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Last Updated: Sunday, 11 December 2005, 11:24 GMT
Tory policy
On Sunday 11 December 2005 Andrew Marr interviewed Theresa May MP

Please note "BBC Sunday AM" must be credited if any part of this transcript is used.

Theresa May
Theresa May MP

ANDREW MARR: Now, to the Tories. Feeling good about themselves for the first time in ages.

After the last General Election, however, nine out of ten Conservative MPs were men.

Now the new Party leader David Cameron has doubled the number of women in his Shadow Cabinet from two to four, leaving them still lagging slightly behind the number of men in that body who are called David.

Therese May, the new Shadow Leader of the Commons, joins me now. Theresa welcome. THERESA MAY: Thank you. ANDREW MARR: We read in the papers this morning that David Cameron is going to go a little further than we thought in ensuring that more women are candidates and therefore probably elected as Tory MPs at the next election.

THERESA MAY: Absolutely right, yes. I mean David made it clear during his leadership election that one of the things he wanted to do was to change the party and change the look of the party, so that we do look more like modern Britain and represent modern Britain.

And I think there is a mood for change in the party and he is going to go further than has been done before. And he'll be bringing in an A-list of the brightest and best candidates from which our target seats will choose. And about half of the people on that A-list will be women.

ANDREW MARR: And will that A-list then translate into actual candidates, or will it be open to Conservative associations all round the country to say, "very interesting A-list, we'll have the chap!"

THERESA MAY: (laughing) no, well there will be chaps on the A-list of course. There'll be both men and women on that A-list. But it will be balanced between men and women so that we will be seeing, out of those target seats, a significant number of women being selected and therefore coming into the House of Commons at the next election.

ANDREW MARR: Because this is, this is not an all-women shortlist as Labour tried out in the past. And I suppose what some people would say that if it is still completely open to the association to choose whoever they want, you may get lots of women on that A-list, but they may not become candidates.

THERESA MAY: Well, you will get, there is an A-list which will be of a limited number of people and obviously there's a limited number of target seats and Tory-held seats that will be selecting for the next election.

So associations will be expected to select from that A-list, and I can't see any association saying, well actually we don't want the brightest and the best.

Because that's what it will be, so they will get a choice but it will be balanced between men and women. And the numbers will be such that we will be seeing around half of those seats electing women.

ANDREW MARR: I still don't quite follow, because what you've, you give the constituencies the list and then it's up to the associations to choose whoever they want. And in the past, offered the choice of very good women they've said no.

THERESA MAY: Well that is absolutely right. But what they will be seeing now is a much more balanced list. Because often in the past they've actually seen lists which have had a predominance of men on it.

What the target seats will be seeing is this A-list of brightest and best candidates. You see, seats want two things it seems to me - they want a choice of candidates which they will have. But they also want to know that the candidates are there on merit. And that A-list will give them precisely this.

There will be a choice but the candidates will be there on merit. We're talking about probably an A-list of maybe 100-140 people. If we are going to get a working majority at the next election we need to win 140 seats.

ANDREW MARR: And what do you say to people like Ann Widdecombe who believe that this is giving female candidates a leg up and therefore somehow producing a second-class MP at the end of it?

THERESA MAY: Well I'm afraid I don't agree with Ann on this being about second-class MPs.

ANDREW MARR: Well blow me down.

THERESA MAY: (laughing) By definition - I mean this is going to be a list which is based on merit. It's the brightest and best of our candidates.

And I think it's right that the party should say to our target seats - the seats we need to win if we're going to get into government - that we're going to give you the selection from the very best on our list. So there was no question that anybody on that list will be there as a second-class Member of Parliament, or second-class candidate. They will all be absolutely the best.

ANDREW MARR: Now you're the new Shadow Leader of the House of Commons. It struck me, listening to David Cameron on Prime Ministers Questions when he said "yes the Conservatives would be voting with the government on the education reforms" that we may be into a new shape of politics in that body where the people who would really lose out would be the Labour left, the rebels.

THERESA MAY: Well indeed there is a new politics around. And I think this is something again that David was very clear on throughout his whole leadership election campaign, that as a party we shouldn't simply be indulging in party political point-scoring for the sake of it.

But if we do agree with the Labour Party, with the government, then we should say so and be prepared to put into, back into place in terms of supporting them.

And I think that's absolutely right. But it does mean there is a new shape of politics inside the House of Commons, and there will be those, and particularly as you say, on the Labour left, who will find that difficult to adjust to.

ANDREW MARR: And that includes climate change and the environment. Do you think the Conservatives will be alongside the government when it comes to some tough choices that we as a country are going to have to make about, you know, car use and planes and all the rest of it?

THERESA MAY: Well we've been consistently recently saying that we think there should be a much more consensual approach on this issue of climate change, given that it is so significant an issue for all of us.

And indeed, Oliver Letwin when he was the party's Environment spokesman, actually has been working with the Liberal Democrats on this issue.


THERESA MAY: So we think this is such a big issue that we do need to have a much more consensual approach and agreement on it.

And yes there will be some tough choices ahead, and we've made some suggestions to government as to some other things we think they could be doing to improve the situation on energy use. So we will, you know, we've all got to make the decisions necessary.

ANDREW MARR: Fascinating stuff, we'll watch with great interest how it unfolds. Theresa May, thank you very much indeed.


NB: this transcript was typed from a recording and not copied from an original script.

Because of the possibility of mis-hearing and the difficulty, in some cases, of identifying individual speakers, the BBC cannot vouch for its accuracy

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