Most interesting opinion I can find in my daily reads this Sunday is this report by ConservativeHome on suggestions made by the leader of the Conservatives in the National Assembly for Wales, Nick Bourne. He wants to introduce an element of positive discrimination into the candidate selection process for the next Welsh Assembly elections, to ensure there are more Conservative Assembly Members who are either women or from ethnic minorities.
Must admit that I would be disappointed if this were to happen. Compulsion would be an admission of failure - or of insufficient effort. I agree with Nick that we should be tackling the problem of why so few women and individuals from ethnic minorities want to become Conservative candidates. But I don't like the idea of forcing candidates on local associations, who after all work on a voluntary basis. I accept that compulsion can sometimes be turned to as a last resort, when all else has failed. But as far as I can see, not much else has been tried. For example, the Welsh conferences and policy forums I've been to usually have the same few faces making the main speeches - and they're nearly always white males. No effort to enhance name recognition or to create opportunities to impress. And Shadow Welsh Secretary, Cheryl Gillan doesn't count. We're talking Welsh representation here. If we are genuinely serious about changing the balance, lets give a few of the best speaking slots to women and ethnic minority candidates.
And if we are going to introduce positive discrimination, it should be done through the regional vote, which is a compensatory system in any case - though I do accept that if we win more seats 'first-past-the-post' there may not be any regional Conservative AMs elected! Imposing candidates on local associations causes offence and disillusionment, which would not be the case with regional list candidates - at least not to the same extent. Nick Bourne is raising an important issue - but we need to be careful how we dael with it.