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Biased against women? Not us, say county Tories
TORY activists in Worcestershire insist there is “no bias” against women - and have warned David Cameron they would oppose deliberate attempts to get more into parliament.
The Prime Minister is on a collision course with party volunteers after expressing “frustration” at a lack of female prospective MPs.
In recent weeks more and more local branches have backed men to fight parliamentary contests in 2015, despite pleas from Mr Cameron to go the other way.
It includes Mid-Worcestershire, where Sir Peter Luff is stepping down in 2015 and Nigel Huddleston, an executive at Google, has been selected.
Mid-Worcestershire Conservative Association has hit out at Mr Cameron’s concerns, saying it would oppose any measures against “natural selection”.
The association used an open primary method of selection this time around, meaning four final shortlisted candidates had to take part it a public Q&A.
Around the country, in 53 seats the Tories harbour realistic hopes of capturing at the General Election, 36 associations have selected men and 17 women.
According to reports Mr Cameron has sent out “messages” about modernising the “look of the party” and accepting more women.
Laurie Evans, Mid-Worcestershire Conservative Association’s president, said: “Quite a number of candidates have now been selected in open primaries - it shows the Conservatives are prepared to be quite open about our candidates.
“Of course they need to be members of the party and be Conservative-minded, but the best person gets it.
“We support a natural process of selection and there is no bias in our constituency about whether it’s male or female.”
During the branch’s open contest a final shortlist of four was drawn up, which included three men and just one woman, Gloucestershire-based barrister Victoria Atkins.
Of Worcestershire’s six MPs two are female - West Worcestershire’s Harriett Baldwin and Karen Lumley, who represents Redditch.
Mrs Baldwin, who was elected in 2010 after Sir Michael Spicer stepped down, said she would not support all-women shortlists.
“Here in Worcestershire two of the six MPs are women which is better than the 23 per cent at Westminster as a whole,” she said.
“Of course there are too few women in parliament across all parties.
“In the history of this country only 369 women have ever been elected to parliament, fewer than the number of male MPs in parliament today, so I do work hard to encourage more women to get involved in politics at all levels.
“However, I oppose all women - and all men - shortlists for seats as I don’t think women MPs want to be seen to be benefiting from positive discrimination.”
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