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Last Updated: Friday, 14 July 2006, 13:11 GMT 14:11 UK
Tories 'failing to recruit women'
Damien Collins, candidate for Folkestone and Hythe
Damien Collins is the latest A-lister to be chosen
David Cameron's attempts to recruit more women MPs in winnable seats are failing, it is being claimed.

The criticisms come after advertising executive Damian Collins was chosen to succeed ex-Tory leader Michael Howard as candidate in Folkestone and Hyde.

Men have been chosen in eight of the 10 seats to have selected new candidates under the new system.

Labour chairman Hazel Blears said this showed Mr Cameron's efforts to change the party were failing.

Seven of the Tory candidates chosen so far - including Mr Collins - are on the A-list of elite hopefuls drawn up by Conservative headquarters.

The list contains more women than men - but so far local Tory associations, who have the final say, have selected more men than women.

'Question mark'

In Folkestone and Hythe, Mr Collins saw off the challenge of two female contenders at a selection meeting attended by nearly 200 party members on Thursday night.

He stood for the Northampton North seat at the 2005 general election and is managing director of Influence, an advertising company which is part of the M&C Saatchi group.

Tim Montgomerie, who was chief aide to former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith, said Mr Collins was a "special candidate" but the Tories faced a wider problem.

"The good thing for the A-list is that the safer seats are largely choosing from the A-list...," said Mr Montgomerie, editor of the Conservative Home website.

"Where there is still a big question mark is about A-list women.

"Conservative associations think if you are a man on the A-list you really are very good but if you are a woman on the A-list you may be there to make up the numbers."

'Plum seats'

Mr Montgomerie, who edits the Conservativehome website, said a pattern seemed to be emerging where two women and one man were on the final shortlist - and the man was then selected.

But he said the next few days would be crucial for the A-list as Tory candidates were being chosen in a string of "plum" seats.

On Saturday, Tories in West Worcestershire will choose a successor to sitting MP Sir Michael Spicer, the chairman of the 1922 committee of Conservative backbenchers.

The Tory target seats of Hove, Staffordshire Moorlands and Broxtowe will follow early next week.

Cameron 'failure'

Ms Blears, for Labour, said it was another example of Mr Cameron failing to put his warm words into action.

"In his speech to the Conservative Spring Forum, David Cameron said that the test of whether change in the Conservative Party was real and lasting lay in 'the candidates we select'.

"But, since then, more and more men are being selected by Conservative associations up and down the country.

"The news that Michael Howard will be replaced by yet another white man further proves that David Cameron's A-list just isn't working."

The Conservative Party said nobody was available to comment on why more women were not being selected.

Michael Howard stands down as MP
17 Mar 06 |  UK Politics
Profile: Michael Howard
05 Apr 05 |  The Basics

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