November 10, 2006

Ali M IndaHouse? Watlington reports on the Conservative Party's latest problems with candidate selection

Posted by Watlington

The strange case of Ali Miraj has touched a raw nerve among Conservative activists and would-be Parliamentarians. In a passionate paean in his own blog, and picked up by the national media - Mr Miraj, a former Conservative Parliamentary Candidate in Watford and Aberavon, bemoaned his difficulties in getting selected for a safe seat. Mr Miraj suggested that the now ex-Chairman of Candidates, Bernard Jenkin MP had told him that the Essex Seat of Witham was most likely to choose a middle class white male as opposed to a candidate from an ethnic minority. Michael Howard allegedly told Mr Miraj something similar when he applied for the Folkestone selection.

Mr Miraj's view is that as someone who has fought two marginal constituencies, he is entitled to have a fair crack at getting a safe seat. Nothing wrong with this.

But his claim to a safe seat because he has "experience" has opened a can of worms.

It is a reminder of the deficiencies of the A-list, which has had real problems in getting substantial numbers of ethnic-minority candidates selected in target seats. It is a cause of grievance to non-ethnic minority male A-listers who feel that just because Mr Miraj comes from an ethnic-minority, why should he have any special advantages? It has upset those Parliamentary Candidates (again usually male and over 40), many who have relevant experience and have given years of service to the party, who feel that they should also have a right to apply for the plum seats.

The fall out from Mr Miraj's blog has been high. Mr Jenkin has been removed as Chairman of Candidates. An uber-moderniser - John Maples MP - has been appointed to the post. Mr Maples was previously tasked with organising "mentor" MPs for Candidates in target seats.

Mr Maples' appointment suggests that there could be even more centralisation in selecting candidates. He is also likely to make strenuous efforts to recruit candidates from the North of England and make the A list less "South East" and more reflective of Britain as a whole.

Whilst the party regards the women's candidate lobby group Women2Win as a good thing, there is a view that Mr Jenkin's removal slightly clips the wings of Anne Jenkin (described by some as the party's "doyenne"), fundraiser and party organiser extraordinaire. Mrs Jenkin's relations with Theresa May (Chairman of Women2Win) are not as good as they might be.

How all this affects Mr Miraj, remains to be seen. He may have a problem getting selected having rocked the boat - he certainly will have made a few enemies this week - or he may have set off a tidal wave of Candidate selection by imposition from Conservative HQ.

Whatever happens, Mr Miraj is a talented and decent Candidate and well liked by many in the Party. It would be unfair if his frustration at what most agree is a flawed selection process should hinder his attempts to be a Parliamentarian.

One thing is for sure, Mr Maples needs to reassure a lot of Conservatives who are unhappy about the current selection procedures. From Cameroons to Cornerstone, there are very few who believe that the Candidate selection could not be reformed for the better.

To read more by Watlington, see Watlington.

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Interesting analysis. I hope Maples succeeds in bringing through some Northern candidates. If we have to have the A list as a device to encourage diversity, it needs to succeed in all dimensions (e.g have diversity in terms of class and geography) as well as ethnically and in terms of gender.

Posted by: Praguetory at November 11, 2006 09:39 AM
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