I support the 'A-List' – by Tom Rowley

A short sentence, but one which in certain Tory circles would be shouted down faster than a declaration of admiration for Tony Blair. I am afraid that I simply fail to understand how anyone – other than those belonging to a different Party – could not support it. This is for one simple reason: it will win votes. Not a few votes either; many, many votes – perhaps enough to win us the next election. As a young person, I have lived half my life (and all of the time I have been politically aware) under Labour. My knowledge of previous Conservative administrations comes not from experience but from books. Therefore my longing to see us in power at the next election is not the result of some misty-eyed wish to see the return of the 'good old days' or for everything to be as it was, frozen in time before 1997, the year we'd rather forget. It is merely a desire for something different to this appallingly bad Government and a decision that the Conservatives offer the best alternative. As such, I am able to observe the great 'A list' debate as a relative outsider. Unlike other commentators, my view is not clouded by Party friends whose dreams of Westminster will never come to fruition because of the list. We wonder what all the fuss is about. The aim of a political party is to advance the particular cause it espouses – it cannot do this effectively in opposition. I scarcely need to remind you that we have been in opposition for almost ten years and before recently had become little more than a glorified debating society for the middle aged and middle class. There is no point in that. The aim of the 'A list' is to make the Party more appealing to voters by making candidates more representative of the country we seek to represent. In short: to increase votes. Increasing votes means getting into government and enacting our policies. By this point, I'm sure many of you are screaming at your computers that I've misunderstood your arguments. "Of course we want to get into power. We just want the freedom to select our own candidates on merit, rather than having a list of soap stars and lesbians imposed on us by CCHQ" some of you will be saying. I'm afraid it's my turn to say that you're rather missing the point. These reactions against the 'A list' demonstrate exactly why we need it: local associations have lost touch with the country. The reason they select safe middle class men is that they can debate well, have good communication skills and, as such, would make fantastic MPs, the argument goes. But are those skills what is required to win votes? Maybe in the 1950s, but not now. To connect with the iPod generation of voters, especially young people whom we poll third amongst, we must change our outdated beliefs about the criteria for the best candidate. He or she should be involved in the community and should be able to reach out to all areas, not just traditionally Conservative ones, and connect with people of all age groups. When using these criteria, the average man in a tie seems far less likely to be selected than one of the 'A listers'. It's time for local associations to "get with it", as no doubt one of Mr Cameron's new-found hoodie-wearing friends would say. Either they change or we die.

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