At first I was aghast at David Cameron’s stand for all-women shortlists – my knee jerk reaction was that they should be selected on merit alone – but now I think it makes good sense.

The fact is that the present system has let down women candidates as ConservativeNadine Dorries 002 associations have shown a preference for males. This is the only way Cameron believes we can increase the number of women sitting in Parliament and make it more representative of the nation. He hopes to have nearly 60 women Tory MPs after the next election – up from 19 now.

In spite of this, I know there is no victory sweeter than a woman candidate beating male rivals for a seat, such as the night Nadine Dorries, MP for Mid Bedfordshire, was selected. She is against all-women shortlists.

I was there that night and vividly remember how outstanding she was, head and shoulders better than the other two male candidates who addressed what was very much “a blue rinse” Tory gathering.

I remember clearly the fire in her belly as Nadine’s energy, passion and pledge to serve her constituents won her the much deserved votes in the packed hall. She worked the room by walking up and down the aisle and speaking to people personally in the audience, rather than standing static at the front of the room. This is the pic I took of her on the night after her victory was announced.

But the fact remains that Nadine’s success is a minority for Conservative women candidates and I believe we have lots more talented women who need this extra push, like Clare Whelan and Claire Strong who were unsuccessful in the Eastern Region Euro Election, but would have been brilliant MEPs.

While I accept that having all-women shortlists is not fair to the guys, then neither is the fact that women are apparently discriminated against by associations, and it is necessary to modernise Conservatives as we face a new political era.

I would not like men to be discriminated against on a shortlist with women simply to get more women elected because we have many excellent Conservative male prospective candidates too, like James Tumbridge, so this seems the best approach.

What is essential is that our women possess the best skills for a job that is not only a considerable privilege to have, but also involves working long and demanding hours, and often for little thanks.

Crucially, they must also have skin as thick as a rhinoceros.

UPDATE: The Times leader today agrees with my views, you can read it here.

The Guardian too: Read here: