I agreed with much of what David Cameron had to say about attracting a more diverse range of Conservative candidates. Much progress has been made in this direction, not just over the last three years, but over the last ten. The selection methods which were instituted under Iain Duncan Smith (while David Davis and Theresa May chaired the party) were crucial precursors to what has happened following David Cameron's election as party leader.
I was uncomfortable about aspects of the A List but I recognised that something needed to be done. It was successful in pushing women candidates and more women were selected. However, it did little to attract more women to come forward to apply to be on the approved list. Even now, I am told that only 30% of the approved list are female. It is this issue which needs addressing, not just the proportion who end up being selected. The fact is that there are 30% women on the list, and 30% selected candidates, I believe.
It was thought that Open Primaries would also enable more women to be chosen. That hasn't quite turned out to be the case. Of the last seven, only one (Totnes) has chosen a woman.
David Cameron has today raised the possibility of imposing all women shortlists on some selections which will take place after Christmas. He has no doubt said this knowing full well the outrage it will cause among party activists and male candidates on the approved list. But let's be open about it. This announcement will be seen as a sign of failure, not one of strength.
As a Conservative I believe in equality of opportunity. I believe in a meritocracy. I can just about stomach a final shortlist having to consist of three men and three women, but for me it is thus far and no further. Imposing all female shortlists is a fundamentally unconservative thing to do and one has to ask where it will lead. All black shortlists? All gay shortlists? All disabled shortlists? All christian shortlists? All muslim shortlists?
Not in my name.
I look forward to hearing the views of Women2Win. Will they think this is manna from heaven, or will they think like Conservatives?
So, what to do about it? Apart from deploying force of argument there is little than anyone can do. Futile gestures would be just that. Futile. I'd like to think female Conservative candidates would feel just as strongly on this issue as male ones, but to pretend that anyone can do anything to change David Cameron's mind would be to grandstand. And we have had enough of that in the past.
Even by writing this post, I suppose I will be accused of indulging in a bit of boat rocking. But you'd expect me to be honest in my views, and I have been.