Speech in Leeds on improving candidate selection
"It's a great pleasure to be here in Leeds today. I came here during my leadership campaign, and hope to come back many times. It's such a fantastic, vibrant city. Leeds encapsulates many of the opportunities and challenges facing urban Britain today.
A buzzing sense of progress and optimism, but facing real issues about social cohesion and economic opportunity - issues we will need to tackle together. Focusing this Party's energies on the opportunities and challenges of urban Britain is one of the big changes we need to make.
When I launched my leadership campaign I said that our Party had to change fundamentally. Engaging young people with a positive approach to the issues they care about. Showing we have the best ideas for urban revival. And crucially, broadening our representation in Parliament so we better reflect the country we aspire to govern.
I was blunt about the scale of change needed, and the scope of what it would require. Well, last week, I won a convincing victory in the leadership contest. I now have a clear mandate to make that change.
So today I'm announcing my plans to give this Party what it voted for: more women in Parliament. I'm going to tell you how I plan to change the face of the Conservative Party by changing the faces of the Conservative Party.
Some say there's no need for positive action to redress the imbalance that currently exists, where nine out of ten Conservative members of Parliament are white men like me. Some say that positive action invalidates the achievement of those who benefit from it.
That, over time, the number of women and the number of black and ethnic minority Conservative MPs will inevitably rise…
…that the fact they've done it with no intervention will strengthen their position…
…and so there's no need to take steps to accelerate the process.
I completely disagree. Let's look at the facts.
There are 17 women MPs in the current parliamentary party; there were 13 in 1932.
So much for progress.
Women make up 9% of the Conservative Parliamentary Party, as opposed to 28% of the Labour Parliamentary Party.
And things are getting no better: only 6% of our new intake of MPs were women. Of the top 50 winnable seats, only 6 had women candidates.
When it comes to black and minority ethnic MPs, there are so few in my Party that it's as easy to name them as count them, so here goes: Adam Afriyie and Shailesh Vara.
The situation in terms of candidates is somewhat more representative: 6% of the Conservative candidates list are black and minority ethnic, as opposed to 8% of the country's population. Within these statistics lie other imbalances. We currently have a much stronger appeal to, for example, the Indian community than to Afro-Caribbeans or East Asians.
But we need to become more relevant to them - and to the other, newer, but fast-growing communities - from Africa and Eastern Europe, for example.
The reason why we must take positive action to increase the number of women MPs, the number of MPs from different ethnic backgrounds…
…and - a point that is often overlooked - MPs with disabilities…
…has got nothing to do with crude political calculation, or crazed political correctness.
It's about political effectiveness.
To create effective policy, we must involve those who are affected by it. I've already been outlining some of my plans for policy development.
They are based on identifying the big challenges our country faces, applying our values to those challenges, and then showing how our ideas meet the hopes and aspirations of people today.
How can we possibly do that properly without a balanced party that reflects the full range of hopes and aspirations to be found in modern Britain?
If you put eight Conservative men round a table and ask them to discuss what should be done about pensions, you'd get some good answers.
Restoring incentives to save. Ending means testing. Raising the retirement age.
But what you're less likely to get is a powerful insight into the massive unfairness relating to women's pensions.
We need people from diverse backgrounds to inform everything we do, to give us the benefit of their diverse experience, to ensure that we stay in touch with the reality of life in Britain today.
Only if we engage the whole country in our Party will our Party develop ideas that benefit the whole country.
The conversation we have in the Conservative Party must reflect the conversation in the country, and the sound of modern Britain is a complex harmony, not a male voice choir.
Less than a week ago, in my speech accepting the leadership of the Party, I pledged to change the way my Party looks. Today, I am going to make good those intentions.
Until we're represented by men and women in the country, regardless of race or creed, we won't be half the party we could be.
My plan for positive action is based on clear principles. Guaranteeing more women and ethnic minorities are selected in winnable seats.
Ensuring that someone's potential to be a good MP is the only factor that counts in being selected as a parliamentary candidate. And preserving the autonomy that constituencies have to select the candidate that is best for them.
So today I am announcing five decisive steps that will increase dramatically the number of women, and black and minority ethnic Conservative MPs.
First, and with immediate effect, I am today freezing all candidate selections.
No more candidates will be selected until we have established a system that guarantees increased diversity, fairness and meritocracy.
Second, we will draw up a priority list of our best and brightest candidates from the existing candidates list and from new recruits.
The priority list will be representative of Britain today…
… at least half the people on it will be women…
… and it will include a significant proportion of people with disabilities, and from black and minority ethnic communities.
I want to make it clear that "brightest and best" does not mean youngest and most metropolitan.
The priority list will welcome women of all ages and backgrounds…
…the fifty-three year-old whose children have just left home, as well as the thirty-three year old who has yet to start a family.
The priority list will be drawn up by the Party Board's Committee on Candidates.
Theresa May has been appointed to this Committee, and together with Bernard Jenkin, the Deputy Chairman for Candidates, will lead this process. Bernard and Theresa will ensure that the process for determining who is on the priority list will be based on merit, and will be open and transparent.
From now on all target seats and Conservative-held seats will be expected to select from this group of candidates.
In particular circumstances it will be possible to add to the priority list for a specific selection…
…but we expect it to be of sufficient size…
…to be sufficiently broad…
…comprising people of such talent, that there will rarely be a case for this.
As the result of the leadership election showed, there is now an overwhelming desire for change in our Party.
So I'm confident that all Conservative-held and marginal seats will want to select their candidate from our priority list.
But I will take nothing for granted.
And so the third step that I can announce today is that after three months of selections, there will be a further pause to allow us to carry out a full review of progress.
In the unlikely event that further action is necessary, such action will be taken.
Creating a structured, representative basis for the selection of women, black and minority ethnic candidates is a huge step for us… but it is just the first step.
We will also need to attract the best people. We need to gather together a lot of talent.
So I'm today appealing to every woman in Britain, and everyone from a black or minority ethnic background….
…who shares my passion to change Britain for the better…
…who shares our values…
…sitting in this room or watching at home, to apply to stand for Parliament in the Conservative cause.
Go to our website, conservatives.com.
We are looking for you, the brightest and the best…
…to join our mission…
…to make your contribution…
…and to help make our country a better place to live.
I promise that we will welcome you, look after you and give you all the support you need.
To ensure that we are true to these words, I have also asked Bernard and Theresa to implement the fourth step in my positive action plan.
An intensive programme of headhunting for new women, black and minority ethnic candidates, and a mentoring programme to support them in their efforts.
Accompanying this will be a professional recruitment programme, backed by advertising, to ensure that we attract the widest range of top quality people.
And we will prepare guidance to be sent to local constituencies…
…to help them understand the need for change…
…and to help them change selection processes so they test the full range of a candidate's skills…
…for example through a Question Time-style panel involving all the candidates on a shortlist, not relying on a testosterone-fuelled 'big speech'.
I believe and hope that the plan I have announced today will achieve what our members voted for: a modern Conservative party reflecting the country as a whole.
And I have one other initiative to announce today.
The fifth component of my positive action plan.
I want to ensure that the candidate selection process itself fully engages the local community.
From now on, Conservative-held and target seats will be expected to involve non-Party members in their choice of candidates. I don't want to be too prescriptive about how constituencies do this. So we will be offering them a choice.
Option one is for constituencies to set up a panel of local community stakeholders…
…for example members of local voluntary groups, GPs, school governors and head teachers, local business leaders, and local police officers.
These community panels will interview the candidates from the priority list chosen by the local Association, and will report to the Association on the relative strengths of each candidate.
Option two is to run a primary system.
This could be a closed primary in which anyone in a constituency who registers as a Conservative supporter…
…without needing to be a party member…
…will be entitled to vote for their local candidate from a shortlist selected from the priority list by the local Association.
Or it could be an open primary, in which anyone registered to vote…
…regardless of whether they are a Conservative…
…could vote for their local candidate from the Association's shortlist of candidates from the priority list.
Our democratic leadership election has energised our Party. I want candidate selections to do the same at the local level, by involving the local community in the process.
By changing the face and the faces of the Conservative Party, I believe we will increase the number of people in this country who listen to what we have to say.
But it's not enough to get ourselves a hearing. We must also have a relevant and inspiring message.
I want us to focus on the future, and to engage people…
…young, old, those who are committed to politics and those who have given up on it…
…in the task of meeting the challenges faced by our country and our world.
I believe that there are six big challenges we face, and that we must address them in an open-minded, creative and thoughtful way. These challenges are complex and interconnected. They can't be dealt with under neat headings or in simple boxes.
They require serious long-term thinking. They will never be tackled by "coming up with" policies to make newspaper headlines.
We need to develop policies on the basis of hard work and hard thinking, drawing on the best and most creative ideas, wherever they come from.
And so to investigate each of these six big challenges, and to develop the ideas that will form the basis of the next Conservative Manifesto…
…I will be appointing Policy Groups, not stuffed with politicians but led by the best thinkers, with a passion for change and a desire to get to grips with these difficult challenges.
I've already announced two of them.
To address the Social Justice Challenge, Iain Duncan Smith and Debbie Scott from Tomorrow's People will lead a Policy Group looking at how we empower individuals, communities and voluntary organisations and social enterprises…
…to tackle entrenched problems like persistent poverty, family breakdown, lack of aspiration and drug addiction.
To address the Quality of Life Challenge, John Gummer and Zac Goldsmith will lead a Policy Group looking at how to achieve strong but sustainable economic growth...
…they will think radically about issues like transport, energy, housing and the urban environment.
Over the next few weeks, I will be appointing similarly talented people to lead our work on meeting the challenges of…
…Globalisation and Global Poverty…
…National and International Security…
…and Public Service Improvement.
This is our agenda for the next four years.
I want everyone who believes in positive politics and who has a passion for change to get involved in the work of these Policy Groups. I want our Policy Groups to be the national focus for debate, discussion and free thinking about these vital issues for the future of our country and our world.
The Policy Groups wouldn't add up to much if we ran them internally, with Westminster policy wonks, or a group of white males of a certain age.
So our policy development process will also reflect modern Britain.
How can we begin to address the issues of social justice without hearing the voices of the black and minority ethnic communities…
…who live, disproportionately, within the inner cities where these problems are greatest?
How could a review of public services have any credibility without the input of the women who, in many cases, are at the front end of dealing with their children's education, or their health?
The processes of transforming the face and the agenda of our party go hand in hand.
We will be drawing on the brightest and the best, men and women, within and without the Party, to help us understand the fundamental challenges facing Britain and to develop creative and radical solutions.
We're going to take our time to get things right, and to enable everyone's voice to be heard.
We're going to be totally open and transparent. Everything the Policy Groups do will be published online.
If good ideas are generated along the way…
…that the Government, business, or anyone else wants to put into practice, that's fantastic.
We will have made positive change happen, which is our only aim.
You can get involved today in the Policy Groups that have already been launched…
…go to socialjusticechallenge.com or qualityoflifechallenge.com.
The Policy Groups will report in eighteen months. I want those eighteen months to be the most exciting and creative eighteen months of political discussion this country has ever seen.
Everything we do will be guided by the two core values at the heart of my kind of Conservatism: trusting people, and sharing responsibility.
I believe that the more you trust people, the more power and responsibility you give them, the stronger they and society become. And I believe passionately that we're all in this together - individuals, families, government, business, voluntary organisations.
We have a shared responsibility for our shared future.
Trusting people, and sharing responsibility.
These are the values we need to meet the challenges of the modern world. It's an incredible honour and privilege to lead the Conservative Party, and to have been given, through the result of the leadership contest, the authority to change the party so it reflects Britain today…
… the Britain that I live in and love and…
… a Britain that has embraced diversity and been strengthened by it
I have outlined my plan for ensuring that our Party capitalises on all the assets of this fantastic country.
And I hope, over the next weeks, months and years, that millions of our fellow citizens will want to join us…
…to build a modern, compassionate Conservative Party…
…to help address the big challenges our society faces…
…and to be a growing voice for change, optimism and hope."