Sunday, March 12, 2006

The A-List

I've had a few discussions over the last few days relating to the Tory Party "A-List" of their best candidates. I have my disagreements with the way it is being used. Positive discrimination, in whatever form, is wrong. For all that there is much about Blair that I dislike, when he talked of creating a meritocracy, I was with him. No matter what the area, people should be selected on their ability to do the task required of them. Fixing quotas, or ruling out people on subjective criteria, means you will not get the best people for the job.

Nevertheless, I think the idea of an "A-List" of candidates is a very good idea for a political party. Local activists, of course, are up in arms, for the whole purpose of the A-List is to get the best candidates in either the safest or the most winnable seats. It is arguable whether it is a smart idea to piss these activists off - after all, if they aren't pounding the streets on the party's behalf, it's much harder to win an election.

The thing is, an anomaly of the British electoral system is that a government has to be formed from a hodge-podge of local candidates. Tony Blair technically represents the people of Sedgefield in Parliament - but the nature of government, and of politics, is that issues of a national nature are to be decided. For that to happen effectively, a viewpoint that in many ways overrides local concerns needs to be taken. And national government certainly demands a different calibre of person to the task of local activist (however admirable local activism may be).

Identifying the best candidates and securing PPC nominations is a fundamentally sound idea for a party that has its eye on government, provided that the criteria for selection are varied and not dependent on agreement with whoever the current leadership may be. Using a target list of candidates as a means of positive discrimination, however, is, and will forever remain, wrong.