When The Times described David Cameron's Conservative team as "women-free" I called it "unfair". CCHQ went ballistic – seeing it as a dangerous attack on the modernisation agenda. Team Cameron believes that the Tory leader couldn't have worked much harder to promote women into the shadow cabinet, into the House of Lords, into winnable Westminster seats and into the European Parliament. Rules for selection of MEP candidates were actually changed so that women won higher rankings on regional lists even if they secured fewer votes from grassroots members*.
David Cameron wrote for The Times yesterday, setting out the progress that he's made in increasing representation of women.
In tomorrow's Times a huge number of Tory women – led by our adopted candidates – have written a letter defending David Cameron's record on female selection.
A member of the shadow cabinet told me to look out for five things in the next few months that Team Cameron would be emphasing to show that "new Toryism" is still alive and kicking – despite the "age of austerity":
- Further promotion of women and ethnic minority Conservatives.
- Outreach to gay rights groups (yesterday we learnt this).
- More emphasis on environmental policies. At Spring Forum in Cheltenham Greg Clark MP promised to make Britain the "Saudi Arabia of renewable energy."
- Loud trumpeting of the fact that the NHS and international development are the top two Tory spending priorities.
- More initiatives on social justice with a greater role for Iain Duncan Smith.