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Last Updated: Wednesday, 6 October, 2004, 12:48 GMT 13:48 UK
Breakfast with the Tory ladies
By Ben Davies
BBC News Online political staff in Bournemouth

It was an offer too good to turn down. Me, a room full of ladies in a Bournemouth hotel. With my reputation? Are they completely mad?

Tory women in Bournemouth
The Tories say they want more women in Parliament
Well possibly - it was after all very early in the morning to be talking politics.

And, regrettably, it was all above board and quite respectable.

The ladies were would-be Conservative MPs gearing up for the general election and aiming to boost the number of Tory women in Parliament from the current level of 14.

For the time of day they seemed on ebullient form.

Not all had seats lined up, but those who had were full of enthusiasm for the forthcoming fight - and some will no doubt be formidable candidates.

Not least the woman who got selected after she told a local Tory association panel she had castrated a Pitbull Terrier.

Don't worry. She's a vet - she didn't do it for fun.

'Sea of grey suits'

Apparently there are 45 seats that have yet to choose candidates and wannabe MPs who have yet to be selected were encouraged to put in for as many as possible.

The party's women's spokesman Eleanor Laing did not mince her words - she wants more female Tory MPs than they currently have.

"Nobody is more keen to see more women on Conservative benches than we are," she said before warning people in the party not to "go around moaning" about the issue.

Tory women MPs might currently be few in number but those who were there made sure they were "everywhere".


She said the Tory benches might be "a sea of grey suits" but it was the "odd little coloured spot you notice".

So what's the secret to getting selected for a winnable Tory seat?

Basingstoke's future candidate, Maria Miller says it is important to have a passion for politics and to look the part.

Guildford hopeful Anne Milton meanwhile warned jokingly that you can become "obsessed" by the minutiae of getting elected.

Key support?

She is hoping to unseat Sue Doughty and says when she speaks of the Lib Dem's majority she doesn't say 'about 500' instead giving the precise figure of 538.

It is clear that everyone here knows that they have to get more women into the Commons not least because securing the support of female voters is key if the party is to regain power.

And as Ms Laing pointed out, women are more likely to vote than men.

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