) is that local activists, councillors etc who have been working on the ground for years are going to have an established personal as well as party vote. That's been the LibDem tactic for years, and they've done it very well. In certain respects you are right and you might even go further - in many urban areas it doesn't matter if you have any connection to the area or know anything about the place at all.... I believe that Shaun Woodward has a majority of 8,985 in St Helens South.

Ok Geoff. You hit the nail there with the picking of credible local candidates. I remember only recently we were talking about forging links with the community. We know that people are members of the RSPB or English Heritage or RSPCC but dont join the Conservatives and that we should be forging closer links to a range of organisations locally so that the Conservative Party isnt representing a narrow set of principles but represents a wide range of views that the public hold. By having an A-List of candidates, there will be less time for those candidates to forge those close links which can be so fruitful come election time. Candidates need to have a rounded CV of sorts, otherwise the public wont know who the candidate is.

Thanet South is lucky in that it has an excellent candidate, Mark MacGregor, who has fought the seat twice before, is well known locally (ie - not a fair weather friend of the Party just A-listed) and is a very determined sort of character.

I dont think he'll stand again. He didnt indicate to me after the vote that he wanted a third shot at it. Tebbit spoke up just before the vote...about a week before. McGregor went into hiding. He started his proper campaign too late for my liking.

You should try very hard to persuade him to do it again. He's a very good campaigner and would maximise our vote. If he does move aside Thanet South would be a prime target for the imposition of an A-list woman who'd be starting from scratch.

By the way, James. I've heard rumours that you rather fancy being the Tory candidate in Thanet South. Any truth in that?

I have to say I agree with the majority of survey respondents who prefer local candidates. It's amazing how often, in the South West in any case. the LibDems use it against us that are candidates are never local, and yet we never cotton on to the fact that maybe that's why they keep hold of all those marginals that should be Tory seats.

The candidate and local issues are very often the decisive criteria for voters who can't decide which party to back. Often by fielding an outsider we are actually physically removing our party from the ballot paper for far too many people.

An A-list is a decent idea in itself, so long as it is meritocratic, but should not be the only source of candidates for marginal seats.

I can see the A list policy going down like a lead balloon with many local Assos. What guarantees for example are CCO going to give us that the A list candidate will work his or her socks off----- the threat of a smacked wrist from the centre?--- Won't have any effect on the well connected chinless wonders, and a chairman wont have any power to kick butt
How does CCO then expect local Assocs to get their members to work for a candidate that has effectively been imposed from the centre.
Localism has to be the way back for us and if at first you don't succeed try and try agian---- eg Donald Gorrie the Lib Dem MSP in Scotland.
Fine if imposing A list candidates means Associations like Ken and Chelsea don't ever again get the chance to select a dinasaur then I commend it , but in key marginals we need people of real ability who know the area inside out and who are known locally and are committed to working their fingers to the bone--- ie they have the will to win---something that may well be lacking in many so called A list fast-trackers.

In any event in Scotland we would struggle to to put together a C list at the moment never mind an A list and our D list is exclusively for the Scottish Parliament

I read it that DC has chosen the subject of candidate selection and the EPP as his Clause 4 style battles. Not bad ones if you think about it. Every leader needs dragons to slay and who are we to begrudge Dave his?

Another observation - the full list of approved candidates is rather obscure at present - whereas an A list will be much more high profile and open to scrutiny. For instance - education background - how many of the 'brightest and best' come from Eton or St Pauls, Oxbridge etc? How many spent time in CCHQ and so on? We may be opening Pandora's box by drawing up an A list, particularly if any of these people have a dodgy backround, illicit affairs and so on.

I rather fear that CCHQ may come to wish they still had associations to blame for cock-ups in future!

I certainly dont plan to stand for the candidacy for the next General Election there. I'm too inexperienced (I'm only 21) and would like get get some experience as a District Councillor first. I have no intention at present but as time wears on if I have the backing of the Party and I think I would have a good chance of winning, perhaps I would change my mind. But not at the moment.

Im hoping he'll stand again. He can win it if he sticks to it. But he has to start deciding soon.

Geoff: I accept completely that local candidates can often be of real benefit to a campaign, I just don't believe that it is the key factor. Your point about local councillors working for an area is a good one, but often local factors can count as a negative - for example a local councillor who allowed a dreadful planning decision to go ahead will always be an easy target for the opposition. Where a good local candidate can be found great, where the choice is between a mediocre local councillor and a fantastic candidate who lives 25 miles away I would always go for the better candidate.

We don't seem to have that choice in a lot of places. The shortlists are often a choice of 3 people, all of whom are from hundreds of miles away and none of whom have ever been to the constituency before in their lives.

James, from what I've seen on this site, you seem to be a highly intelligent and articulate conservative. Your age and level of experience should never hold you back. Instead of measuring yourself against what you think would make yourself ideal, measure yourself against the other potential candidates for the seat.

The problem is not just the lack of local candidates.

It is that people from outside the London loop will not get onto the A-list and hence not be able to get into parliament.

Potentially excellent candidates from Glasgow will only be able to stand if they spend huge amounts of time and money getting known in London.

Mark MacGregor should never be a Tory candidate again. He knifed the last Tory leader IDS after being sacked by him. He didn't attack him from the front but through his wife, Betsy. He's more of a snail than a man. F Maude is cosy with MM but he should be eliminated from the party.

Does having more women candidates attract more votes from women?

Surely the opposite is true. It was Tony Blair, putatively David Cameron's model, who told the 2004 electorate that they would be deciding which leader between him and his Tory opponent is "Mr Right" -- a cleverly veiled (if arguably impudent since it was addressed to men as well) appeal to women voters to think of him as a man.

"F Maude is cosy with MM"

That sounds a good enough reason in itself.

I am indignant. The idea of recruiting non Tory members to stand as candidates is an insult to the current members who work bloody hard for the party and would love to be candidates. If you don't have the urge to join the party then you shouldn't be let near a candidacy with them. This is ludicrous and it will not do.

Who were the 18% that voted to work with the Lib Dems? Are you joking? Working with the Lib Dems would make them look credible - a big mistake. Look what happened last time two political parties worked together. The Liberal party disappeared and the Labour party took its place.

If its any consolation to those who arent fans of MM, the local paper has a gossip column. In it it says that when Maude came to Thanet South for a breakfast (the one I wanted to go to but was unfortunately unable to attend), MM wasnt spoken of in the most positive tones by him. I dont think they are the best of chums.

"He's more of a snail than a man. F Maude is cosy with MM but he should be eliminated from the party."

Eliminated CCHQ spy? That sounds as if there is an additional plan to kill off ex-candidates!

See, the Conservative Party does support euthanasia!

"Who were the 18% that voted to work with the Lib Dems? Are you joking?"

Surely it isn't mad to work eith the LibDems WHEN THEY AGREE WITH US? Anyway, why should we be umming and aahing over whether we should or shouldn't support things we believe in just because of the LibDems views? Isn't it for us to back what we want regardless, and for the LibDems to umm and aah over whether they should be seen working with us "nasty Tories"?

Its a difficult one Craig. I would rather we didnt join with them on too many issues so that people dont automatically assume we are one with the loopy liberals. On the other hand, its difficult to keep having different policies to the Lib Dems on every issue when its pretty apparent that on some issues we agree.

Cameron is Leader of the Opposition as well as the Conservatives. If we want to deal more heavy blows to Labour (the black arts will have to be used at some point-its just a matter of time), we will need to unite with the other opposition parties and disgruntled Labour MPs, since there are a fair number of those.

One think that tends to be missed out when discussing candidates is the career background of any applicant. If i'm aloud a moan, i'm fed up with young (ish) people who have only ever worked in politics (Researcher, advisor, CCHQ staffer etc.) trying to become candidates. Isn't there benefit and democratic merit in having professionals, ex-soilders, teachers nurses, social workers etc with a long career behind them entering politics in middle age rather than political 20/30 somethings. There does seem to be an expectation amongst some that they go to uni, join the campus cons, get a job as a researcher and then deserve a seat on the basis of (what used to be considered) very little experience.

Asolutely Frank.Awide range of experience and skills is of much greater value to our party than gender or ethnicity.

You have a point there Frank. I didnt follow that route but had things gone slightly differently that would have been the route. My difference is that while I didnt go to Uni, I was an FE Governor for 2 years and spent a year in Kenya instead.

Candidates need to be rounded. Sticking to the normal route works but is nothing special. The candidates that attract votes are the ones that have varied lives.

In Harlow we recently voted by a large majority for Robert Halfon to remain as our candidate. One of the particularly strong arguments in his favour was made by a man who runs a local pub, whose regulars have a diverse range of viewpoints. However, the one thing that united them was that they all knew who Robert was as they'd seen him out campaigning, just as he had in 2001. I've seen the benefits it can bring first-hand, as not a day passed without a question on his progress from a classmate during the general election campaign. The end result was a swing of 6.5% and a seat very nearly won.

With a Labour majority of just 97 votes, Harlow may have been an attractive seat to contest for any A list candidate. However recognition counts for a lot, and I'd be quite upset if constituencies in similar situations were not given the chance to choose their own candidates in the way that we have been lucky enough to.

It's always nice to make your debut post at a website on such a safe, uncontroversial subject!

Welcome to the site. I look forward to your views on other subjects. You are absolutely right. I know what you mean, since I work in a corner shop which is well used by local parents taking their kids to the nearby primary schools. It works like a dream. Bulding up relationships. Its representation 101.

Anyone standing in the local elections 2006 or 2007 must start work now. Get out and campaign locally. For some strange reason some candidates leave it till the election is actually called.

I actually spent some time knocking on doors in Harlow for Robert Halfon. James, odd question but as you're so near by you didn't go to Newport Free Grammar School by any chance?!

I can testify to Robert's hard work. I was briefly seeing a girl in Harlow who was by no means a typical Tory, however she eventually voted for this guy because "he's the only one that's been round".

I was very involved with the Paul Offer campaign in Chester where we also worked incredibly hard. It works and pays off. Any candidate who doesn't "localise" themselves deserves to be de-selected and never chosen elsewhere.

I dont know if you meant me or James Hellyer but as for me I didnt go to Newport Free Grammar school, though Im sure its a good school. I went to Dane Court Grammar school in Broadstairs.

I would like to endorse the positive comments on Robert Halfron. Over two elections, he has turned that seat around. He deserves his reselection.

What about talented candidates who were not born in or who do not live in seats which are ever going to turn blue? This seems to be a point which is often overlooked when the “local candidate” argument is used.

Is this the same Frank Young that I think it is?

I agree - if someone is selected now from the 'A List' they should be expected to move into the constituency asap. I know my Constituency wasn't a target seat in 2001 or 2005 but we secured the greatest swing in our favour in Wirral, better than two 'target seats', partly because we had a local candidate who had been active in the area for more than four years.

We live in a meritocracy. Therefore the ability to do the job is above filling in the right number of boxes. There is no problem if the best candidate comes from outside the constitiuency. I see you have the best attributes for standing for Lewisham Mayor since you live in the area and clearly have a varied CV to your name.

A balance has to be made between the skills the candidate has and the proximity the candidate is to the constituency itself. It has to be made on a case by case basis.

The comments to this entry are closed.



ConHome on Twitter

    follow me on Twitter

    Conservative blogs

    Today's public spending saving

    New on other blogs

    • Receive our daily email
      Enter your details below:

    • Tracker 2
    • Extreme Tracker