Tories: Many social workers want to become party MPs

The Conservative Party has confirmed that “lots of social workers” have applied to stand as Tory candidates in the next election, but has been unable to give details of how many.

In an interview with The Guardian this week, party chair Eric Pickles said lots of practitioners, along with doctors and community nurses, had applied to be candidates after Tory leader David Cameron decided to reopen  its candidates’ list in May to bring fresh blood into the party.

A party spokesperson said that what Pickles had said about social worker applicants was “true”, but he could not confirm how many had applied, adding: “We’re not going to give a running commentary on people who have applied to be candidates or go into individual cases.”

Pickles said that the party had had 4,000 applicants – 70% of whom did not have a conventional political background. He predicted 20-30 of these “new people” would become candidates at the next election, due by 3 June 2010.

Labour social workers

Although a number of current and recent Labour MPs have had a background in social work, including current British Association of Social Workers chief executive Hilton Dawson and Cabinet Office minister Tessa Jowell, this has not been true of the Conservatives.

In 2005 social worker Evett McAnuff became the first black woman to contest a seat for the Tories who was considered to have a realistic chance of winning. She stood for Lewisham West at the general election and came third behind Labour and the Liberal Democrats.

Doctor to stand

Pickles hailed the election this week of a politically inexperienced local doctor to become the Tory candidate for the Totnes constituency in Devon through the country’s first ever “open primary”, in which all local electors are entitled to vote.

He said: “I hope Totnes represents a new type of politics, which rejects negative campaigning, and sees openness as a way to restore confidence in public life.”

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