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Last Updated: Wednesday, 31 May 2006, 19:52 GMT 20:52 UK
Tories vow to learn over A-list
Adam Rickitt
Former soap star Adam Rickitt is among the Tory hopefuls
The Conservatives' head of candidates has admitted lessons need to be learned from the first A-list of would-be MPs.

Bernard Jenkin was speaking as some local Tory associations complained that A-listed candidates were not applying to stand in their seats.

Tory activists in winnable seats are being urged to choose candidates from the A-list.

Mr Jenkin said he could not force local parties who to choose - but A-list candidates should apply for seats.

The right-wing Tory Cornerstone Group has warned that the A-list idea has come from people spending "too much time with the pseuds and posers of London's chichi set".

And MP David Burrowes criticised the list for putting celebrities and "beautiful people" ahead of local campaigners.

'Not consulted'

Tim Montgomerie, who was aide to former leader Iain Duncan Smith and is now editor of the Conservative Home website, said some local associations were unhappy.

Only one or two A-list candidates had applied to stand in seats like Telford and Oxford West and Abingdon, he said.

But 45 had applied for former leader Michael Howard's Folkestone and Hythe constituency.

John Dixon, a senior member of the Telford Conservative Association, said: "We have not been consulted at all, just given this list to choose from and we have had just one application."

The constituency's previous "excellent" candidate had not even made it onto the A-list, he said.

'You must apply'

Mr Jenkin said the first part of the A-list, which contains 100 names, was "always going to be a trial run".

"I cannot force any constituency to start selecting from a small list if they are not happy with that.

"I think we have learned some lessons from the process this summer and will improve the process this autumn."

Candidates on the list were expected to apply for seats and could be removed if they did not, he warned.

Mr Jenkin said he wanted to win Tory "hearts and minds" but nobody disputed it was unacceptable that 91% of Tory MPs were male and only two were from ethnic minorities.

He said the problem had to be tackled without disrupting the party's structure, including the autonomy of local associations.

And he said he resented the implication that somehow the women on the list were not as good as the men.

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