Conservative leadership contest has shown party is no longer 'pale, male and stale' – Nick Cook

For a party that had just 17 women MPs and two ethnic minority MPs as recently as 2005, the current contest to be Conservative party leader and Britain’s next Prime Minister has already proven itself extraordinarily progressive.

Kemi Badenoch, Penny Mordaunt, Rishi Sunak, Liz Truss and Tom Tugendhat take parts in a television debate during the Conservative party leadership contest (Picture: Victoria Jones/PA)
Kemi Badenoch, Penny Mordaunt, Rishi Sunak, Liz Truss and Tom Tugendhat take parts in a television debate during the Conservative party leadership contest (Picture: Victoria Jones/PA)

The next leader of our country is guaranteed to be under 50 years old and will either be our third female Prime Minister or our first Bame Prime Minister.

While it is clearly no longer credible to claim the Conservatives are predominantly ‘pale, male and stale’, the party didn’t succeed in looking and sounding more like the country the represent by accident.

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Upon becoming Conservative leader in 2005, David Cameron looked around and didn’t like the lack of diversity staring back.

He took some tough decisions to make the Conservatives more representative via introduction of his candidates’ A-list which favoured women and ethnic minorities being selected for key constituencies. Old Tory dinosaurs like Norman Tebbit were not best pleased.

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Cameron himself recently said the decision to act wasn’t so much about the political correctness people on the right dislike so much. It was about political effectiveness and a drive to make better-informed decisions more in tune with the country as it was, rather than how some still wished it to be.

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The Cameron reforms also helped pave the way for the likes of Ruth Davidson – the first openly gay party leader anywhere in the UK.

For many, Cameron’s legacy will forever be tied to his fateful decision to offer a referendum on our EU membership. However, the current Conservative leadership contest provides a welcome reminder of the huge progress made on social issues under his leadership.

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Nick Cook was political advisor to former Scottish Conservative leader, Ruth Davidson, and an Edinburgh councillor 2012-22