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See below an extract from Roger Helmer's latest newsletter. Not only does it highlight why he is such a jolly good MEP it also highlights some of the many advantages of being outside the EPP-ED!

"Blair pays the price of failure in Europe

Tony Blair came to Brussels on December 20th to report on the achieve­ments of the British Presidency of the EU (July/Dec '05), but he had little success to report. I was again the first Conservative to speak in the debate (the advantages of being an independent!), and I made what I might modestly describe as one of the most scarifying speeches of my career. Full details and photo on the website.

"Your legacy, Prime Minister? You will be remembered as the man who squandered Margaret Thatcher's legacy!".

I am delighted to say that my intervention got more media coverage than I have ever achieved before. But if I had still been with the EPP, I should never have got to speak in the debate, and never had a chance to attack Blair's give-away of our money."

Is there any clue to the make up of the goldlist? Will it be regionalised for instance so there is a good spread of candidates from each region of the country. We must be careful not to have a 100 london based laywer/businessman men and 100 london based lawyer/businesswoman women.

I would still advise those in charge of the proposal, to be aware that seats in northern/midland marginals need the flexibility to choose a candidate they feel will be best received in that seat. That is not nessessarly the person CCO would like in the seat.

This idea is wrong. It is wrong to discriminate because of sex or race or religion or whatever characteristic a person might have, not to mention illegal. Britain is a meritocracy and the Conservatives should be setting an example. I dont care about the make up or the list itself. Constituencies are being forced to choose from the list. This is not about "persuasion" as Bernard Jenkins is quoted as saying. This is about control from CCO.

Where's the link between Portillo and Shireen Ritchie? Kensington & Chelsea of course. She was Chair when he was MP, and gave him strong support during the deselection campaign run against him in 2003 - not really a Chairperson's responsibility. Let's hope she doesn't feel the need to promote a bunch of latterday Portillistas.

Any centralising of decision making raises the chance of a clone factory of whatever persuasion. Maybe Cameron feels Ritchie will clone according to his spec, and put her there for that reason. She seems to be good at manoevring her loyalties to suit the occasion.

Women2Win now dominates the candidates committee - Shireen Ritchie, Theresa May, Fiona Hodgeson and Mr Anne Jenkin aka Bernard. Mort was probably booted out by that faction just before the Priority List is compiled. Wake up and smell the manure!

I can only echo James' feelings.

"No preference, no prejudice" we like to call the right approach that James details at progcon.

If you promote preference or prejudice based on sex, sexuality, race or religion, it will end in tears.

Applying preference is completely different from removing prejudice, and simply adds a new layer of prejudice which will result in more anger and frustration.

There are serious problems to fix, but introducing new prejudice (i.e. preference) will not solve those problems, but will makes things, much, much worse.

If any candidate's selection or deselection is based on their sex, sexuality, race or religion, then we have failed to become a 21st century party.

They day we reject the best candidate because they are not a black, one-armed lesbian, we may as well, pack up and go home as we will be deliberately fielding weaker candidates in order to fulfil some ill-conceived candidate mix.

Positive discrimination: a couple of points. First of all, political parties are exempt from the provisions of the Sex Discrimination act until 2009 (I think that is the date), so this is not illegal. Secondly, I think what David Cameron is trying to do is win an election and to do that we need to win back the female vote, which has traditionally helped the Conservatives win elections - see Fawcett Society. Therefore he must address the current discrimination against female candidates that results in only 9% women MPs from a candidates list that is about 23% female. At the last election, a high percentage of women fought unwinnable seats - I think 40% of unwinnable seats had female candidates, whereas 6% of the new intake of Conservative MPs are female. This must mean that elements of the current system discriminate against women, and this will at least go some way to leveling the playing field. It is not about political correctness, it is about political effectiveness.

I'd want to see a system that operated fairly (perhaps a forlorn hope) rather than one that operates on the basis that two forms of discrimination will hopefully cancel each other out.

AFAIK, the Conservative share of the vote among men and women was almost identical at the last election, and indeed this has been so since 1987.

IMHO discrimination already exits - compared to most organisations our successful candidates are overwhelmingly white male professionals. This could be a result of a huge crop of really talented men being available, with few quality minority or female ones.
or it could be that selection boards prefer white male professionals - a form of discrimination.
A regular infantry regiment has a large number of black soldiers, the Household Infantry very few. I think we would infer (though I accept not prove) that there must be some discriimnation going on.
So how do we overcome this bias in selection - wait for aging selection panels to be naturally replenished by new less biased individuals?
Positive discrimination is unfair on those talented men who are shut out or dropped from the candidates list but the current discrimination is unfair on the women and minority candidates. Until we see selection panels losing their instinctive preference for young, personable white professional men some other mechanism must be found the bring balance and fairness to the system. The Goldlist is a good compomise between CCO diktat and constituency autonomy - I wish we didn't need it but I think we do.

There is no dount we need to remove the barriers to women becoming candidates in winnable seats. Whether the A list will be effective in this remains to be seen as I foresee a backlash from local parties having candidates forced on them.

I don't buy the line that women vote for women just because they are women btw. Voting on shows like Big Brother would seem to indicate the opposite and from what I can gather, there is still difficulty in local parties with women association officers disliking women candidates.

I think if local parties selection commitees were more on a par with modern Britian, then the candidate selections might follow. Open primaries might be an answer to this. CCO can tinker with candidate lists all they like but whilst we still have selection committees that are made up of older and more right wing people than the nation as a whole, I can't see there being much change.

Here's a link to an interesting Fawcett Society report on the existing anti-women discrimination that existed for the last election's selections.


You don't need to tell me about discrimination. I've witnessed it at first hand and have been pretty disgusted at some of the stories I've heard, but as I say, the local party selection procedure is imo the big problem. The committees simply don't reflect modern Britian so all the CCO tinkering will again imo have little or no effect. The only parties that will be able to be influenced, are the ones who are in debt and who will accept an inducement/bribe.

How many people have said what was in the report...what was the methodology?

Im not saing the points should be disregarded. Discrimination is happening and no one is denying that. However the changes that Cameron have announced appear to be knee jerk reactions. The solution to discrimination is not to reverse the discrimination. Two wrongs dont make a right.

But why just focus on what sex a candidate is. If we are to be more representative its no good having for example lots of "posh women from the south" as thats paying lip service to being more representative. We need candidates who have worked in the public sector, who have lived in the North (not parachuted in from the South) and so on.

I agree female. The whining is all nonsense. Associations have never had free reign, but have always had to select from a list provided by central office. Furthermore the fact that women are being selected in only unwinnable seats is further evidence of bias. This is not about positive discrimination but about reversing active negative discrimination. Women want to serve, are capable of serving and have not been permitted to serve.

The underlying and false assumption of the Maskell/Hustings lobby is that the current system is meritocratic. That women do currently compete on their own merits. That Associations call for interview the best of the bunch who, in winnable seats, surprise surprise, happen to be 91% male. This is not a meritocracy.

CCHQ is taking the view that the existing system must be refined to correct bias against women. They are quite right. Just as before, Associations must select from a candidates' list provided to them. The fact that this list - like the population - will be roughly divided between men and women ought to surprise nobody.

The shocking thing is that the dinosaurs on this blog think this is shocking.

Its not meritocratic when quotas are laid down. It is not meritocratic.

I think Andrew makes a good point. In my view its no good offering associations candidates on a centralised list in an effort to be seen to be more representative in terms of sex or race - if those candidates have no link whatsoever with the region they want to fight.

Its interesting that my experience has showed me that Associations have neither the ability of expertise to run selections - and perhaps thats where efforts need to be placed. So candidates who are male dont get questions about their girlfriends or wives and women dont get questioned about having babies etc...

Well, Reasonable, I've never heard of any employer selecting on this basis (and it would probably be illegal to do so in any case), so I imagine that most employers are "dinosaurs" as well.

As it happens, I don't consider the current system to be meritocratic. Far too many mediocre people are able to get ahead by pulling strings, or through sheer persistence, and good people are shut out at the same time.

The answer is to make the current system more meritocratic, rather than more cliqeish.

Female, thank you for that (very depressing) link to the Fawcett Society report. Thank God for Bernard and Anne Jenkin, for Theresa May and Mrs. Ritchie and all those involved in Women2Win. I am a reasonable girl as my nom de blog indicates, but the quotes in that report made my blood boil. I fully expect that it is age, not sex, of officers that is one of the major problems with Association selections.

I hope that if any CCHQ staff are reading this they consider the suggestion made in the Fawcett report that a member of Central Office staff join the agent at the selection committee meetings to monitor questions and prevent overt sexism, such as asking a female candidate 'what her husband would do for sex' if she were in Westminster during the week, or asking only mothers and not fathers about childcare issues. Those were two of the more distasteful incidents amongst the many recorded on the Fawcett link.

But David Cameron and Oliver Letwin, and Bernard Jenkin on this site, have been extremely clear. They intend to do something about it. Today's Conservative party has a consensus that action must be taken. It was the very first announcement made by DC as leader and the hugely positive reaction was noted by MPs, the media and we hope Associations too.

There's no desire to get rid of well-qualified male candidates at all, just to even up the playing field so everybody gets a fair shake; for meritocracy, in fact. I wish you luck in being selected for a more winnable seat next time, Female.

If the candidates list composition is 23% female - then you would expect that 23% of winnable seats would be given to women. Now how many of the seats that will be coming up - either ones we need to take from Labour or ones where Tory MPs stand down are there going to be? Lets say 100 - then only 23 women should get a winnable seat.

If we believe there are 200 winnable seats then if we are being meritcoratic - then 46 will go to women. Any more and surely it is not meritocracy at all.

Interested to hear your comments.

Believe me, Interested Observer, I would be delighted to see the progress you argue for - at the last election 12% of the candidates in the 50 most winnable seats were female and 2 safe seats went to women - Teresa Villiers and Maria Miller - out of the 25 or so retirement seats that came up, and they just replaced the numbers lost, Gillian Sheppard and Dame Marion Roe. So our overall number of female MPs is still 17 - up from 13 in 1932, which is a decline in percentage terms to 8.6%!
I agree with those above who say this list alone is not enough to solve the issue. The local association issue is a big one. I come from a business background where we train people who interview in "competency-based interviewing". Now, I admit that politics is different and there has to be a proper discussion of views, but I favour changing the selection process to put more relative weight on a range of competencies, not just a testosterone-laden speech, as well as more training for the association as it chooses.

Well, we did have 470 MPs in 1932.

But I certainly think that associations do need training in proper interviewing techniques, - and people ought not to interview who have not undergone such training.

BTW, if you are who think you are, I don't think your seat was that unwinnable. We did hold it in the quite recent past.

The Fawcett Society did not recomend an A List with 50% women. Its recommendations were more practical and reasonable.

Thanks Sean for correcting the number of Conservative MPs in 1932 - I had no idea it was that many. The seat I fought has been Labour since its creation - one of their 100 safest - so I'm not the person you are thinking of. On the other fact check you noted higher up I will quote the stats on the male/female share of the vote obtained by the Conservatives since 1974
1974: F 39% M 32%
1979: F 47% M 43% (love that Mrs Thatcher)
1983: F 46% M 42%
1987: F 43% M 43%
1992: F 44% M 41%
1997: F 32% M 31%
2001: F 33% M 32%
2005: more men than women for the first time.
"This historical electoral advantage (amongst women) has been so important to the Conservatives that it is estimated that if women had not won the vote, there would have been a continuous Labour government since 1945"

The 2005 figures were about 33% for both and men. These figures are derived from polling which has a standard error of around 3%. Since the mid-80s there has been no significant difference. What this has to do with candidate selection is beyond me.

My apologies. The Guardian placed you in the wrong seat.

But I think those figures do indeed show that the voting intentions of the two sexes have converged since 1987. MORI's aggregate figures for 2005 were 34% for men and 32% for women.

As I remember it, we have little support amongst female young professionals. Is that because there was a man standing in a seat and not a woman or because they found themselves unable to relate to our last Victor Meldrew manifesto?

As I've said, we need more female candidates and to eliminate the barriers to their selection, but I don't believe that female candidates are a silver bullet to regaining a bigger share of the female vote.

What's a good Conservative like you Sean,reading the Grauniad for?You should know they get most thins wrong!

Or even things!Sorry about the typo!

Much as I hate to say it, Malcolm, the Guardian does have an excellent website (except when they get candidates' details wrong!).

Sean, I don't think you ought to be guessing or hinting at the id of Female, which she has chosen to hide behind a pseudonym. If you want debate here, people have to be free to comment without fear of repercussions. I find her experience interesting and would be sorry if she felt she couldn't be open because you would attempt to unmask her. You got her id wrong, clearly, and since she obviously wishes to comment anonymously I suggest you respect a fellow poster's wishes.

The Guardian is an interesting read nowdays - it gives you an insight into the chattering classes view of the world and has some interesting columnists (DC for example). I wouldn't buy it but the online edition is great.
What does strike me is how poor old Polly T seems to be increasingly our of step with the paper and more and more strident (the left's Simon Heffer?).

"and since she obviously wishes to comment anonymously"

She shouldn't have used an e-mail address with her name in.

Your absolutely right Ted.I do read it quite frequently (we have all the papers in the office) on the basis of 'know thine enemy'and it has an interesting take once in a while as does the Independant.
The only papers which are consistently awful are the Express titles.How anyone can want to pay for them is quite beyond me.

Maybe that was an oversight on her part, Mad. I certainly hadn't noticed until you helpfully pointed it out. If she had wanted to be known she would not have used a pseudonym.

The attempts to expose those who use pseudonyms remind me why it probably isn't safe to use this blog too much.

Other non-mad reasons you might use a pseudonym are that a) it saves people the bother of looking up the reasons why you are engaged in this debate as well as b) it prevents the thread coming up in google as a link if people ever search for you on google and c) you're doing this at work - all of which apply apply to me.

You've got guts, Female, I'll say that for you.

Does anybody know the composition of the Candidates Cttee apart from the Chairman?

"Women2Win now dominates the candidates committee - Shireen Ritchie, Theresa May, Fiona Hodgeson and Mr Anne Jenkin aka Bernard. Mort was probably booted out by that faction just before the Priority List is compiled. Wake up and smell the manure!""

Some have noted this potential danger. Anybody read this article by Adrian Hilton? It was in The Freedom Association's magazine. I reproduce:

The “Approved List”

How to create a party in one’s own image

focusing on the debate surrounding the
electoral procedure for the Conservative
Party’s next leader, the debate on the
process of candidate selection has been
totally ignored; in fact, there has been no
debate at all. But Michael Howard has
advocated reforms that go well beyond
the rules governing the leadership contest,
and the Candidates’ Department is not
pausing after the objections raised by
MPs. It considers itself immune, and is
intent on pursuing its own agenda.
Essentially, the Conservative Party is
looking for more women and ethnic
minority candidates. The odd gay would
also be useful. In pursuit of this “modernising”
quest, Andrew Mackay, the
vice-chairman in charge of candidates, is
joined by Andrew Lansley, who has
called for a new “gene pool” of candidates,
and John Bercow, who asserts that
such a pool will appeal beyond the base of
“ageing, white, male, rural and southern
supporters”. It is curious that those most
vocal in this manipulation are precisely
those middle-aged, white males who
could themselves easily stand aside in
order that more “representative” candidates
might fill their shoes.
Becoming an approved candidate is
no easy task. One not only has to pay to
join this élite list; there is an annual fee to
remain on it. In addition, candidates will
have successfully passed hours of arduous
psychometric tests, attended weekend
suitability assessments, completed
demanding real-life exercises, taken the
trouble to acquire high-profile testimonials
and references, dedicated months to
being mentored by an obliging MP, and
spent cumulative weeks mind-numbingly
researching constituencies and submitting
bespoke CVs in the hope of being called
for an interview. After that, it is basically
down to pot luck, until the vice-chairman
in charge of candidates begins to intervene
and decide on the “sort” of candidate
he wants to see in each seat. Then, it
becomes a matter of the old boys network
or fawning sycophancy. “Which of you
shall we say doth love us most?” he asks.
And he will listen intently as the candidates
quantify their love, and in his
omnipotence he will accordingly divide
the Kingdom between them in proportion
to their allegiance. Goneril is awarded
the glory of a “safe seat” vacated by an
aged bed-blocker; Regan is apportioned a
“key marginal”; but poor Cordelia is banished
to a “no hope” seat. Her only
redemption would be to declare herself a
It is puzzling in the extreme that the
Conservative Party has learnt nothing
from the electorate’s reaction to the controlling
and centralising tendencies of
New Labour. When the people of Wales
wanted Rhodri Morgan, Blair imposed
Alun Michael; when the people of
London wanted Ken Livingstone, Blair
imposed Frank Dobson; when the people
of Blaenau Gwent wanted to select their
own candidate, Blair imposed an allwomen
shortlist. Yet in each and every
instance, through the simple, patient
application of democracy, the people ultimately
got what they wanted, with significant
humiliation for New Labour in the
process. It is not entirely beyond the
realms of possibility that proud and independently-
minded Conservative associations,
increasingly exasperated by an
autocratic centralised power, might eventually
stick two fingers up to this
“Approved List”, and begin to field their
own “democratic” or “independent” candidates.
If this were to happen, Central
Office would be yearning for the days of
mild irritation caused by UKIP.
Meritocracy is one of the principles
of Conservatism, or at least the
Conservatism I know and believe in. As
an educator I am required annually to
expound Conservative political philosophy
to my students, but I am at a loss to
understand how Conservatives can simultaneously
declare that they believe in
freedom, or the devolution of powers to
the lowest possible level, or that they
eschew political correctness, when they
are intent on running their own internal
affairs precisely to the contrary. The
Party that derides the social engineering
implicit in New Labour's “access targets”
for university admissions is now demanding
those very targets for itself. If such a
policy is so abhorrent in further education,
how much more objectionable is it
when applied to those who may govern
It is worth considering that had the
Conservative Party had central control of
its MPs throughout its history, it would
doubtless have removed Churchill, Eden
and Macmillan from its approved list.
And I rather think that they would have
become more than a little impatient with a
shrill candidate called Margaret Thatcher
who complained a number of times to
Central Office of her inability to get
selected. What on earth is wrong with
local associations having the freedom to
select the candidate they wish to promote
and for whom they will knock on a thousand
doors? For all Blair’s control freakery
or presidential aspirations, even he
has not gone as far as interfering in such a
freedom. Clare Short had been sacked
from the Government, critical of policy,
contemptuous of her leader, outspoken
and offensive in the media, even allegedly
breaching the official secrets act - in
fact, the magnitude of her transgressions
make the alleged misdemeanour of
Howard Flight look like a Sunday school
picnic. Yet, despite such conduct causing
acute embarrassment to her leader and her
party, she was not removed from any centralised
list; even she was permitted to
stand for a party she has served for
decades. Such independence should not
only be maintained, it should be actively
encouraged, and it is a cause to which the
Conservative Party above all parties
should commit itself.
© Adrian Hilton 2005
Adrian Hilton is a grammar school
head of faculty and best-selling author.
He was the Conservative Party's
candidate in Slough until the Catholic
Herald dug up articles he had
written for The Spectator two years
previously, and misrepresented his views
in a prominent article. Despite the Party
knowing about these articles, and
knowing of the biased, unfair treatment
he had received, he was sacked by
Michael Howard.

With reference to Reasonable's comment at 12.41 (sorry been working all day!), it is not correct that Associations have always had to select from a central list. I think that it was only after 2001 that the ability to choose a local candidate was removed.

See this link for an interesting article by Michael Brown, now a journalist, but erstwhile Conservative MP.


At least the Women from the none winnable seats managed to get selected to fight for them,I would love to fight a none winnable seat just to prove to CCO that I am capable,I deafeted sitting Labour Councillors twice in Council Elections but I was considerd not capeble of fighting a parliamentary seat,not even Tyne Bridge where we polled just over 2,000 votes

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