|David Cameron swings by the Young Leaders Academy last Wednesday.
The newly-elected Conservative leader today announced plans for an 'A' list of would-be parliamentary candidates in a bid to change the face of his party.
Mr Cameron's self-styled “positive action” measures will include more women and ethnic minorites.
Senior black Tories warned that the action must be matched with an education programme to challenge racial attitudes of party members.
Blink can reveal that an 'A' list of around 140 names will include approximately 20 Black and Asian hopefuls – 15% of the total.
Campaigners fear Tory grassroots may still overlook non-white candidates. They want Mr Cameron to back up his words with further action if local party associations continue to reject top quality ethnic minorities.
|It's not the perfect solution.
It's a long-term strategy. Cameron's making a bold attempt to solve the problem.
In a speech in Leeds today, Mr Cameron set out a plan which he said guaranteed more women and ethnic minorities getting selected in winnable seats.
He said a priority list of candidates would be “representative of
The General Election in May saw the Tories gain their first two ethnic minority MPs – Adam Afrayie and Shailesh Vara.
Judith Edwards, former special adviser to Iain Duncan-Smith,
said: “I don't think there's going to be a huge amount of people from BME groups but it will be significant.
“He's saying he wants to make sure we get a broader range of candidates. What he's proposing does actually help to focus the mind in terms of the issues.
“It puts it firmly on the party agenda and does give a leg-up but it's not the perfect solution. I don't think it's within his powers to do it
overnight. It's a long-term strategy. What he's doing is making a bold attempt to solve the problem within a democratic framework.
| Have Your Say
She said the party needed a two-pronged approach. “What's needed is education of the existing membership. For the party to win elections it's got to have a diverse range of candidates.
“The members would not have that grasp so there needs to be some sort of educational policies. You need to get young people in.
“Young people are very comfortable around women. They have no problems with BME candidates. He needs to look at how be
broadens out the membership, otherwise these issues
Former parliamentary candidate Andrew Scantlebury welcomed Mr Cameron's plans and pledged his support. He said: “Cameron has done the best thing possible for any new incumbent. He's got my 100 per cent backing.”
|Our actions speak louder than their words. We've still got the largest number of ethnic minorities in Parliament.
|A Labour Party spokesperson
Mr Cameron promised a freeze on all candidates selection, and a progress check review after three months of selections, with further action if necessary.
He appealed to everyone from a BME background to change Britain for the better, and for more ethnic minorities to apply to stand for the Tories.
He said: “I'm today appealing to every woman in Britain, and everyone from a BME background, who shares my passion to change Britain for the better, who shares our values, sitting in this room or watching at home, to apply to stand for Parliament in the Conservative cause.
“We are looking for you, the brightest and the best, to join our mission, to make your contribution, and to help make our country a better place to live. I promise that we will welcome you, look after you and give you all the support you need.”
He announced a headhunting and mentoring programme to encourage the best and brightest into the party. “Some say there's no need for positive action to redress the imbalance that currently exists, where nine out of ten Conservative members of Parliament are white men like me.”
He said the notion that the number of ethnic minority MPs would “inevitably rise” and there was “no need to take steps to accelerate the process” to was misguided. Action was needed.
He pledged: “Until we're represented by men and women in the country, regardless of race or creed, we won't be half the party we could be.”
Cameron's announcements has prompted questions over
whether the Tories will outflank Labour on BME candidates but a Labour spokesman said: “Our actions speak louder than their words.
“We've still got the largest number of ethnic minorities in Parliament. Until recently the Tories didn't have any. The Tories
had over 30 ethnic minority candidates in the election
but only three were elected.”
Bernard Jenkin MP, who will head the candidate selection committee, told Blink: “There's a big change taking place in the Conservative Party shown by the election of David Cameron.
“Three election defeats have concentrated our minds to how we must get back in touch with real society. A fair share of ethnic
minority representation is vital to strenghtening our electoral appeal.
“In order to achieve this it's about being aware how prejudice has affected the opportunities for BME communities. We hope to correct this. Already more people are coming forward.
“We're 90 per cent male and 99 per cent white. This is why the mentoring is so important. I had a meeting with a group of ethnic minority candidates this morning.
“They need to learn as much as we need to learn. The best candidates don't come off the shelf. There will be candidate training across the board.”