BJ will be a busy boy

ESSEX North MP Bernard Jenkin has been appointed a Deputy Chairman of the Conservative Party with the remit to overhaul the candidates' list to ensure more women, minority ethnic and disabled persons are selected to fight winnable seats at the General Election.

ESSEX North MP Bernard Jenkin has been appointed a Deputy Chairman of the Conservative Party with the remit to overhaul the candidates' list to ensure more women, minority ethnic and disabled persons are selected to fight winnable seats at the General Election.

New party leader David Cameron announced a five point plan, starting with a freeze on all candidate selections while a new system that guarantees diversity, fairness and meritocracy is put in place.

A priority list of candidates has been drawn up for target and Conservative-held seats, comprising the brightest and best candidates, with equal numbers of men and women and a significant proportion of black and ethnic minority candidates, and candidates with disabilities.

A full progress check review after three months, and in the unlikely event that further action is required, “it will be taken” said Mr Cameron.


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An intensive programme of headhunting and mentoring to attract the brightest and best women and minority ethnics to apply to become candidates will be put in place and there will be community involvement in candidate selection, either through community panels evaluating candidates, or through primaries.

All that will keep Mr Jenkin out of mischief as the bold, modern, caring, compassionate - and any other word you can find in the thesaurus - Conservative Party takes shape.

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Meanwhile Party Chairman Francis Maude, the original tie-less wonder wants to go further and scrap the annual jamboree by the seaside. Instead of the four day conference alternating each year between Bournemouth and Blackpool, he wants the Tories to have two weekend conferences in cities such as Bath and Newcastle.

He had this withering insult for Tory delegates, describing those who go conferences as “paid to or are retired or are independently rich or are fanatics.” Mr Maude perhaps ought to remember that with around 270,000 members, there are more paid up “fanatics” in the Conservative Party than Labour, whose conference is swollen each year by trade union dinosaurs looking for a seat of influence at the top table.

I must say that as someone who has to endure three weeks at Britain's fading seaside resorts, the prospect of travelling to Newcastle or Bath has an appeal. But just where Mr Maude thinks the 5,000 or so delegates, exhibitors, media, hangers on, MPs and party officials are all going to find a bed in Bath, one of the UK's top tourist destinations, is by no means clear.

What will decide the future of conferences is not UDI by the Tories. All three main parties will have to be minded to make the change, and then involve the television networks.

Dumping Saturday night schedules including Match of the Day, The X Factor, and Strictly Come Dancing to make way for a speech on reform of the House of Lords by Oliver Heald, Shadow Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs, and Shadow Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, is unlikely to be the ratings winner Mr Maude seems to imagine.

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