Women and minorities first. Dave shows off his 'babes' list

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Indy Politics

David Cameron's "A-list" to change the face of the Tory Party by fielding more women and ethnic minority candidates at the next election has put a number of Conservative noses out of joint.

"Dave's Babes", who have been listed for selection to Tory target seats they feel they have a strong chance of taking, include Maria Hutchings, the mother of an autistic child, who confronted Tony Blair on live television; Louise Bagshaw, a novelist and former Labourite, and Sayeeda Warsi, a councillor in Dewsbury who is helping to spearhead the Tory Campaign in the inner cities.

Also on the list are Mr Cameron's friend and environmental adviser, Zac Goldsmith; the former Coronation Street star Adam Rickitt and Philippa Stroud, the head of a Tory think-tank set up by Iain Duncan Smith.

Those left off the A-list include Iain Dale, who managed David Davis's leadership challenge against Mr Cameron. Mr Dale said on his internet blog site he was "disappointed".

Well-wishers offered their commiserations on Mr Dale's site. One said: "It looks like you have to be a chisel-cheekboned 30-something to get on the list (Goldsmith, Rickitt), but then that's what happens when you appoint a 30-something PR man as party leader."

Howard Flight, the Tory MP who was forced to stand down by Michael Howard, the former leader, for saying in the run-up to the election that the Tories would slash taxes, is believed to have been put back on the A-list. That could appease Tory traditionalists who last night were complaining about the list of "Dave's Babes" - a reference to Tony Blair's so-called 'babes' when Labour were swept to power with more women Labour MPs.

Mr Cameron defended his controversial move to get more women MPs, insisting his "priority list" was not about appearance and political correctness.

He acknowledged there would be some white middle class men who would be disappointed not to be on the list. But he reassured local party organisations that they would still have a say in selecting their candidates.

"There is no easy way of doing this," he said. "I don't support all-women shortlists because I think it is a step too far for a party that is meritocratic.

"But I know we have to deal with the problem of the under-representation of women in the Conservative Party. We have to take steps, I think these are the right steps, but inevitably it means difficult decisions for some people."