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« The world's least trustworthy electorate | Main | Rory Bremner wants Ken Clarke or Malcolm Rifkind »



Theresa May is turning out to be far more interesting than anyone expected. Her parliamentary colleagues think of her as a bit dim, as someone who takes her direction from whoever has most recently 'got to her'. And yet she has been at the leading edge of the key discussions within the Tory party. Right now, while everyone else is scrambling to say the same things as each other, she pursues a distinctive agenda all on her own. I think she was wrong on the 'nasty party' line a few years back, but it did make the weather. I think this time she is spot on, focusing on the democratic issues of this leadership election (which say more about the party than any merely 'strategic' mentions of the phrase 'social justice').

A party that had real primaries would instantly make itself dynamic and engaging. It would mean embracing the electorate and tussling with it, instead of regarding it quizzically as a strange object on a lab table. That Theresa May is prepared to think about this does her enormous credit.

Though she often lacks the appearance of confidence, she has actually been an agent for change. Could she take this further and be leader?

It's very, very hard to imagine. But if she can get the backing of a few colleagues then a leadership attempt, which would force us all to deal directly with what she's saying, could be very stimulating. (Rather the same as could be said for Willetts.)

Wat Tyler

Well done to Theresa for standing up for us members. The state-educated daughter of a parson, she is a decent thoughtful Tory, intelligent and hard-working. And she relates very well to many voters. We need lots more like her.

But she's famously nice, not nasty. And managing those Tory MPs is like trying to bag-up a marauding pack of hungry ferrets. They destroyed Major, Hague, and IDS. Even 'something of the night' decided to jump at the earliest opportunity.

I really wouldn't want to watch while those little varmints tore Theresa limb from limb.

We've had enough blood- we need some order.

But DD should get her on the team.

James Hellyer

Is she standing up for the members? Her proposed "A" list of candidates sounds very much like the proposals in "A 21st Century Party". It would only give constituencies the illusion of choice. It's hard to reconcile that with her passion for primaries.

Wat Tyler

James- I guess I was mainly thinking of the leadership process. In our de facto Presidential electoral system, I believe the leader is the key to power. I may be entirely wrong in this, but I don't think we common or garden members have ever had much say in choosing our local candidates. It's been down to constituency committees.

Sean Fear

What she said does reflect credit on her.

"A lists" of candidates, OTOH, would be a step backward. Essentially, such a list would be dominated by party hacks whose friends got them onto the A list.

James Hellyer

"I guess I was mainly thinking of the leadership process."

And I was thinking of how that contradicted her aspirations for an "A list"! Said list also goes against her work for primaries in candidate selection. It is very inconsistent!

"I may be entirely wrong in this, but I don't think we common or garden members have ever had much say in choosing our local candidates. It's been down to constituency committees."

Some candidates were selected by open primaries. But as for the rest, you're right. The key thing being that I can elect or be elected to my constituency selection committee, while I can't elect the people who draw up CCO's "A List".

James Hellyer

Although I must add that all kudos should go to Theresa for bravely speaking out on the leadership election process.

Michael McGowan

Well done, Theresa May, for daring to show that her brand of Conservatism has confidence in popular democracy.....unlike the brand espoused by many of her colleagues and that relic of the Tories' Habsburg era, Michael Heseltine.

William Norton

The "A" List system does have the prospect for the usual CCO political correctness/rigging but on the other hand we have to address the fact (which the last 8 years has put in very stark contrast) that often the people who make it to the safest seats are not - to coin a phrase - value for money. The system could be made to work like this:
(1) CCO lists candidates into an "A" List and a "B" List. "A" includes incumbent MPs, people who did well last time but did not win, and - bluntly - people "the Party" (=CCO) want to be running the country.

(2) Each Area classifies constituencies by "safeness": Heartland seats (safe); Battleground seats (loseable either way); Development seats (no-hopers).

(3) Heartland seats could select only from the A List.

(4) Battleground seats could select from either List (they will want the widest pool from which to pick someone who can make a difference).

(5) Development seats could select only from the B List or an officer of the local association who has served at least a full year (these seats, basically, train up candidates to proceed to the A List - and I would bring back the local candidate to address the fact that in some very no-hope seats we have trouble finding candidates).

Dividing up the classification between Centre and Area helps counteract rigging by CCO (altho' it doesn't eliminate it). What would really make a difference is The Surrey Heath Option: does the constituency have the nerve to deselect a deadbeat? A few more examples of that will do wonders.

James McKenzie

Forgive my ignorance - how are candidates selected? I thought the selection cttee was elected by the constituency members, and thus democratic. Who decides the short list? In the past Constituency Associations have given the impression of standing up to the central leadership. Is this a myth? There is an assumption - going back at least to Cobbett et al - that grassroots democracy is a good thing. Or can they do without us? Perhaps we should plump for PR where the party bosses choose the party lists - that should get rid of the Cobbetts and similar troublemakers.

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