Now, I have a little bit of respect for Iain Dale. He may be a running dog Tory lickspittle, but he's always struck me as being a decent bloke, despite those minor failings. I was amazed that his wasn't one of the names towards the top of the pile of the A List of Tory candidates, especially when the bar was set so low as to allow Adam Rickitt onto the list. (Funny how his official website remains silent on his political ambitions.)
Adam is one of the chosen few, those who are supposed to be first call for any vacant seats. Curiously, only one or two from this list have put themselves forward for Telford (Lab majority just 5,406) or Oxford West & Abingdon (LD maj 7,683 and home to a fellow Labour blogger, Antonia). When it comes to succeeding the retiring member for Folkestone and Hythe, however, 45 have apparently put their names forward to follow in Michael Howard's footsteps, doubtless attracted by the opportunity to serve their party and not the 11,680 Tory majority.
I expected Iain to defend Adam - he's a loyal member and that's fair enough (he also has an eye on making the second tranche of candidates as well, I suspect). He makes a fair point about a party official from Folkestone and Hythe speaking out of turn and discussing the candidates in the selection process - that's out of order in any party. I have no problem with young people taking an interest in politics - I wish more of them did, because sometimes I despair for the future of all parties, looking at the rapidly ageing membership. There is also another, nastily personal agenda running about Adam, summed up by the comments about 'mincing metrosexuals' from a certain Francis Maude the other day.
Politics can be a nastily personal business - ask the Tories if they will be making anything of Mark Oaten's trials and tribulations come the next election in Winchester. If young Adam can't take the heat, he shouldn't be looking through the door of the political kitchen. He got onto Question Time, still a BBC current affairs flagship programme, and gave a distinctly poor showing - hardly a political wunderkind in the Hague mould. He's not been blooded in any campaign, nor is there any report of him doing the footwork required to win seats. Yet still, he's one of the Chosen Few - regarded as more suitable than the loyalist Iain. The reality is that he is only where he is because of his limited acting and singing career. Don't kid yourself that if Adam Rickitt had suddenly turned up on the doorstep of Tory Central Office demanding to be a candidate, that he'd have been welcomed aboard the Good Ship Cameron.
I still hold to my view that this is a put up job. Rickett's role isn't necessarily to be selected for a winnable seat. He is there to draw attention to the Cameron brand of New Improved Conservatism - if he makes people sit up and say to themselves that the Tory Party has changed, then he's done his job and can be discarded like last year's manifesto. The Tories have already admitted that the A List can't be forced upon the constituencies, so it is increasingly being exposed as the publicity stunt that it is, although at least one constituency claims that it has only been given the A List from which to choose. Apparently, Bernard Jenkin claims that it was always meant as a trial run and it will be improved in the autumn - once the publicity has served its purpose, then normal service can be resumed.
Politics, as anyone who has spent time around politicians will assert, isn't a beauty parade and nor should it be. It is a damned sight more serious - political decisions will affect lives. If the Tories choose candidates on the basis of a superficial appeal, then they have no right to complain when they are attacked on that level.