Cameron gets tough with his activists

TORY leader David Cameron's move to force local parties to shortlist at least two women would-be MPs has been savaged by both Labour and the Liberal Democrats.

By Graham Dines

TORY leader David Cameron's move to force local parties to shortlist at least two women would-be MPs has been savaged by both Labour and the Liberal Democrats.

Mr Cameron said this afternoon that “the scandal of women's under-representation in the Conservative parliamentary party” had to be ended.

“The conversation inside our Party must be closer to the conversation in our country: more female Conservative MPs will lead to better policies and a Party that is more in touch with modern Britain,” said Mr Cameron.

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“In December, we took a number of steps to improve our candidate selection process in order to increase the proportion of women candidates, candidates from black and minority ethnic communities, and candidates with disabilities. We said that after three months, we would review progress and take any further action that may be necessary.

“Our review has shown that the steps we have taken so far have been relatively successful. I am encouraged that the proportion of women selected as candidates under our new process is already three times greater than the proportion of female Conservative MPs today. This shows that real change is taking place within our Party.

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“But we need to go further, and we need to go faster. So we are taking further steps today to increase the number of women candidates. I want to see more women candidates selected, and I want to see them selected on merit - through a proper, professional process that accurately assesses all the skills needed to be a successful Member of Parliament in the twenty-first century. That is the basis of the changes we are announcing today.

“As before, we will review the impact of these measures after a few months, and if further action is necessary, it will be taken. “No-one inside or outside the Conservative Party should have the slightest doubt about how seriously I take this issue. I will make good my leadership election pledge to bring about a substantial increase in the number of women Conservative MPs. The Party voted for it, and I will deliver it,” promised Mr Cameron.

However, Hazel Blears, chairman of the Labour Party, said the announcement of “yet another plan shows that David Cameron has still not changed the Conservative Party.

“First, we had the A-List. That failed so David Cameron introduced the B-List. Since then, more and more men have been selected by Conservative associations up and down the country.

“This step is Cameron's latest, but probably not last, admission that the Conservative Party is still failing women.

Ms Blears added: “In his speech to the Conservative Spring Forum, David Cameron said that the test of whether change in the Conservative Party was real and lasting lay in 'the candidates we select'. David Cameron has yet again failed to back up his warm words with action.”

Norman Lamb, MP for Norfolk North and chief of staff to Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ming Campbell, added: “This is yet another Cameron initiative of style over substance.

“All parties have an obligation to seek to increase the representation of women and ethnic minorities in Parliament. But if David Cameron is relying on the Tory grassroots to bring about this change, he is likely to be disappointed.

“From what we have seen of his proposals, he may beg Tory constituency associations to select more women, but he is not going to offer them any direct incentive to do so.”

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