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Last Updated: Thursday, 16 June, 2005, 14:51 GMT 15:51 UK
'Mummy issues' key says Tory May
Theresa May
Theresa May has not said if she will stand for the Tory leadership
Tories should focus more on "mummy issues" such as public services and welfare, says potential party leadership candidate Theresa May.

In a speech that will be seen as setting out her stall to succeed Michael Howard, Mrs May also backs positive discrimination for women.

She wants an "A-list" of 100 top Tory candidates, half of them female, to fight key target seats.

Mrs May also argues Labour is better at speaking the language of women voters.

"Increasingly in recent years the big political debates of the day have shifted from what the Americans sometimes call 'daddy issues', like economy and defence, to what they call 'mummy issues' - things like public services and welfare," she said.

Media presence

In her speech to the Adelaide Group of senior businesswomen she argued female candidates are needed for a less macho form of politics and may help more woo more women voters.

"We need more women candidates, more women MPs, and more senior female faces on television, on the radio and in the newspapers," she says.

Local Tory associations still need to be involved in choosing candidates, she stressed, but their power may need to be compromised so the party can put forward the best alternative to Labour, she argued.

"I believe the Conservative Party needs an A-List - a list of the top say 100 candidates it has identified as best able to fight and win the top 100 most winnable seats," she added.

"These would be the 100 people we would like to see more than anyone else in the House of Commons."

'Not patronising'

Mrs May said there must be a clear commitment to diversity - on race, sexuality, background, geography and age - in the "A-list".

"And, specifically, 50 of them should be men and 50 should be women."

The Maidenhead MP admitted some people do not like gender-based targets - the Tories have opposed Labour's all-women shortlists.

But she added: "I think there is nothing patronising about making the professional judgment that we will win more seats, attract more support, take better decisions, and, ultimately, form a better government, if we have a more even split of male and female faces running our party."

Mrs May's speech came after MPs said they alone should choose the next Tory leader.

Confidence call?

The current system, used to elect only Iain Duncan Smith, allows grassroots members to vote on the two candidates most popular among MPs.

The plan backed in a vote of the backbench 1922 Committee on Wednesday would mean MPs only having to consult party members before having the final say themselves.

Michael Howard
Mr Howard will bid farewell as leader later this year

They rejected a proposal backed by the party leadership where local branch chiefs would vote to show their preferences before the final election by MPs.

Some Tory MPs are frustrated the leadership election will not take place until after the party's autumn conference.

There are rumours that lists of names being collected to force a confidence vote which would speed up the departure of current leader Michael Howard.

Mrs May criticised her colleagues for not wanting to include the wider Tory membership in the leadership ballot.

She said: "The leader is not just the leader of the MPs in Westminster, the leader is the leader of the whole party, so I think other people should have a say as well as MPs."


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