Cameron's gAy list

Tories seek promising candidates. Previous experience not essential. Must be homosexual
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Indy Politics

But a "gAy list" of homosexuals whom the Conservative leadership is keen to see in Parliament is also being drawn up for their most winnable seats.

Last week, a number of openly gay figures within the Tory party received letters asking them to apply to join an elite list of "priority" candidates who would have "a much higher change of being selected for a winnable seat, and therefore, of becoming an MP after the next election".

The letter urged them not to "hold back just because you feel that you lack political experience," adding: "We are looking for diversity, talent and potential."

Among the openly gay politicians invited to apply for preferential treatment in the selection of candidates ahead of the next election are Nick Boles, the director of the think tank Policy Exchange who failed to gain Hove for the Tories at the last election.

"There doesn't need to be much intervention to ensure there is a good selection of openly gay people in winnable seats. I have always been openly gay. I hope to get on the list and to get a seat," Mr Boles said.

Margot James, the millionaire businesswoman who fought the safe Labour seat of Holborn and St Pancras, has also been asked put her name forward for the list of candidates for winnable target seats.

Iain Dale, the former chief of staff to David Davis, received a letter last week asking him if he would "like to be considered as a priority candidate".

"I am going to apply to be on the A-list. But everyone has to be on it on merit. We don't want any kind of tokenism ... I want to be selected because who I am, and what I can do," Mr Dale said.

The Tories are also keen to promote gay candidates who have not stood in elections before. They include Dan Ritterband, 31, who used to work in Michael Howard's private office and now works in Conservative campaign headquarters. Ashley Crossley, who failed to gain Falmouth and Cambourne from Labour at the last election, and had to deal with homophobia after his opponents allegedly tried to "dig dirt" on his lifestyle, is also expected to be asked to join Mr Cameron's list of the "best and brightest".

The move follows concerns about homophobia within the Tory ranks which has led to allegations that local Conservative parties give preferential treatment to married candidates. The party is still dealing with the aftermath of supporting Section 28, which outlawed the promotion of a homosexual lifestyle by local authorities. As one Tory said yesterday: "Homophobia in the Tory party may not be alive and well but it is only recently dead."

"If we want to look more like a 21st-century party, it's not just more women, ethnic minorities and disabled people we should be trying to attract, but gay people as well," said one senior Tory figure. "We are not making a thing of asking gay people to join the A list as we are with other groups, but of course it is happening."

Ben Summerskill of the lobby group Stonewall said he was pleased that openly gay Conservatives had been approached to stand in the most winnable seats to help "make the parliamentary base reflect 21st-century Britain". "It's not just lesbians and gay people who welcome this, it's people throughout society."

THE gAy LIST

Ashley Crossley

In 2005 fought Falmouth and Cambourne. Labour was accused of trying to 'dig dirt' on his private life - and Lib Dems took seat from them

Iain Dale

Former publisher who used to run Politico's bookshop in Westminster. Was David Davis's chief of staff duringhis bid to become Tory leader

Nick Boles

Head of Policy Exchange, the think tank connected to the pro-Cameron 'Notting Hill set'. Fought Hove last time but failed to gain the seat

Margot James

Millionaire businesswoman and the party's first openly lesbian parliamentary candidate. Made party vice chairman by Cameron

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