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Last Updated: Thursday, 23 August 2007, 15:39 GMT 16:39 UK
Tories 'welcome all backgrounds'
Baroness Warsi
Sayeeda Warsi says she is a 'proud person'
The Conservatives have said they welcome election candidates from all backgrounds, after comments by a Muslim woman on the party's selection process.

Sayeeda Warsi said party officials in Dewsbury, West Yorkshire, had persuaded not to stand because voters were "not ready for two ethnic candidates".

But a Tory spokesman said there were no ethnic "no-go" areas for the party.

Ms Warsi stood unsuccessfully for the Tories in 2005 and, after deciding against another bid, was made a peer.

Mr Cameron has made recruiting more female and ethnic minority candidates to winnable seats central to his efforts to modernise the Conservative Party.

But in an interview with The Yorkshire Post, Ms Warsi describes how an interview with local Conservative officials in Dewsbury made her reconsider her plans to stand again.

'Long, hard look'

She said: "The chairman said you're the best candidate we've ever had, you would have made a fantastic MP for this town but at the moment, maybe because of the way that this community is, it still needs a bit of time on both sides.

"Maybe the white community is not ready for two ethnic candidates again and also the Muslim community, which really needs to take a long, hard look at itself."

She said: "I'm still going to be a woman at the next election. I wasn't going to change. I was still going to be brown at the next election."

I was too black for half of the community and too white for the other half
Baroness Warsi

But a Conservative Party spokesman said: "We have nine black and minority ethnic candidates selected in winnable seats. "Bradford West and Gillingham and Rainham have Muslim candidates.

"There are no 'no-go' areas for our party and those seeking to represent it - whatever their religious or ethnic background."

'Proud person'

Tory leader David Cameron promoted Ms Warsi to the role of shadow community cohesion minister, making her the first Muslim woman to sit on the front bench of a political party in the UK.

She is expected to be given a peerage soon, allowing her to sit on the Conservative benches in the House of Lords.

Ms Warsi dismissed allegations that she was given her current frontbench role in a display of "tokenism" by Tory leader David Cameron, adding: "I'm quite a proud person.

"If someone ever gave me a job because I felt it made them look good, as some commentators have tried to put to David, I'd never do that."

She described the prejudice she faced from some Tory voters as she campaigned in Dewsbury in 2005.

'Blunt'

"We had two quite extreme things working here. We had the BNP with the largest support in the country.

"I had people who said they had voted Tory in the past slam the door in my face and told me to, 'F-off Paki, I ain't voting for you'. That was how blunt it was.

"On the other hand, you had the community which I thought I knew well, in Savile Town and Ravensthorpe, the Muslim community, quite an orthodox community, who just had a real issue with a woman standing.

"Suddenly people who you thought would be there to support you, it stuck in their throat.

"I always say that in the 2005 election, I was too black for half of the community and too white for the other half."


SEE ALSO
Cameron reshuffles shadow team
03 Jul 07 |  UK Politics
Profile: Sayeeda Warsi
02 Jul 07 |  UK Politics

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