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Excellent piece Tim. CCHQ needs to allow local candidates to apply to local seats. Its no good saying if they were good enough they would be on the A list as frankly thats untrue. There are good people on the A list and good ones not on.

The question I would like to know is why arent candidates who are still on the full list (as opposed to A list) being informed about the timings of selections. We (myself included) all pay our subscription and as such have a right to know when seats are being advertised.

"The A-list project may still work."

Do you really believe that Tim?

There is nothing wrong is seeking to compile a list of the "brightest and best" but it should be used as a contribution to open primary lists giving communities a choice between all those who apply from both locals and the list.

Come on Dave, you know it is the right way forward and when you are pm, you can make open primaries a requirement for candidate selection across all parties (minimum 2 candidates etc).

It will engage the public, increase local democracy and might even thwart those nasty small parties who struggle to find a single candidate, let alone a choice of two.

Editor, what exactly do you mean by this - "The A-list project may still work" ?

'Work' as in 'survive as the method by which the leadership imposes its will'? Or 'work' as in being 'a good way forward for the party'?

I can hardly believe you mean the second, given everything this site has stood for in terms of openness, democracy, bottom-up paricipation.

What is this local candidate crap? If you were choosing someone to represent you in court would you choose your neighbour cos you knew him?, or would you go looking for the best damn advocate you could find? Even more, we need MINISTERS, people who can become statesmen and women, who can lead the charge, inspire the general population and, steer the country towards a golden future....not someone who we feel comfortable with, or who is good at sherry parties, and knows all the little back roads of his constituency. Elsewhere on this blog you have been lauding the late great Eric Forth - Not Local to his seat and never held a surgery - he was an advocate for his constituency and a warrior for conservatism. Most of all he served his country in the best way he knew. Some local people do fit the bill, Rosindell was born in his seat but People dont vote for someone they perceive as local just because they are local. Grant Shapps is not from Welwyn, Stewart Jackson is not from Peterborough, but both made themselves local over time and both won with big swings.

The report in the Sunday Telegraph that DC is 'surprised' at the list tells us only about the modus operandi of the project. Of course he isn't suprised - does anyone for a moment believe he didn't have control over it? The report exists as an insurance against failure and criticism. This was their best shot - we know how important it was to them, how much energy they invested in it - and if it backfires then they must take the rap.

A simple improvement would have been to involve the constituencies in creation of the A list - for example for first 35 seats why weren't the constituency Chairmen for those invited to both nominate and be involved in the final selection.

People are much more accepting where they are involved and more likely to both defend and implement the change.

Chad - I like the idea of primaries but it should be a local decision. It has advantage of exposing the candidates and identifying weaknesses, & providing all candidates with experience. I'd however limit the field through some pre-selection. There are downsides - local activists who support the losing candidates might find it hard to then actively support the winner, it could be expensive for some local parties.

Also I know its an opposing paper but surely the fact checkers at the Telegraph could have put Mr Bennett's name in the Guardian search engine - he was the candidate for Reading West in 1997, we didn't win!

Im not sure I get you point Hmmm. When choosing someone to represent you in court that person doesnt have to get elected to get the position in the first place. To become a Minister you first have to get people to vote you in as an MP.

If you are suggesting that having no connection with the locality is unimportant then I think you are wrong. If it isnt a consideration you have to ask why as part of the candidate selection process people are asked if they have a link with a certain part of the country.

The days of being able to stick a Southern barrister in a safe seat in the Midlands are coming to an end. The electorate is more sophisticated and any political party should be wary of imposing a candidate from afar.

You only have to look at election literature from various seats to see how incumbent MPs used the fact that certain candidates weren't from the area to their advantage.

Nicholas Bennett was the MP for pembroke, 80s/90s, if anyone wants to know, particularly. Another who shares my funny little hobby collected a lot of politicians data then.

Ted 10:18

In fairness and as I recall a lot of good Conservative seats were lost that night and the swing from the Conservatives to Labour in Reading West continued at the 2001 GE. I also notice that the Reading East seat went the same way.

"Some A-listers told ConservativeHome that they were disappointed by the first tranche of 35 seats they are obligated to apply for. The first 35 seats largely fell short of the plum seats the A-listers had expected to be rewarded with"

Pity they don't have the balls to put their names to this, isn't it? The self-important so-and-sos. With several plum seats I am involved with on the list I'd be delighted to find out who thinks they're beneath them.

MPs are
1. Advocates for their constituency
2. Advocates for the Party
3. Hopefully future leaders and statesmen
4. People of good judgment and sound personal convictions.

Not being local should not disqualify one from representing any area if you are able to be the above, and have the ability. With a 3 year campaign, everyone can "become" local and identified with their area. Enoch POwell was not from Wolverhampton. David Cameron is not from Witney. I dont think Michael Gove is from Surrey, and I know for a fact that Margaret Thatcher (Gawd Bless 'er) was not from Finchley. Local is not everything is all Im saying. Local Campainging, is however, an entirely different story.


wasn't getting to Mr Bennett; rather it lets the Torygraph down if its claiming expert knowledge but can't get checkable facts right.

I agree with Jonathan that local roots are more important today but in political terms there are two downsides that need to be considered:
- losing the seat
- having an A list v constituency row in which constituency selects a candidate opposed to modernisation or party imposes a candidate.

There are many on A list from South East (too many perhaps:-) and this isn't the time for the party to have a row otherwise the LDs will have a field day.

The result we want is to destroy the LDs (Labour won't win but I'd really like to see the LDs share fall) so candidate must be one that doesn't just bring out our voters but appeals to the wavering LD ones. A fall in LD share is unlikely but it should be a major objective after winning.

correction - wasn't getting at Mr Bennet....

"Come on Dave, you know it is the right way forward and when you are pm, you can make open primaries a requirement for candidate selection across all parties (minimum 2 candidates etc)."

I dont see how government interfering in political party constitutions will help the situation at all. When we get into government we have far more important legislation to be repealing and an economy to fix rather than waste time expanding the frontiers of government into political parties.

We should set up a primary candidate selection for our party, throw down the gauntlet for Labour to follow.

I think you will find Nick Bennett lost his seat in 1992, if my memory is correct.

Yes indeed local campaigning is important. Many people respected Tony Benn - but for many in Chesterfield he was still the MP slotted in from Bristol.

When the Labour party selected Reg Race to fight the seat when Benn stood down - what happened, the Lib Dems won it with local man Paul Holmes.

You are obviously correct about Thatcher, Powell, Gove and Cameron. My point is that certain winnable seats need to have the right candidates in order to win them.

In certain cases that means choosing a candidate who is credible because of where they come from. You dont put a man or woman from Nottingham in a Derby seat for example.

My argument is that the party needs to appreciate these considerations.

to confirm Nick Bennett was MP for Pembroke 1987-1992 and stood as a candidate in Reading West in 1997. I don't think he stood in 2001 or 2005.

Having just read the Telegraph article, I can't help but think CCHQ should steer clear of any involvement in the selection for Bromley & Chislehurst. Eric Forth was an iconic figure and the Association are clearly in the mood to find someone of a similar robust style. All CCHQ should do is advise the Association management in clear language that this is a by-election which brings with it unique pressures. If they pick someone who would struggle under this exposure then we run the risk of an embarrassment. As I've said on another thread picking a candidate with significant campaign experience, if not a current politician (MEP, MLA) is paramount. Bob Neil appears to be, by far and away the most appropriate candidate.

Equally there was a disgusting homophonic comment by an Association member and I hope Cameron acts on this man. He is, to coin a phrase, “in the wrong party”.

Ted, no problem, you are right about papers checking facts, it just took me a couple of minutes to come up with all the data I needed to make an objective comment. You are right about warning of the perils of infighting and the advantage it gives to our opponents. I myself am going through an interesting process and if the outcome is not as I would like it to be then I certainly would not want it to cause conflict between the Association and the Party. I always think the saying "graveyards are full of indispensable people", is worth remembering.

It's not a case of being local, although that can bring with it advantages, but being professional.

By-elections bring unique pressures on a constituency party and candidate, far in excess of a "normal" election. A candidate who is politically inexperienced runs the risk of potential embarrassment, with the likelihood of "gaffes" and negative press exposure hugely increased. It's not local we need so much as professional.

Nick Bennett, as he declared on this blog, was removed from the Approved Candidates List last year without interview. According to the rules, he cannot, therefore, apply for the seat. He would make an excellent candidate and I hope that the rules can be changed.

Henry - how about a bit of both. Professional experienced and fairly local.

I think that in northern towns and cities - where we need to get seats - candidates should be well known and respected locally.
Also, we don't want a government full of lawyers, we want people who have actually run something successful.

Jonathan, absolutely.

At the risk of repeating myself - Bob Neil!

I've largely stayed out of the discussion on the "priority list" because I felt that it was simply something we would have to "grin and bear" for the short term. What is becoming obvious is that as a short term measure it is utterly inadequate in performing the kind of outreach we need to be conducting, as a party, over the longer period.

Good quality candidates from all sections and regions of Britain are not, somehow, going to magically appear but will come forward in larger numbers only if we reach out to them in a co-ordinated, professional and determined way.

On David's post it's not Lawyers we should be concerned with but "professional" politicos who have done nothing in their life but work in politics.

You've made all the points I wanted to make.
and Jonathan Sheppard isn't countering any of your arguments at all. What exactly do people mean by "local"? Is it:
1) Someone who lives in the area
2) Someone that the local association wants?

I think many people are confusing the two things. Sometimes a local association wants someone from outside their locale -because he's a friend or a relative of an association officer or some such thing. I see no reason why they should have a right to run instead of a superior candidate (maybe A-List, maybe not) who is unfortunate enough to live in a safe Labour seat.

This business of local candidates is a piece of New Labour wool that has been pulled over the electorate's eyes. It was the tactic they used to discourage many marginals from voting for Tory candidates of superior calibre, and now we want to play by the silly rules that Labour made up.

The points about Eric Forth are also spot on. He did not want to be a quasi-social worker like the labour MP in the next constituency to mine. She has never spoken in parliament except to ask helpful questions during QT.

All-women shortlists are not the only reason why many Labour MPs are so poor. Too much emphasis on "local" candidates has also caused this, and it is the reason why they have so much trouble filling their frontbenches.

I've spoken before on this issue and it is instructive to the running of modern British politics.

Being "local" is an increasingly outdated concept. "localising" is the new term we should use. People (especially younger people) are seldom local to anywhere anymore. They will move away from the family home for university, then may move around the country for work reasons many times before getting to an age for candidature. Because of this the idea of being "local" is becoming alien. Is it fair to deny a high quality potential candidate the opportunity to serve in Parliament simply because they haven't stayed in the narrow constituency of their birth? Clearly not.

"localising" though, is an important concept. On becoming a candidate, does he or she, move to the area? Do they involve themselves in locals groups and community concerns? Do they show a passion for the community in actions as much as words? All these things and more are the barometer for a "localised" candidate.

I think the important thing about "local" is local choice, Biodun. It might be helpful for CCHQ to have identified a list of the "best" candidates from which constituencies could choose - the old candidates' list is unhelpfully large but there should remain an option for them to choose a local candidate. That option exists in a legal sense - despite CCHQ's efforts last year to pass a new party constitution - but it is discouraged by CCHQ. Ideally CCHQ would have invested in a candidates' academy - perhaps based in Leeds or another northern centre - and backed up by a bursary - that would have developed strong local candidates.

Yes, Hmmmm (10:13), we do need candidates of ministerial potential but some voters in certain proud parts of the country are always going to favour local candidates.

Buxtehude (10:11): I wouldn't have started here but given that the party is not going to abandon its A-list I think the scheme can be rescued by putting the very best (regardless of quotas) on the top-up list and facilitating genuinely local candidates.

In regards a "Candidates' Academy" the party does have a "Training College"

How accessable is it though Henry? I've never heard of it and I would imagine you have to pay to go to it. I've argued for academies before. It's certainly our best chance of being seen as a North/South balanced party.

It might be helpful for CCHQ to have identified a list of the "best" candidates from which constituencies could choose

Editor, I don't see how that is much different from the A-List, considering that the vast majority of them were already on the Approved Candidates list and in fact had contested elections at least once before.

You've missed my point Biodun. I'm sorry if I wasn't clear. Yes, the A-list is fine if it serves an indicative purpose AND the party still facilitates the development and selection of local talent.

The A-list is blunt tool and all too rudimentary in it's approach. There is a realpolitik to this and as such we have to understand it existence on that basis.

What we should be talking about, however, is "outreach" what are we doing at a very fundamental level to encourage a wider spectrum of people to become interested in Conservative ideas, believe that the Conservative party is the party for them ,become involved and put themselves forward. What is telling in your original piece is how few women actually put themselves forward. This indicates a problem much more removed form selection committee best practice.

Effective outreach will take years, but it must happen. It's an on going process that the party needs to be committed to.

Biodun asks me what do I mean by local. A hard question - and one that will be answered by each Association. For me when I say local it means someone who can be accepted by the local electorate as representing them. In some instance that could be a candidate from outside a geographical area - in others that wont be acceptable.

"I think the important thing about "local" is local choice"

Exactly. Open the selection to the centrally-selected "brightest and best" and those who apply directly, but the choice of candidate should be made locally (by the elecotrate not the associations).

"We should set up a primary candidate selection for our party, throw down the gauntlet for Labour to follow."
I completely agree, but I would also like to see it later extended to all parties (once in government) so all members of the constituency (whether they are party members or not) can vote, but only in one open primary.

Dave doesn't need to u-turn on the A-list, he can just make it part of the open primary process.

I really believe that if Cameron grabs the initiative on open primaries and drops support for state funding, he will show himself to be really devolving power, which will engage people, get them out to vote (or hopefully online to vote etc) and sweep aside this nastly mess of a Labour government.

If people feel part of the process, and that they can make a real difference, they will get involved. The LibDems have proposed the wrong solution to the right question with PR, but open primaries could do this.

I'm buzzing with fund raising ideas that I think will be innovative and effective, and I would much rather use them to help sweep aside this Labour government at the next election than start from scratch with a new party, but we really do need to get back in touch with the people by empowering them to make a real difference.

Come on Dave, open primaries and drop state funding. You'll be the next pm as there will be no trouble raising funds for the Tory Party, but Labour are in all sorts of bother.

Private funding for independent political parties combined with bringing the people back into politics with open primaries will be the catalysts for victory as they will inspire the people to both vote and open their wallets.

Biodun - if being local isnt important why do all the other parties use it in their electoral literature as a stick to beat candidates with if they arent seen as being from the region (not necessairly the particular constituency). There must be something in it?

Im not saying its the most important thing - and experience in campaigning would be one of the most important criteria when looking at a prospective candidate - but being seen as credible with the local electorate is a big issue that cant be dismissed.

Hi Jonathan,
It will be as important or unimportant as the local community decide.

In some areas it will be more crucial than others, but as long as the local community choose from a selection of candidates, then the Tory Party would have done its jobs delivered real choice and diversity.

Every seat should offer choice. Excellent sitting MP's will obviously be re-elected, but the muppets in super-safe seats could be ousted, which is only a good thing (well except for them of course!)

In any individual constituency it's obvious that all things being equal a local candidate is going to be best.

But getting MPs into parliament isn't just about having politicians capable of representing the wishes of their own constituents. Parties also need people who can genuinely appeal on the national stage, rather than focussing narrowly on local concerns, and importantly, be capable of governing the country. And local candidates only concentrating on local concerns and unwilling to sacrifice any political capital for the wider cause are not always the best way to do that.

Considering that it is unsurprising that localism is often a very important factor in isolated by-elections, but dramatically reduces in importance when the General Election campaign comes along.

I can accept the premise of the A-List, but not the way its organised at the moment. It needs to be overhauled to allow the best 100 candidates to emerge. If Cameron thinks its not a fair system, then change it. If he does that, its one less reason to be off the membership lists.

Local associations should have the option to not select a candidate from the A-List if they genuinely feel their chances of winning are increased in having a local candidate. If they are struggling to find a candidate of sufficient quality, then the A-List is an alternative. It should not be the be all and end all for key marginals though.

Without being repetitive, using the new language of "localisation"/"localised" is the way we produce high quality candidates who are also considered "local".

Associations will increasingly ask "what are you going to do to establish yourself in the constituency, if selected?" rather than "are you local to the area?"

I hope local associations, whatever their private views on the priority list, shy away from disputes with CCHQ. It only damages the party's wider chances of success.

In all candour there is sufficient talent and ability on the list (in addition to the "top ups" in July) for associations to choose the right person for their constituency.

There is absolutely no need to hurt the party.

On "local": it will depend on the circumstances. It is a useful piece of ammunition for a challenger, and works best if, say, you start campaigning early enough and try to build up some momentum. It will also depend on the character of the constituency.

The old rule allowing you to select a local candidate was axed because:
* every one turns out to have had a grand-parent/aunt/third cousin from the area which makes them "local";
* unwinnable seats tended to pick local candidates late, often on a buggin's turn basis, negating their local advantage and effectively wasting an opportunity for a promising non-local to gain experience at fighting a hard battle;
* allegedly there was a "son-in-law" problem in that key local figures could stitch up the selection for a favoured candidate.

Eliminating local candidates has created a fresh problem in finding people prepared to put in an application for hopeless seats. And a determined (and united) executive committee will always be able to stitch up a selection.

The A-List should be renamed the I-List.

The by-election in Bromley will be a special case for several reasons which we all know, such as following in the footsteps of such a unique MP, and it attraction much more media attention than a normal general election contest. With the spotlight firmly on, it is vital that the Party is seen to be united. This means the centre listening and taking notice of the wishes of the local association. Any attempt to foist a candidate from the centre would be disastrous.

If the local Officers remain strong, then they should have the final say. They must not allow themselves to be manipulated in order to satisfy some PC agenda of others.

Good luck to them!

'Is Cameron happy with the A-list'? Well ...... he's probably pretty happy with silly suggestions that he doesn't know exactly what's going on with it. After all, this very site detaield just how "hands on" his office are in its management: http://conservativehome.blogs.com/torydiary/2006/04/camerons_office.html Or perhaps the leader's office doesn't tell the leader what it's doing?

And to cut through the smokescreen some posters have tried above: there's no need for 'local candidates' in every seat, but there's a very strong, very Tory need for all candidates to be picked locally.


Quid quo pro - this by election will be high profile so it is equally as important for the local party to take notice of the centre.

Activists on this site are ever so keen for Cameron to fulfil his pledge on the EPP but when it comes to his pledge to change the party, make it more representative of the country suddenly it's all about Cameron should change his mind, activists should have a veto.

Best outcome would be a principled female candidate, preferably with business experience who believes in less government (as did Eric Forth). And yes I know thats unfair to the good men with much to offer this country but lets face it - we have promised the country by electing a moderniser that we will change and we will have more women so lets do it, get it done this parliament and then lets concentrate on the needs of the country not continue navel gazing.


When you write:

"Best outcome would be a principled female candidate, preferably with business experience who believes in less government..."

You rather helpfully make the case why the A List is so wrong.

Whatever happened to Meritocracy?

I couldn't care less if the new B&C MP was black or white, disabled or able bodied, male or female etc.

What is important is whether they are good enough.

Who do you have in mind?

There is absolutely no need for a dispute on this issue, it only damages the party's image as a whole.

Bob Neil LAM is the clear choice.


I agree, Bob Neil would be a strong candidate.

But there are others as well. Don't rule out Nick Bennett. A former Minister I am told and well respected locally.

Posters have been talking about professionalism and integrity. Like Bob Neil, Nick Bennett has both.

Ted - leaving the EPP is a simple commitment which can be fulfilled at a stroke, though admittedly it will upset some of our MEPs. Selecting candidates that are "more representative" of the country is a much more fuzzy area altogether. It is much more of a hope than a commitment. Cameron should not, and cannot, have direct control over the process. If he,or his central controllers try to do it, they run a high risk of causing more damage than any good they might hope to achieve.

Party unity is much more important than any artificially engineered increase in the proportion of female MPs.

In setting out the Priority List the party leadership have in fact set themselves up to public scrutiny, and every selection will be seen as a challenge. If a male candidate is selected it will be deemed to be a failure, and will be construed by the media as if the constituency is putting two fingers up to the leadership. The response of constituencies must be to select the best candidate without fear or favour. They must put this target-setting nonsense out of their minds as far as possible.

Dear All,

Just in case 'bromleyblue' is who I think it might be (with apologies in advance if you're 'pucker' bb) and we're potentially headed for a bit of mischief making, can I make it crystal clear that 'bromley blue' is nothing to do with me.

It was a name I was contemplating using on vote-2006 website but instead chose not to / to post in my own name.

If something's worth saying etc....

I've just had Iain Lindley (thanks Iain!) delete the dormant account for me.

Derek - spot on

I heard a story recounted to me from a friend of someone who is now an 'A lister'.

This person is black and they apparently said to their white friend (who is I think an 'A Lister' too), "my problem is you and I will go into an SGM one day for a good seat, they'll look at you and think you must be exceptional to be there, and they'll look at me as the token black person..."

Target setting is wrong and divisive. It will backfire...

So what do the meritocratic candidates listed above have in common? Bob Neil, Nick Bennett, Colin Bloom...
Automatic review of who is best somehow only turns up men.
Of course there are special circumstances - which seem to boil down to B&C can only be represented by a true blue white man. Sad if that's true.

I don't like the A list and on the whole I don't believe our party is bigoted (as Henry points out above there are a few), we are a party that has elected a woman leader, a Roman Catholic leader, a Jewish leader among our last 5 leaders.

But bloody h*** if a plum seat in SE England comes up and the only suitable candidates are middle aged men then we are in a bad way - since the 80's we've been saying we need more women and more monorities. We laughed at Labour for its PC approach and said our metitocratic method was fairer and better and the good would come through.

Two decades later where are we? There's been a revolution in mobile comms, in the internet, the Berlin Wall has fallen and the Tory Party? A party that had strong female voting support (much lost to Labour), with many active female members, that wants to reach out to minorities is wholely unrepresentative of the population. It's not a new thing, it's not chance so it's got to be something about how we select candidates.

I'm not talking about quotas but about a short term correction of course - so that for target and vacant seats we give priority for once to try to rectify the imbalance.

Two decades later where are we? ..the Berlin Wall has fallen and the Tory Party?

Well Ted, in 1989 when the Berlin wall fell, (a potent symbol of the death to central-controlled quota-style soviet project), you had a woman who became not just an MP, but was leader and prime minister without positive discrimination.

Now 16 years later you are proposing a centrally-imposed solution.

That fact it, it should not be you, me, Cameron or anyone but the people of Bromley who get to decide which candidate they wish to represent them. If that is a middle aged white male, then who are you to tell them they are wrong?


I think what Ted is trying to say is that Positive Discrimination was alive and kicking in the Tory Party, except that its beneficiaries were MAWMs (Middle-Aged, White Men) and that now esp with the A-List which ironically was meant to reverse that trend, people view MAWMS as being the best qualified for a job on account of their MAWMishness and not for any particular ability.

Am I wrong Ted?

Ted - "For target and vacant seats we give priority for once to try to rectify the imbalance".

You mean give priority for women to be selected?

But why should we select any female candidate unless she is better than anyone else? Your answer seems to be to correct the "imbalance". So we should select an inferior candidate in order to correct an imbalance. This is socialist engineering, beloved of those who we are opposed!

Surely Conservatives believe in equality of opportunity - not equality of outcome. It is indeed ironic that the first test of this policy is in the seat of Eric Forth, a man whose traditional brand of Conservatism was completely opposed to this sort of thinking.

Disagree with "Hmmm". Being local is important especially in the North, Scotland and Wales. These are the places we need to win more seats. There are plenty of good people that live in or near constituencies and that would make good MPs. We would also get more women if we thought this way and planned ahead.


Hi Biodun :-) (friendly, not falling out)

Aah, I understand, the two-wrongs approach!

"to confirm Nick Bennett was MP for Pembroke 1987-1992 and stood as a candidate in Reading West in 1997. I don't think he stood in 2001 or 2005."

What an irony - a man who personifies the chicken run hoping to stand as a local candidate!

It shows how shallow the 'local candidate' argument is.

As far as local candidates are concerned, I would simply say that if there is someone who is good and also has a local connection then that is a bonus. Simply being "local" is not enough. What we must not do is exclude good local people from being considered, just because they are not on a list. We should give them an interview and put them on it.


Correct I believe that there has been a positive preference for white, professional men for decades.

Derek talks of equality of opportunity. How do you judge that when decisions are made subjectively by people - generally by outcomes. Our record says we discriminate against women and minorities - no equality of opportunity.

He also says "why should we select any female candidate unless she is BETTER than anyone else?", well I think selecting a woman because she is as good as someone else would be a start. I don't say select someone who is worse but all things being equal (which lets face it is usually the case once any interview of a group of talented people)give the benefit to the under-represented group.

That, Chad, isn't two wrongs, it's righting a wrong.

It isn't either just about B&C because this is the first Tory by-election defence since DC became leader so its about how we use this to extend our attractiveness countrywide.

Don't under-estimate how our constituency parties in Cheltenham and Falmouth & Camborne lost the national party votes in communities across the UK.

usually the case in... not case once :-(

Surely Howard Flight is the man to stand in Bromley? He is am independent thinker, true patriot, and a defender of the right in the mould of Eric Forth. I can think of no other that Eric would have approved of more. Come on Howard, go for it. Elect Howard!!!

Any business filling a job vacancy picks according to their need. A significant need for the Conservative party today is to be seen to be more representative. Our success depends upon it. I hope that B&C recognise this.

That, Chad, isn't two wrongs, it's righting a wrong.

No, it is wrong Ted, very wrong.

If political parties did not have an absurd legal privilege, and say, private companies tried to emulate Cameron's strategy of "righting a wrong" in the way you suggest (for example with representation on boards that has clearly been previously skewed in favour of men), then they would be breaking the law.

You are actively suggesting sexual discrimination as a means to correct sexual discrimination when most people can see that it is the brain not the penis or vagina that is the most relevant here.

Sexual discrimination is illegal in most fields for a simple reason.

You should aim to smash down the walls of prejudice for everyone, not offer a ladder of preference to your chosen few.

Perhaps the most productive step is to remove this anomaly that allows politics to sexually discriminate. If politics had to fall in line with everyone else then any association discriminating against one sex in favour of another would be open for prosecution.

The arguments against positive discrimination seem to be incontrovertible on anything other than realpolitik grounds. We shouldn't forget, though, that this is a powerful motivator.

What we should be talking about in "out reach" encouraging all the different groups in society that are (traditionally) reluctant to become politically active and give them a sense of confidence. Politics doesn't have to be the preserve of the white man.

We need to be pro-active in talking to different groups and encouraging them to come forward.

Outreach and confidence are our watchwords not discrimination and disharmony.

Giving prefrence to a woman when choice is between candidates of equivalent ability isn't in my view what is normally meant by positive discrimination - its when people of ability are blocked so someone of less ability gets the post.

My first though was that local parties seem to have been smashing the walls of prejudice with teaspoons from the progress they have made but that is unfair.

We did make progress in total number of candidates last time but very few were selected for our marginal hopes or for those seats vacated by sitting Tories. So we have over about a hundred women with PPC experience. I would think theres a good chance that they include a few who are as good as, if not better, than the men mentioned.

Remember, outside politics (candidate selection) sexual discrimination is illegal.

Sexism and prejudice against women exists in many areas outside politics, but if these areas looked to our politicians for a solution to help promote women and restore balance, then they would be breaking the law.

If our politicians have any plans to be in touch with the real world, they would be proposing solutions to gender imbalances etc that could be adopted across the country not proposals that would be illegal.

We could argue the toss all day, but empowering communities themselves (not associations) is the way to bring real equality and representation (even B2L admits this) but it means letting go of some power.

sexual 'positive' discrimination via centtrally-controlled quotas or letting the communities decide for themselves?

Those proposing the former are simply refusing the let go of central control, and seeking to impose their view of equality on the people.

I'm sure everyone knows communities should be choosing their own candidates, that's democracy after all, but politicians just can't let go.

I think the A-list will "work" if it is used to better distribute the best candidates to the best seats. And the ones that they are best suited to.

Many years ago while doing my PhD I worked for temp agencies in Coventry, in various low-end jobs. One thing I noticed about the people working above me in junior managerial posts was how many were young Asian women, and how these all seemed much more talented and capable than other people working at the same level. It seemed to me that this indicated some form of discrimination - if the Asian women were male or white they would be at a much higher level, probably they'd be in professional jobs - lawyers, dentists or whatever. I think the Conservative party has traditionally been a bit like that, there are a large number of talented women operating at levels below their abilities. The trick is to locate these women and get them to stand. This shouldn't require Postive Discrimination, quite the reverse.

"sexual 'positive' discrimination via centtrally-controlled quotas or letting the communities decide for themselves?"

Looking at the USA though it's notable how few women there are in the House and Senate, and it seems much harder for a woman or minority candidate to become President in the USA than it was for the equivalent to become Prime Minister here in the UK. Open primaries might be worth trying for MEP selection though.

I think if the A-list is used as an aid to constiutency committees' selection, which appears to be the intent (so I hear), and is not used to override their clearly expressed preference, then it is a good thing. As has been said, there are plenty of good candidates on the list, and more should be added later.

Actually my main concern personally is to get a great candidate for Tooting where I live, so we can have a Conservative MP next time when there'll most likely be a Conservative government (barring disaster, Labour are clearly on their way out), since the Labour lead in Tooting last time was still 6,000 (down from 12,000), I worry the A-list will take away the best candidates to narrower marginals and we won't get the excellent candidate we need to finish the Labour collapse here and win Freedom for Tooting... ;)

"One thing I noticed about the people working above me in junior managerial posts was how many were young Asian women, and how these all seemed much more talented and capable than other people working at the same level. It seemed to me that this indicated some form of discrimination - if the Asian women were male or white they would be at a much higher level, probably they'd be in professional jobs - lawyers, dentists or whatever"

This shows the problem with simplistic ideas of 'discrimination' and how to solve it. It is also entirely possible that far from being discriminated against by employers, these young women had been discouraged or even prevented from going to university by more traditional families.

Positive discrimination at a crude level assumes that there will be an equal level of interest in a given post from people of different backgrounds. If you have 10 positions to fill and 100 men apply and 5 women apply, then it is statistically possible that you might end up with all the positions being filled by men, even if you are rigourously fair. You might end up with all 5 women being appointed, or somewhere in between. The best way to boost the numbers of women in the position, surely, is to address the reason why men are 20 times more likely to apply.


I think it's more complex than that. In 2005 we had an improved number of female candidates (I think it was about 1 in 6). However most were selected in the least likely constituencies with very few selected in the top 50 targets or vacated seats.

Some of that could be the blooding of candidates by giving them experience in a safe Labour seat to see how they do.

But I think there is also a divide in the constituency parties. In my mind there are the Golf Club parties - tend to be in safe comfortable seats - which recognise they are plum seats and select chosen sons, where women face an uphill battle.

Then there are the fighters - those embattled ones that have a struggle to get reasonable votes let alone see chance of a win. These tend to take more risks, judge on different factors and here women seem to get an equal chance.

Simplified view but that's what the A list is trying to change - it's the Kensingtons, Bromleys, Bournemouths (though the LDs stirred things up there) and, in sotto voce, the Witneys where the barriers seem to exist.

Ted, I agree, but forcing candidates on associations or limiting their range of choice will only lead to division.

I understand the idea behind the A-List and I appreciate there are some associations with a far more 'traditional' outlook than others. I'm unsure that the A-List is the right method to approach the problem of how to get more candidates who aren't white, male barristers from the Home Counties, personally I would take a more bottom-up approach in getting a wider range of people to join the party and become active. That approach would take time though.

In order to achieve an immediate, marked increase in candidate diversity a drastic step was required. I would hope that the A-List is a temporary measure as we don't want to encourage the idea that we have second-class candidates.

"This shows the problem with simplistic ideas of 'discrimination' and how to solve it. It is also entirely possible that far from being discriminated against by employers, these young women had been discouraged or even prevented from going to university by more traditional families."

I expect that that was exactly the case, that their families prioritised their boy children's careers over that of the girls. It wouldn't entirely surprise me if there was a degree of discrimination against them by employers too, but probably no more than a male Asian applicant would face - and I never saw an Asian male in these jobs. This was Coventry ca 1999.

"If you have 10 positions to fill and 100 men apply and 5 women apply, then it is statistically possible that you might end up with all the positions being filled by men, even if you are rigourously fair."

Yes - OTOH if the general population of the men are equal to that of the women in ability, and the best 100 men & best 5 women apply*, then the correct choice - the 10 best - would be the top 5 men and all 5 of the women. The trick then is to make sure the best 5 women do apply and are identified as such.

*And I rather think this is quite a close model of the Conservative party as it has traditionally functioned!

"and the best 100 men & best 5 women apply*, then the correct choice - the 10 best - would be the top 5 men and all 5 of the women"

Maybe, but many of the best women don't apply. In reality the small percantage of women applicants are spread across the ability range. In the overall list of 105 applicants the women could come 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 11th and 100th.

Interesting point about sexual discrimination outside political selection being illegal. I think its pretty shameful. In any other profession it'd be illegal and the managers would be dragged to an employment tribunal and given a pasting. Is this exception to be closed? Anyone in the political legal profession know?

Is this exception to be closed?

If I understand correctly, Labour actually deliberately created this very exception after the uproar and legal challenges over their all-wimmin shortlists.

I am not a lawyer (sorry James), so this comment comes with a health/accuracy warning. In the interests of equality of opportunity, shouldn't it be our policy to campaign against negative discrimination of this type anyway?

We should be at the front of the campaign to end it, not practising advocates of the status quo

You dont have to be a lawyer. Im no gigolo but....another time, another place! Did the Conservatives back this exemption when it went through Parliament?

"In reality the small percantage of women applicants are spread across the ability range. In the overall list of 105 applicants the women could come 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 11th and 100th"

Maybe, but I think traditionally the female applicants have tended to slant towards the top of the range (as in your example), because only the very best women have tended to think they might have a chance. This was true for both the Conservatives and for pre-97 Labour. If we get 3 women in the top 10 applicants, and select them all, we're not doing too badly, the important thing is not to miss any of them. Conversely maybe it wouldn't do much harm to select the woman whose ability puts her at #11 over the man at number #10 in the interests of Diversity, but it's a slippery slope.

"This was true for both the Conservatives and for pre-97 Labour" - You may not like Clare Short, Margaret Beckett, Mo Mowlam or even Diane Abbott, but I think you have to respect their ability as politicians. Like their Tory equivalents they had political 'weight'. Conversely the Blair Babes' dealings with the British people often resemble a bunch of exasperated primary school teachers wagging their fingers at unruly pupils.

The very law that allows this positive discrimination in political candidate selection was the 2002 Sexual Discrimination (Election Candidates) Bill.

Now before I get too excited on digging this up, but when I look at the Public Whip record, it shows that Cameron voted against here

Am I right?

Sorry final link here.

So, Cameron voted against making positive discrimination for election candidates legal?

Oh, the irony.

Thanks for finding the specific legislation Chad. I shall be perusing it tonight. It is highly ironic, but not particularly suprising...

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