ConservativeHome has reported the contents of an email sent to close on 1,000 members of the National Convention, apparently in error. It shows the breakdown of men and women on the 'A' List and general Candidates List. It shows that the proportion of women applying to become candidates has remained static at 27% and that more than 500 people are awaiting their Parliamentary Assessment Boards. In addition, it demonstrates that if you're a man you only have an 11% chance of being on the 'A' List whereas if you're a woman you have a 43% chance.
You can look at this from two viewpoints. Either you believe that it is very wrong that men are being disciminated against so overtly, or you believe that the figures justifies the creation of the 'A' List and prove that there is still a very long way to go. I find myself agreeing with both views.
I find it profoundly disappointing that little progress appears to have been made towards the goal of a candidates list of broad parity between men and women. It's only at that point that the 'A' List will become redundant and it seems as though we are quite a way from achieving it. It re-emphasises the need for the Party to get out there and hunt down women who might consider applying to be candidates. Women2Win will have a vital role to play here. The Party really cannot sit and wait for women to volunteer themselves. It should have a taskforce whose sole reason for existence would be to identify women to be approached. For all I know, this may already be happening but the results are not readily apparent.
One or two people have criticised ConservativeHome for publishing this information. Sam Coates, the Deputy Editor, defends the decision to publish...
It was sent to almost a thousand people so would undoubtedly have got out at some point or other. Better for it to come out through a Conservative-supporting website than most of the newspapers. It would have been odd if we didn't cover it, considering our extensive coverage of everything else A-list/candidates related. I believe that the make-up of future Conservative MPs is something Party members should be aware of, don't you? This info would in some people's eyes justify the A-list to some extent.
On balance I think they were right to publish. ConservativeHome is not an adjunct of CCHQ and must guard its independence. But it has consistently taken the editorial line (one I agree with) that the Party should be transparent about the 'A' List.
Some believe that the site strays too far away from the 'party line' on occasion and is becoming an increasingly prickly thorn in the side of the party leadership. I sometimes find the site's tone a little too strident and editorially slanted to a particular agenda, but so what? It would be a strange political blog or website (and a very boring one) that didn't have an agenda. ConservativeHome is there to reflect what activists are thinking and that will always provide a certain amount of discomfort for the leadership. It is to Francis Maude's great credit that he continues to embrace the site and hasn't imposed a Fatwa on it. He must surely have been sorely tempted from time to time.
You can read the ConservativeHome report HERE.