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EDITIONS
Sunday, 2 June, 2002, 16:28 GMT 17:28 UK
All-women shortlists could 'save' Tories
Labour women MPs with Tony Blair in 1997
Shortlists made record numbers of women Labour MPs
Conservatives must positively discriminate for women, ethnic minority and gay candidates to be spared political 'oblivion', a prominent Tory has warned.

Former shadow chancellor Francis Maude said the party must shed its "straight, white, middle-class male" image.

Without quotas for women, ethnic minorities or gay candidates he said the Tories would face ruin at the next general election.

Francis Maude, former shadow chancellor
Maude: Tories must change image
But Tory vice-chairman Shailesh Vara insisted the party would not use "positive discrimination" in the selection of candidates for target seats.

The selection process is just getting under way for the national polls.

All aspiring MPs will be judged on merit and there are no quotas for the number of black or female candidates, he insisted.

Mr Maude told BBC One's On the Record programme his party should not rule out all-women shortlists.

"Whether it's all-women shortlists or quotas or any kind of positive discrimination... it's all objectionable in principle," he said.

'Party must change'

"But what is more objectionable in principle is us being a party that is - looks - narrow and is not selecting a bench of candidates that is genuinely representative of the country.

"I think all of us find the idea of active intervention of this kind quite difficult."

He warned that "the penalty for not doing this is oblivion".

"We have to not just talk about change, but make change actually happen and that does mean making the case boldly, strongly, confidently for the kind of party we want to be."

Shailesh Vara, Tory vice-chairman
Vara: All candidates chosen on merit
He suggested Conservative Central Office should step in to ensure the party included adequate numbers of females, people of ethnic minorities and gay candidates if local associations failed to select them.

But Mr Vara ruled out active discrimination.

Only "guidance" would be supplied to local associations seeking advice on selecting appropriate candidates.

"Local autonomy is still a very strong feature of the Conservative Party," he told the BBC programme.

"We very much hope that women candidates will be selected.

"But let me emphasise these women candidates are going to be selected on merit and we're not going to go down the line of having positive discrimination or all-women lists or anything of that ilk."

See also:

20 Jun 01 | UK Politics
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