Page last updated at 15:45 GMT, Sunday, 24 May 2009 16:45 UK

Cameron reopens Tory hopeful list

David Cameron: "If you share our values, come and be a Conservative candidate"

David Cameron is reopening the list of candidates so anyone can apply to stand even if they have not had anything to do with the Conservative Party before.

The Tory leader told the BBC he wanted people who "believe in public service".

He also backed more "open primaries" where everyone in a constituency can vote at public meetings to select the prospective Conservative MP.

His move came as the numbers of Tory MPs deciding to step down after expenses revelations reached five.

Mr Cameron told the Andrew Marr Show: "What I'm going to do today, particularly as there are a number of MPs retiring from Parliament, is to reopen the Conservative candidate list to anybody who wants to apply.

"They may not have had anything to do with the party before. But I'm saying, if you believe in public service, if you share our values, if you want to help us clean up politics, come and be a Conservative candidate. We want to open up the talent that is available."

Team game

Examples he gave of the types of people they wanted to persuade to stand were successful head teachers and small business owners.

"Right now I expect many people are saying 'I'm not going anywhere near this nest of vipers'.

These issues are being drowned out but we will have to come back to them

Alistair Darling

"We've got to work hard at it because our politics really matters and this is an opportunity to do that."

Asked if such candidates would have to follow party orders when elected Mr Cameron said he acknowledged people felt angry that the people they elect are then told how to vote in Parliament by party whips rather than voting according to their conscience.

But he said: "Politics is a team game. We have still got to play as a team, you have got to sign up to the package."

Mr Cameron said people wanted to have more power over their politicians and Parliament and he said the best way of doing that would be by Prime Minister Gordon Brown calling an election for July or September this year.

Wider range

The Conservative leader also stressed that the party's MPs were already set for "massive changes" if they won the next election.

"You know I've only got 190 odd MPs... instead of 17 women MPs, we'll have close to 60; instead of just 2 candidates from black and Asian British backgrounds, we'll have more like 10; instead of people predominantly, like me, from the South of England, we'll have a far wider range of people from different backgrounds, different parts of the country.

"And that won't just be good for the Conservative Party. I think it'll be very good for parliament."

Mr Cameron also said there needed to be changes made to Parliament, which he said was too much of a "poodle" at the moment.

His proposals included greater independence for select committees and allowing MPs to vote free of party orders on non-manifesto issues. He also proposed a cut in the number of MPs from 659 to 600 or so.

Mr Cameron's interview came as Andrew MacKay became the latest of his MPs to announce his intention to step down at the next election - a decision taken after the two men spoke on Saturday.

Dominant issue

The Tory leader however gave qualified support to Julie Kirkbride, Mr MacKay's wife and fellow Tory MP, saying her case was "different" as pressure mounted on her over their second home claims.

In other developments the Sunday Telegraph focused on the cases of MPs who were able to claim more expenses by employing members of their family.

When MPs knowingly exploited the expenses system for profit, they knew they were doing that at the time

Nick Clegg
Lib Dem leader

Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg called, on the BBC's Politics Show for people to have the power to gather a petition to force a by-election in cases where MPs have broken rules.

And Chancellor Alistair Darling told the same programme politicians were paying a "very, very heavy price" for "looking the other way" on expenses reform.

But he rejected Mr Cameron's call for an election to be held immediately, saying that one would be held in the next year - and predicted that the next election would "not just turn on issues of trust".

He said: "One of the biggest issues we face is the economy. The next government will need a mandate to make some quite difficult decisions. These issues are being drowned out but we will have to come back to them.

"The economy will be the big dominant issue for the whole of the next parliament. People will ask which party has the vision, which party has the policy to help our economy now."

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