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« The two Davids set out their policy platforms in The Telegraph | Main | Editorial: Could Cameron be ‘Braziered’? »



Having a local candidate and localism does not equate to General Election candidates fighting camapaigns based on local issues at all.

When it comes to local elections, why should we accept that Lib Dems will always have the advantage? Conservatives have got to be prepared to get out on the streets and engage with people and groups. We've got to become part of communities and not a detached cheese and wine secret cult.

Michael Smith

"What a long discussion about something that isn't Cameron's view in the first place. I think you are reading too much into Theresa May's comments, both her and David Cameron (and me for that matter) want more female conservatives elected."

The length of the discussion perhaps indicates the level of concern within the party surrounding this issue. I am delighted that young Dave isn't a fan of all-women shortlists. So many modernisers are, and have already done so much harm with their attempts to prioritise gender and skin-colour over merit and hard work - one can see how the confusion over DC's real views might arise!

On the other hand, I don't quite see why DC wants - as you say you do - to see more women elected. Why does it matter?

The Labour Party found a way to get a lot more women elected. Is there anyone out there, literally anyone in any party from any perspective, who will claim that this did any good at all - in terms of the quality of the party's MPs, the degree to which they accurately represented their electorate, or by boosting the party's fortunes in general? Or was it, in fact, just embarassing tokenism that propelled a remarkable number of talentless second-raters into jobs that could have been done better by someone else?

In my experience, which may perhaps be limited, most voters - male, female, black, white, whatever - have the wit to prefer someone who can work effectively to promote the causes and ideals that are important to that elector, rather than simply looking a bit more like them in terms of class, gender, colour, sexuality, religion, etc, etc.

Next you are going to be telling us that there should be fewer white, well-heeled, heterosexual Old Etonians clogging up the lists!

(That's a tease, by the way. My advice to you - don't rise to it.)


I agree with all of that Michael, but at the same time, it helps any political party if it looks like the country. Simply in terms of perception of the brand.

Oberon Houston

I entirely agree with DC and Theresa on their views on the direction we should take the Party for wider appeal. And I have no concerns regarding his background. What concerns me about DC is that Brown and Blair may find him easy to bout against, whereas KC could trample them for breckfast. Thats why KC is my personal favourite, as Malcolm Rifkind says, he is head and shoulders above the rest.


If you are going to be a modern party having a few more women might be a sensible idea. The fact that all of you seem to be male doesnt exactly help your cause. You may dislike the fact that these caviar conservatives are parachuted in but labour do exactly the same and have won very effectively in an agenda pushing media biased world of spin. DC and acolytes are good minds and should be used and yes they have to get into parliament somehow and when they do they need to corral the media into supporting them because otherwise another Hague, Duncan Smith era will ensue. And as for Richard Benyon for those with chips on your shoulder he is the biggest landowner in Berkshire so how the hell can he represent local people with local issues. Actually he is bloody good (as is DC - check out his response level in his constituency) and as our great leader TB said VERY ACCURATELY when the Tories concentrate on the message not on the back story they may have a chance of getting into power and changing things. Yawn. Have any of you thought about UKIP recently?


That would be good for Party morale Oberon, but would the public appreciate it? William Hague's popularity soared on the morning of his resignation, because for the first time he showed a human side. Brown and Clarke knocking great chunks out of each other over their past economic records might actually help Kennedy.


Tom, I think I agree. I'm glad the "caviar conservatives" have chosen our party in which to invest their talents. I hope they can do for us electorally what the "champagne socialists" did for New Labour.

Selsdon Man

"What a long discussion about something that isn't Cameron's view in the first place."

It is relevant because we need to change and modernise our campaigning strategies at a grassroots level. We cannot rely on just a new leader to deliver success. Yes we need more women and ethnic candidates but they should be local community leaders rather than imposed London lawyers and bankers. This is a key point that many of those those who call themselves modernisers or localists miss.


"One of my biggest concerns about DC and his acolytes is that they are a gilded clique most of whom have been parachuted into safe seats (Witney, Tatton, Henley, Wantage, Surrey Heath) without having to fight for much in the world of politics. Their rise to prominence has been all about old-fashioned political patronage, not meritocracy."

Cameron fought and lost a seat before Witney. And he has lived in Chipping Norton for years. An unfair comment.

Michael Smith

"I agree with all of that Michael, but at the same time, it helps any political party if it looks like the country. Simply in terms of perception of the brand."

Seriously - this isn't just a rhetorical point - what is your evidence that it 'helps'?

Also, if 'looking like the country' is the point, what's more important? Gender? Race? Sexuality? Religion? Class? What?

If you are seriously suggesting that there's some magic demographic formula that confers votes, it would be interesting to know how it breaks down in practice. For instance, is a female, white, privately educated investment banker from the Home Counties who has earned £750k a year more 'like Britain' than, for instance, a gay local man? And if the gay local man has a slightly darker skin, does that make things better or worse? Does he need to have lived on a council estate? Do tell!

What I think, is that many voters would actually care whether these two hypothetical people could work hard, speak well, think carefully, use some sort of reliable principles, and act with integrity and valour in a complicated, diverse, not black-and-white world.

Sean Fear

Candidate selection matters because one wants good candidates. What makes a good candidate will vary depending on the nature of the constituency, and indeed, what the local party is looking for (eg do you want someone who's going to make the cabinet, or someone who'll be a hardworking local MP with no higher ambition)?

Centralising selection, and positive discrimination work against getting good candidates. Several of the women selected under Labour's all-women shortlists have simply proved awful, and the majority have proved mediocre. And the result from Blaenau Gwent shows the public can be very resentful of having candidates foisted on them.

An A-List would probably prove worse than all-women shortlists, as it would in practice be dominated by political hacks.

James Maskell

UKIP is a one issue party, nothing more. Their support comes from former Conservatives. We need them back if we are to return to Government.

Selsdon Man

Michael, it seems to me that voters in marginal seats like local candidates with a track record of local community involvement. It is more difficult, but not impossible, for outsiders to build up that reputation over time. In such cases income, gender and sexuality are irrelevant. I may be biased but I believe that a doctor or teacher will find it easier to build up local support than a wealthy barrister or merchant banker.


michael of course you are right but we do live in the real world. The tory party needs more women probably not as many as theresa may thinks but it needs more women. dilemma = how do you get there? bit of positive discrimination and a lot of effort in wooing good quality local and not so local women. Whatever anyone says, when the vast majority of people are turned off by politics and only get their impression from Fiona Bruce or whoever saying "tories - all male party apart from Theresa May, look at how many women are represented by the labour party" it is a question (if you want to get elected) that will always end up making us look bad. If we lived in a perfect world where people really engaged in politics and really listened to their MP then no brainer - best candidate wins it, but as long as people would rather watch the Simpson we HAVE to operate in some ways in a fake way - otherwise the female liberal bias that exists in the media (i know it very well cos i work in it - though you wouldnt know that from my punctuation) will always knock the tories for 6!!!


Michael, again I agree with your last paragraph. That must be above and beyond everything else. But it's got to be helpful hasn't it if a Party broadly looks like the country? Just a general mix of people of different ages, colours, backgrounds etc. No magic formula - just a Party which can attract a mix of people as candidates.

Cllr Iain Lindley

I'm afraid saying "UKIP voters are former Conservatives" is often lazy and/or wishful thinking.

In my experience a lot of the UKIP vote comes from the same source as many BNP voters - small c conservative working class former Labour voters (often former Labour non-voters).

UKIP do hurt us, but nowhere near as much as is made out.

Jack Stone

Someone wants more women representing the party in Parliament. My god what next!A black or gay conservative!
David Cameron and those who support him want to see a Conservative Party that looks like it belongs to Britain in this century not the last.
Its a tragedy for the party and our country that sadly far too many of its members are stuck not just in the last century but the one before!

Sean Fear

So, Tom, if you introduce positive discrimination, how do you avoid getting the type of candidate who destroys your chances in a particular seat, like the ex-Labour MP for Peterborough?

Most political parties have never been at all representative, in socio-economic terms, of the public at large. I don't believe it's a big issue to people who live outside SW1, NW1, and N1.

Daniel Vince-Archer

"Cameron fought and lost a seat before Witney. And he has lived in Chipping Norton for years. An unfair comment."

The same David Cameron whose main home is in Notting Hill, or North Kensington as he would put it? Also which seat did he fight and lose before Witney as strangely enough I can't find any reference to that on his campaign website?


stafford - safe labour but he did well, bucking trend of swing to labour

as to positive discrimination - twin strategy required making every effort to encourage women to join and get involved but also when you have good women candidates you fast track them. Simple but second bit comes after fisrt bit, and in the meantime we make sure that we dont look like a misogynist party out of step with country as we do at the moment with a degree (not 50/50) of positive discrimination

Simon C

He fought Stafford in 1997. In fairness to the MPs for Henley and Wantage I should point out that they also fought seats in 1997 - Boris fought Clwyd West (?) in Wales & Ed Vaizey fought one of the Bristol seats.

Michael Smith

"Michael, again I agree with your last paragraph. That must be above and beyond everything else. But it's got to be helpful hasn't it if a Party broadly looks like the country? Just a general mix of people of different ages, colours, backgrounds etc. No magic formula - just a Party which can attract a mix of people as candidates."

Michael, I'm not trying to rubbish your point - I am just seriously interested. Why is it helpful if 'a Party broadly looks like the country'? Is there any evidence, anywhere, that people in Britain really vote on that basis?

And again, this whole 'looks like' thing seriously puzzles me. Is the hypothetical £750k pa, Home Counties investment banker, who happens to be a woman, more 'like' her potential constituency than e.g. a man who actually lives there? If I happened to be a black, lesbian woman, should I go for the black candidate, the gay one, or the female one? Or should I go for the one who best represents my views?

Sorry if this sounds like I am trying to make fun of your point - I genuinely am not - I just want to understand your experience and views here.

My own feeling, for what it is worth, is that Mrs Thatcher - lower-middle-class Oxford-educated Methodist lay-preacher, with a Cabinet full of public school boys plus some exciting variations - made a strong case that people either liked or hated - and that she brought more people, from a greater diversity of backgrounds, into this Party than anyone else in living memory. In other words, what mattered was the strong message, not what I would see as the divisive politics of gender, ethnicity and class.

But to return to the basic point, I'd be really interested to learn why you think it's better if a party 'looks like the country' - and what you mean by this.

Michael Smith

"Someone wants more women representing the party in Parliament. My god what next!A black or gay conservative!"

Pretend you were a black Tory woman, living in a constituency where three candidates were standing: a white Labour woman, a Lib Dem black man, and a Tory white man.

Who would you support?

Maybe I am living in the century before last (actually before 1789 would suit me better than after 1800, but have it your own way), but in any event, I think this 'vote with your genitals' thing is just rubbish. Surely, male or female, black or white, you'd stop to ask whether any of these people were any good, and what they stood for, and whether you agreed with any of it?

Adrian Sherman

Considering that I think Britain, London especially, is an absolutely squalid and awful place full of aliens, would-be terrorists, metropolitan trendies, druggies, broken families, interfering liberals/lefties, yobbos and general nastiness, I *don't* want the Tory Party to reflect "modern Britain".

Still, if the Notting Hill brigade want to give up their seats to a load of black, muslim, homosexual trendies, then I wouldn't mind.

I've done a lot of canvassing for the Party and not ONCE has anyone said, "I'm not voting Conservative bcause you don't have more blacks, gays, women and Moslems standing for you", not once!

All this modernisation stuff has elements of pork barrel politics (balkanisation) and just illustrates the depths to which the 'Tory' Party has sunk, since Maggie.


Michael S, I don't think a floating voter, would look at a political party and say, "wow, what a great mix of white/black, gay/straight, male/female MPs" and cast their vote only on that basis. But a Party which claims to be addressing the issues of all voters could be taken more seriously if it has a mix of people, ages and backgrounds. For example when I think of UKIP, I have a mental picture of odd middle age men in bowler hats...I can't take them seriously. Probably unfair, but it's a perception thing. Voters generally don't pay a huge amount of attention to the detail of politics and when it comes to a General Election, cast their vote according to the impression they have of a Party, not just on what they know, but also on how it sounds and looks. But that doesn't mean associations should select candidates because they fill a quota. Rather, the Party will attract candidates who better reflect Britain's diversity when it looks and sounds relevant and appealing. The question is how to encourage this fairly.

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