A story in today’s Sunday Telegraph hints at dissatisfaction with the A-list from none other than the Tory leader himself. Mr Cameron is reported as having been surprised about the list. The article by Melissa Kite and Jonathan Wynne-Jones concludes: "The Tory leader had wanted to boost the number of women, rather than minor celebrities, and had expected more candidates from outside the South East."
The speculation comes at the end of an article which suggests that the A-list may fall at its first hurdle: the battle for Bromley and Chislehurst. The Sunday Telegraph reports a mood "of brooding rebellion": "A string of local candidates is emerging, including Nicholas Bennett, the former MP for Reading West; Bob Neill, a London Assembly member; and Colin Bloom, a Tory councillor."
The danger of local unhappiness at the A-list was entirely predictable from the start of this process. A ConservativeHome survey last year found that 71% of Tory members wanted more local candidates in the most marginal seats – twice as many as supported the party’s idea of an A-list (also see these verbatims from the survey). Here are some of the other things that have gone wrong with the list:
- Far fewer women than men applied for the list than CCHQ had hoped;
- Details of how CCHQ hoped to micromanage the selection process in the first 35 seats were leaked to ConservativeHome;
- Attempts by CCHQ to keep the A-list secret were thwarted by this website and publication shone a light on an apparent failure to recruit sufficient candidates from northern England;
- Some A-listers told ConservativeHome that they were disappointed by the first tranche of 35 seats they are obligated to apply for. The first 35 seats largely fell short of the plum seats the A-listers had expected to be rewarded with;
- Columnists as diverse as William Rees-Mogg and Nick Cohen have attacked the Blairite nature of the list;
- Some of the A-listers have already embarrassed the party – Sayeeda Warsi made inaccurate statistical claims about the detention of terror suspects, Elizabeth Truss had an affair with Mark Field MP, and today Adam Rickitt finds his ‘the rich should use private healthcare’ message at odds with David Cameron’s ‘NHS for all’ emphasis; and
- The A-list’s first big test – Bromley and Chislehurst – may assert its legal right to ignore the list and choose a local candidate.
Editor’s note: "The A-list project may still work. The clear majority of its members are good quality candidates but the forthcoming list top-ups must address some of the most egregious omissions. The second need is for more acceptance of local candidates. By giving encouragement to local people to stand in selection meetings, CCHQ would be respecting the clear wishes of Conservative members for candidates who are rooted in their constituency communities."