Tory councillor suggests gay and black candidates are ‘there to tick boxes’

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A local Tory activist and councillor has complained over a shortlist of a gay man, three women and two ethnic minority men, apparently suggesting they were included to “tick boxes”.

Beverley Connolly, a Tory councillor in Tandridge, Surrey, was speaking last week before Sam Gyimah, who is black, won the selection for Conservative candidate for the safe seat of East Surrey on Saturday.

Another of those on the six-strong shortlist, drawn up by central Tory headquarters, was the gay political blogger and magazine publisher Iain Dale.

Mrs Connolly told the Surrey Mirror: “I’m sure they are all eminently able candidates, but some of these people have been parachuted in from out of the area. We have a black candidate, a gay candidate.

“I’m not remotely homophobic. It’s not a reflection on their abilities or personalities but you have to ask if people are there just to tick boxes. It’s not about what’s best for the party in East Surrey, it’s about what the party wants.”

Tory leader David Cameron has been accused of ignoring the wishes of grassroots activists in favour of his ‘A list’ candidates.

Last week, he stepped into a row between grassroots activists over the candidate for the Westminster North last week.

Joanne Cash resigned and was then reinstated for the seat after tensions with local party members.

Mr Dale, who lost out on being selected for the Tory candidate for Bracknell last October, told “Local constituency parties guard their independence jealously and do not like centrally imposed shortlists. I’d like to think Mrs Connolly was misquoted, and I understand she says she was bounced.

“There is no question of any of the candidates in that selection being tokens. We all had long records of service to the party and if I thought for one minute I had been included as a token, as Mrs Connolly appeared to suggest, I would have refused to take part. It was a very fair selection and Sam Gyimah will be a fantastic candidate. East Surrey is very lucky to have him.”

Mr Gyimah is a businessman who was named CBI Entrepreneur of the Future. He is also is chairman of The Bow Group thinktank and a former president of the Oxford Union.

Edited: Beverley Connolly was speaking before Sam Gyimah won the seat.