Tory leader, David Cameron has put gay politicians on a list of priority targets whom the Conservative leadership want to see in Parliament.
According to the Independent, the Conservative Party wrote to a number of openly gay figures last week, asking them to apply to join an elite list of “priority” candidates who would have “a much higher change of being selected for a winnable seat, and therefore, of becoming an MP after the next election”.
The letter urged them not to “hold back just because you feel that you lack political experience,” adding: “We are looking for diversity, talent and potential.”
Among the politicians invited to apply for selection ahead of the next election are Nick Boles, the director of the think tank Policy Exchange who failed to gain Hove for the Tories at the last election.
“There doesn’t need to be much intervention to ensure there is a good selection of openly gay people in winnable seats. I have always been openly gay. I hope to get on the list and to get a seat,” Mr Boles said.
He told PinkNews.co.uk: “This move shows how the Conservative Party has changed in its attitude to homosexuality. I’m absolutely certain that their will be a good number of openly gay people on the list. But there is a bigger need for women and people from ethnic backgrounds.”
The Independent reported that other gay targets include, Iain Dale, the former chief of staff to David Davis. He told PinkNews.co.uk: “I am going to apply to be on the A-list. But I would hate to think I only got there becuase I ticked a minority box, everyone has to be on it on merit.
“Most prejudice in the Party has degenerated, I think we now have the most gay candidates.”
The Tories are also keen to promote gay candidates who have not stood in elections before. They include Dan Ritterband, 31, who used to work in Michael Howard’s private office and now works in Conservative campaign headquarters. Ashley Crossley, who failed to gain Falmouth and Cambourne from Labour at the last election, and had to deal with homophobia after his opponents allegedly tried to “dig dirt” on his lifestyle.
The move follows concerns about homophobia within the Tory ranks which has led to allegations that local Conservative parties give preferential treatment to married candidates. The party is still dealing with the aftermath of supporting Section 28, which outlawed the promotion of a homosexual lifestyle by local authorities. As one Tory told the Independent: “Homophobia in the Tory party may not be alive and well but it is only recently dead.”
“If we want to look more like a 21st-century party, it’s not just more women, ethnic minorities and disabled people we should be trying to attract, but gay people as well,” said one senior Tory figure. “We are not making a thing of asking gay people to join the A list as we are with other groups, but of course it is happening.”
Ben Summerskill of the lobby group Stonewall said he was pleased that openly gay Conservatives had been approached to stand in the most winnable seats to help “make the parliamentary base reflect 21st-century Britain.”