The boy Bernard done well

DON'T be surprised if you detect a wry smile on the face of Essex North MP Bernard Jenkin, who was removed by Tory leader David Cameron from his post as party vice-chairman in charge of candidates' selection.

By Graham Dines

DON'T be surprised if you detect a wry smile on the face of Essex North MP Bernard Jenkin, who was removed by Tory leader David Cameron from his post as party vice-chairman in charge of candidates' selection.

Mr Jenkin was responsible for overseeing the so-called gold list, those special ones whom the party wants for winnable seats at the next General Election. The message from on high was: make sure there are plenty of women, gays and minority ethnics selected to fight priority seats.

Mr Jenkin duly obliged, and during his tenure the number of professional middle class white married men who were chosen dropped dramatically.


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But not any more. The Tories have returned to their old ways since John Maples replaced Mr Jenkin - the last 13 selection contests have all been won by men. While Mr Jenkin is far too loyal to point this out in public, Labour Party chairman Hazel Blears has no such inhibitions.

Pint sized Hazel, a candidate for her party's deputy leadership once John Prescott walks into the sunset, says gleefully: “David Cameron, for all his warm words, has failed to show any commitment to women's representation. His posturing and platitudes to women mean nothing without action to stop the overwhelming selection of male candidates. His commitment to genuine change for women in his party needs to be questioned.”

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The problem for Mr Cameron is that in a speech last year, he said: “We want to make sexual inequality history. That needs a serious commitment. It needs clear policies. And it needs leadership.” Embarrassingly, he was speaking at an event organised by the Equal Opportunities Commission!

Looking through the list of 13 Tory candidates selected this year offers no insight to either their sexual orientation or ethnicity. They are all men, I do know that one of them is gay and I suspect most of them are white.

Mr Cameron has got to learn that when he makes expansive promises, he has to fulfil them or be mocked for insincerity.

While it's true the equality reputation of the East of England's Conservative went through the roof when Witham selected Pritti Patel as their candidate at the beginning of December, what will Colchester, Ipswich, and Waveney do? They're all in the process of choosing candidates - how refreshing it would be if at least one of these local Conservative associations came good and voted for a woman.

MR Cameron suffered his first by-election setback in Essex since becoming leader when the Liberal Democrats gained from the Conservatives in a close-fought contest at Brentwood. Lib Dem candidate David Kendall triumphed in Pilgrims Hatch ward, although the swing from the Tories was just 0.3%.

Long suffering council taxpayers may wonder why they had to pay for a by-election just two months before the annual borough elections. It was because the sitting councillor was disqualified for not attending any meetings for six months and under election laws, a vacancy has to be declared and a casual election held at the earliest date.

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