Tories play safe with sex

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The Independent Online
The Conservative Party is choosing "safe" married men as candidates to fight the next election and rejecting single men, women and non-whites.

A survey by the Independent found that of the 26 candidates so far selected for Tory seats, all are white men and all but three are married.

Single men on the Tory candidates' list claim they are being weeded out by local associations keen to avoid suggestions of homosexuality or philandering. Three disappointed male hopefuls have complained privately to the Independent that their marital status was a significant factor in their failure to be selected. One said he had no trouble getting on to shortlists before previous elections, but was not even being invited to interviews now.

The selection of Tim Collins - one of only two single men chosen to fight Tory seats - has prompted resentment rather than satisfaction. He is assumed to have landed Westmorland and Lonsdale, an ultra-safe Tory seat vacated by the retiring former chief whip, Michael Jopling, as a result of John Major's gratitude for energetic and loyal "spinning" of the Prime Minister's line while he was director of communications at Tory Central Office.

The only other unmarried candidate - apart from Graham Postles, a divorce, who will fight Dudley West, which he contested in last year's by-election - is William Rogers, who replaces the retiring MP, David Harris, in St Ives, Cornwall. With the loss of Mr Harris's personal vote, he will have to work hard to defend a 1,645 majority over the Liberal Democrats in their choicest South-Western target seat.

The Conservative agent in St Ives said of Mr Rogers: "He has spent so much time dealing with the Conservative Party he hasn't had time to get married."

Dame Angela Rumbold, the Conservative vice-chairman in charge of candidates, said: "Nobody has ever said to single men you can't be a candidate - that is simply not the case. Maybe there are a few places where they think they get two for the price of on e with a married man, someone who can do the donkey work, but I think that's frightfully old-fashioned."

More significant in the long term, however, may be the failure of the Tories so far to select a single woman with a prospect of being elected. Controversy over Labour's women's quota policy, under which 35 local parties have already agreed to choosewome n in safe or "winnable" seats, has distracted attention from mounting alarm in Tory Central Office.

The Independent has checked the CVs of all 26 Conservative candidates chosen for Tory seats without a sitting Tory MP - where the MP is retiring, where boundary changes have created a new, notionally Tory, constituency or where the Tories have lost a by-election. So far only seven women in total have been selected as Tory candidates, but all in seats currently held by Labour or the Liberal Democrats, and which are unlikely to return Tory MPs. Only two ethnic minority candidates have been chosen.

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