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I think that your site is offering us all sorts of excellent opportunities to discuss Party policy and our developing organisation but don't you think all this discussion of the Priority List has gone on for quite long enough? As a rejected Priority List candidate myself, I understand the disappointments. But David Cameron was elected leader by a ballot of our entire membership, and our local election results show we are on track. He has every right to put forward a List of Priority candidates that reflects his national priorities. At the same time, local Associations crucially have every right to declare their own local priorities and to accept nominations from candidates with clear local connections who reflect those priorities. The final selection in each seat, and in each batch of seats, will reflect a balance of these twin priorities. No-one anywhere in the Party appears to be disputing this and no-one appears to be preventing it from happening. We ARE going to end up with the best candidate in each seat and the best batch of candidates that any Party is putting forward. And by the way I was at University with Dominic Schofield. He was outstanding then and he clearly is now. Don't tell me he won't end up as a Conservative MP.
Isn't the Labour A-List crisis more serious? That's the Labour Leadership Priority List. Gordon Brown is trying to monopolise it. John Reid is trying to get on it. John Prescott is trying to pronounce it. And by the way, is it true that John Prescott is promoting all-women shortlists for his next diary secretary appointment?
Come on guys - the Conservatives are back in town. Let's keep talking policy and not get distracted by Priority List chit chat.

Give that lady a medal! Positive discrimination based on race is itself sugar-coated racism, and in effect, less honest but equally ugly as the 18-hole DM's skinhead's approach.

Ersatz diversity achieved from centrally imposed quotas (particularly when those groups aren't actually even offered the 'most winnable' seats but the 'most winnable-that-we-can't-seem-to-win-by-other means' seats) will backfire and cheapen the efforts of those its claims to seek to champion.

Well said Ben, this arduous discussion has gone on long enough and just keeps going round and round. Constituencies have the option and encouragement to pick from this A-list of candidates that meets central office requirements, but are in no way obligated. I can't see what anyone is complaining about. In any case, I think we are blowing the issue out of proportion. Proper discussion of the policy agenda would be far more fruitful.

The Candidates’ Committee’s position on local candidates is that they may be considered in exceptional circumstances but that “there will rarely be a need to add to the priority list”.

After carefully balancing the Priority List with 50% women and 10% candidates from ethnic minorities, they are naturally wary of throwing open the doors to local candidates who might undo this balance. But that is to miss the point. Often the best candidate, the candidate with the best chance of winning a target seat, the candidate who will best represent their constituents, will be drawn from the local community. It would do very little damage to the principle of the priority list to encourage Associations to seek out a high quality local candidate to compete alongside the Priority list for selection.

When I put this point to Shireen Ritchie and Francis Maude at the Manchester convention, Francis answered that if a local candidate were of sufficient calibre he or she would already be on the Priority List. But in practice, a candidate who has no interest in standing for any but his or her own constituency is unlikely to have put themselves through this process.

If we are serious about winning in the metropolitan areas in the north where we have no representation, then we should be looking for Conservative talent among the leaders of those communities, people who would have no other interest in being a candidate than in representing their own area. If we are serious about taking back Lib Dem held seats in the South West, we will need to fight their grass roots politics with local candidates of our own. If we are determined to win the next General Election, we are going to have to show some flexibility in how we implement the Priority List system.

Another al-bbc Today programme attempt to diss the party, repeatedly claiming no council seats were won in northern cities. You would have to be taking a very narrow definition of some of the seats that were won to claim they wern't city seats.

Sure there has been quite a discussion but that is healthy. A sizeable proportion of hard working and loyal party members feel the list is unfair, wrong and likely to lead to future difficulties. Better to discuss and argue now, 6 months into Cameron's leadership than leave it to fester and have all the bad feeling come out before the next election. Well done Conservativehome for providing this platform !

The 19 year old Londoner has a very good point. But then as a 40-something Londoner I have faced charges of racism and sexism for years as a Conservative councillor, PPC and activist, mainly on the grounds that we had no ethnic MPs and very few women MPs. Many people disregarded the fact that it was our party that produced the first woman prime minister - "she doesn't count, she was an honorary man" - and that we have had ethnic minority Conservative councillors in Wandsworth for years. All they could see was the row upon row of white, male faces in the Commons and representing the party on television. By the time that young woman is putting herself forward for the candidates list I hope our party will have thrown off that tag of racism and sexism. And one of the key ways to do that will be to break the mould at the next general election. That is what the Priority List is designed to do and I support it, even though I was not selected in the first tranche. And, yes, of course I have a vested interest in toeing the party line - but I also have a strongly-held view that we need to tackle the image of the party before we can have a serious hope of winning power again.

'no council seats were won in northern cities.'

We won 5 seats on Wakefield council, which is a northern city by any standards. Most of them were in the city itself.

'no council seats were won in northern cities.'

This is a typical metropolitan comment. They think the only 2 Northern Cities are Manchester and Newcastle. We won plenty of Northern seats although there is a great deal still to do. The way it's portrayed in the media, you would think we have nothing north of the Trent.

'no council seats were won in northern cities.'
I agree with Andrew Woodman. I must be a mirage or something as I am one of 24 Tory Councillors on Leeds City Council and we in fact run the City. Last time I looked Leeds was a major northern City...and a successful one at that!

Now that it has been announced that it is not mandatory to choose from the Priority List, this will enable Associations to choose freely and fairly as they have always done, provided they are able to resist the pressure from the centre.

Andrew is correct. I do question the usefulness of the Northern cities categorisation anyway.

We did win seats in the North. Look at Bassetlaw where there are 28 seats to Labours 14 now. Worksop is not a city -but it is a place which historically hasn't been Conservative with issues associated with an urban area.

hmmm, ok one asian woman doesn't like priority lists in the conservative party, I wonder how many other asiam women don't even take an interest in the conservative because they have preconceptions about it?

Now, how do you go about changing these preconceptions? One way is to make the tory party look different, get more women and non whites in. If that means having to use these lists to achieve that aim, then so be it.

Jonathon

It seems to be a matter of semantics - so we don't have councillors in the city of Manchester (but do in greater Manchester) and for BBC the Northern Cities seem to only be those without Tory presence :-)

Perhaps CCHQ ought to do a crib list that says for our 15 largest conurbations we have x% of councillors and control x number of districts/boroughs within them. This might show what we need to achieve in some but also how much of urban England has Tory representation.

Wikipedia lists these as:
1. Greater London (8,278,251)
2. West Midlands (2,284,093)
3. Greater Manchester (2,244,931)
4. Leeds/Bradford (1,499,465)
5. Newcastle/Sunderland (1,085,700)
6. Liverpool (816,216)
7. Nottingham (666,358)
8. Sheffield (640,720)
9. Bristol (551,066)
10. Brighton (461,181)
11. Leicester (441,213)
12. Portsmouth (422,252)
13. Bournemouth/Poole (383,713)
14. Reading (369,804)
15. Teesside (365,323)

"Now, how do you go about changing these preconceptions? One way is to make the tory party look different, get more women and non whites in. If that means having to use these lists to achieve that aim, then so be it."

I think the big risks though is that it doesn't get the best women and minority candidates in, it may mostly get ones who are somewhat rootless & metropolitan, drawn from a rather narrow upper middle class clique. And excellent candidates on the list may be tarred with this brush. Few people think Blairs' Babes was anything but a mistake, why repeat Labour's failure?

I'm not sure what the solution is; but where you do have female an ethnic minority activists, the local associations need to be looking for people who'd make good MPs and encouraging them to stand. I think traditionally a big deterrent to women and probably minority activists was a feeling that they didn't want to go through a competitive selection process and be rejected at the end of it. Conversely many white male candidates, especially those with the confidence instilled by a good school (often private), relish the prospect of competition and have acquired the skills to wow a selection panel. The need is high quality candidates from all walks of life; the solution IMO can only lie at the grass roots.

I'm not sure what the solution is

Well first you have to decide if you want to be or just look more representative of the UK.

If you want to be representative, then you would open candidate selection to the communities themselves.

If you just want to kust look representative then you would centrally pick some physical differences that look good in a photo shoot and leave it at that keeping those candidates away from the most winnable seats (ie most likely to be those that you have won before) which would actually see them ending up in parliament almost for sure, and instead out them up in some marginals.

Well Rossendale where I am (right in the bottom SE corner of Lancashire), the council make up is now Con 25, Lab 9, LD 1, Ind 1 and the LibDem is standing down next month. We have high hopes of winning the by-election. We picked up two seats overall in the elections.

The borough is a group of former mill towns in a semi-rural setting, not one of the more exclusive rural areas of Lancashire.

We gained a seat in neighbouring Burnley, might not sound like much, but now Burnley has a LibDem/Tory controlled council and Labour have lost control for the first time ever. Progress is being made, so don't take the BBC bias! (That's not to say there isn't lots more to do)

I too get a little tired of hearing how the Tories have nothing in the north.

How about regional academies so potential candidates can learn and show their all round skills?

For once I agree with Chad here. Why not open it up to the community to choose our candidates at a primary. You can't get much more representative than that.

The internet could be leveraged really well for candidate selection.

First of all you would pick those who are eligible to vote from party members in that constituency, and a carefully selected cross-section of the community to esnure the result is not sabotaged but also remains representative of the community not just party members in that community.

Then you ensure that all candidates record a 1 min video profile that is available online along with a perosnal bio and book individual Q&A blogging session.

Finally, having really engaged the community with the candidates (both those suggested from the A-list and the local candidates), the community can vote for the right person to represent them using a pr system online.

Result>> 21st century use of the net, get the community directly involved in the selection process, use of pr whilst ensuring fptp is retained for the actual election to protect the mp-community bond.

Bang! Modern, democratic and engaging.

I'm not sure a Primary system would entirely solve what I think is the problem of high quality potential candidates from non-traditional backgrounds not putting themselves forward; but it might help - and it would certainly help select people good at winning elections!

"Well first you have to decide if you want to be or just look more representative of the UK."

If it were up to me the aim would be to find the best, highest quality, candidates, for the benefit of both the party and the country. I think the Conservative party has historically under-recruited female and minority candidates, therefore broadening the candidate base **can improve the overall quality of candidates**. But simply trying to look good to a BBC/Guardian Diversity Commissar, while much easier, is not the right goal IMO and can potentially reduce rather than improve candidate quality.

"First of all you would pick those who are eligible to vote from party members in that constituency, and a carefully selected cross-section of the community to esnure the result is not sabotaged but also remains representative of the community not just party members in that community."

I think the US 'declared allegiance' systems work well - you can generally vote in either Democrat or Republican primary, not both. A party member based voting system runs the risk of being easily rigged through packing the membership, I fear.

I'm sure that the first party that adopts this approach will change the face of British politics for the better for generations.

Imagine the pr victory. No more party imposition, but the communities themselves picking the right candidate to represent them.

It would be very easy to achieve but it does involve the politicians actually letting go of some power and passing it to the communities. I guess this is the stumbling block as power and money are the two things politicians never want less of.

"Francis answered that if a local candidate were of sufficient calibre he or she would already be on the Priority List. But in practice, a candidate who has no interest in standing for any but his or her own constituency is unlikely to have put themselves through this process" 9:49

Very good point Richard

With regards to Conservative representation in Northern Cities, I notice our new Northern city, Preston,now has 17 Conservative Councillors having gained one on May 4th.

To try to claim, as Maude has, that any good local candidate would already be on the A list is errant nonsense and quite clearly explains CCHQ's decision to try to keep the list secret. Without naming names (for fear of legal action)I know of at least one truly excellent local candidate with a seriously impressive track record excluded purely on the grounds of being white, male and 40ish whilst another person who is on the list performed appallingly as a PPC at the GE, got a terrible report from both their Constituency and Area Chairman but is on the list due to being an attractive female and having excellent contacts and smoozing abilities. When you also see on the list people whose only claim to be there is that they are famous it becomes impossible to take any protestations that the list contains only the best and brightest seriously at all.

Can't Maude see that the electorate is totally sick of spin and smoke and mirrors, that is why they are failing to vote and turning away from New Labour in droves. Becoming some form of NuLabour Lite based on the triumph of image over substance and complete with all of the spin and dissembling that ordinary people have come to hate will manifestly fail to win the next election and will also alienate both the activist base and the core vote.

Its interesting to see the article in the papers about Maude's reaction to the recent Members Panel vote on this site. Basically, hes up against it and he knows it.

If we had a press office which was doing its job the way Alistair Campell used to do his, then the Toady Prog editor would have been rungup, yelled at and forced to make a grovelling on-air apology for putting out such inaccurate information about our representation in Northern cities.

As a Tory and a believer in Little Platoons, could I suggest that everyone checking this blog e-mails Tim with the number of seats we hold in their particular borough/district/city, that Tim publishes it on the site and everybody cuts and pastes it into an e-mail and sends it to,

[email protected]k

with a suitable strident demand for a corrective statement.

Being on the Priority List is no passport to getting selected, as long as the Constituency Associations stand firm and select the candidate they want. Open Primaries are only possible if the Association decides to have them. I suspect that many will rule them out on the grounds that it should be the choice of the members rather than of others who have not made any commitment to the Party.

Although I would not personally rule out an Open Primary altogether, I would want our Association to choose the final 2 [or at the most 3] candidates to put before the public. Otherwise what is the point of being a member?

The tragic thing about this debate is that CCHQ have unilaterally decided to pick a fight with constituencies instead of working with them to build a consensus for how change is to be made.

It reflects the lack of experience in modern management best practices and doesn't bode well for public service reform once we take power. As a priority we should be recruiting MP's with the skills and leadership styles to lead the reform of bloated and ineffectual public services; of secondary concern should be ethnicity or gender.

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