Dr Sarah Wollaston calls on Tory women to boycott candidate selection
We have heard for quite a few years - from Parliament in general and the Conservative Party in particular - that the Church of England has some kind of problem with women. With little understanding of church history and what many believe to be immutable theological qualifications, politicians tend to lecture the Established Church as though it were a wholly secular entity if not a constitutional adjunct to the Cabinet. Only a year ago the Prime Minister exhorted the Church to "get with the programme" on gender equality, despite women in his own Cabinet being well below parity.
There is currently some internal Tory dispute in the constituency of Thirsk & Malton, which has resulted in the deselection of its sitting MP. His Grace doesn't have a clue what's going on, but whatever it is (and here's a clue), there is no evidence at all that the problem with Anne McIntosh MP is that she is a woman (the local Association did, after all, freely select her).
But that hasn't stopped her friend Dr Sarah Wollaston believing that it is. And so she has written an open letter to the nasty Thirsk & Malton Conservative Association to express her views:
Dear Thirsk & Malton Conservatives,His Grace apologises: he may have that letter a little confused with the one sent by 7-year-old Charlotte Benjamin to Lego, complaining about the lack of girl figures:
My name is Sarah. I am 51 years old and I love the Conservative Party but I don’t like that there are more men Conservative MPs and barely any women Conservative MPs.
Today I went to Parliament and saw MPs in two sections the girls poised and polite and the boys gruff and raucus. All the girls did was sit on the green benches, make speeches about women's rights, and gossip about breast feeding, and they had few Cabinet posts but the boys went on adventures, worked, saved people, and had lots of Cabinet jobs, even became Chancellor of the Exchequer and Chief Whip.
I want you to make my friend Anne McIntosh the next Conservative candidate for Thirsk & Malton and let her go on adventures and have fun ok!?!
And if you don't I will scream and scream and scream and tell all my girl friends to boycott your selection ok!?!
His Grace does not know Anne McIntosh: she may be perfectly charming, diligent and hard-working. But some of her local Tory association clearly find her “divisive”, “non-communicative” and “bad-mannered”, and so they wanted rid, and did so democratically.
This wasn't some executive cabal of a dozen anti-McIntosh zealots: the vote went to the entire local Conservative membership - some 560 people - and the turnout was 88 per cent. And Anne McIntosh lost. So her friend Sarah Wollaston has tweeted to her sisters, exhorting them to boycott the selection process, thereby gifting the seat to a male candidate.
This strikes His Grace as a little childish (not to say self-defeating for the Feminist cause), but Dr Wollaston clearly feels strongly about losing her friend from Parliament because she wants to see more girl people in Parliament so they can go on adventures.
It is sad that a local Conservative association is not able to exercise its democratic right to deselect a parliamentary candidate without being accused of misogyny. But that is where we are: if you want to deselect a gay MP for being “divisive”, “non-communicative” and “bad-mannered”, you're obviously homophobic. If you want to deselect a black or Asian MP for being “divisive”, “non-communicative” and “bad-mannered”, you're manifestly racist (if not '‘Islamophobic'). So it stands to reason that if you want to deselect a woman MP for being “divisive”, “non-communicative” and “bad-mannered”, you're simply sexist.
Why doesn't the Conservative Party just "get with the programme" and convene a CNC (Conservative Nominations Commission) at CCHQ which can deliberate in secret and appoint all of the party's candidates? Until then, they could at least ensure that women are present on all the big adventures, if only as observers. Local democracy can be awfully belligerent and inconvenient, and, as Plato observed, the Guardian class obviously knows what's best.