Below is the text of the speech made by Theresa May on 23 November 2005.
I think today could mark a turning point for the Conservative Party. What is clear from what you have heard is that throughout our party, at every level, there is a growing realisation that we must change. And fundamental to that change is the role of women within the Conservative Party.
What this event has proved, without a shadow of a doubt that championing the cause of women in our party is no longer a minority sport. For a while there it seemed somewhat of an exclusive club – myself, my Shadow cabinet colleague Caroline Spelman, and a few doughty supporters.
But today that is simply no longer the case.
6 members of the Shadow Cabinet, former cabinet Ministers, senior members of the House of Commons and newly elected alike. Candidates, constituency chairman, activists, we all agree that we must ensure that more conservative women are elected to parliament at the next election. They have all chosen to sign our Women 2 Win declaration.
And perhaps most importantly, this view is shared just as equally by men in our party as it is by women. You will remember that just a few weeks ago, 6 male MPs were brave enough to put their heads above the parapet and say that it was time we took positive and radical action to guarantee more women candidates. Since then, a number of others have joined us. This is no longer an all girls club, the men have gate crashed the party.
I have been told by a number of senior labour MPs and journalists that the Labour party didn’t take electing women to parliament seriously until the men began to realise the impact it had on voters. The cut through that having women in senior positions, developing policy, and talking to the public had on the voter’s view of the labour Party.
And it worked. As we have heard, in 1997, Labour led the Conservatives among women by 12 points. And they have continued to lead us ever since.
Well the good news, the news that should cheer every member of our Party, and make the Labour benches sit up and take notice, is that now we realise it too.
Not all of those believe that the answer is all women shortlists. Not all believe that an ‘A’ list or a gold list is the best solution. But what we all agree is that waiting and hoping for more women to be elected is never going to deliver the results we need.
Women 2 Win is the signal that the Conservative Party is determined to win back the women vote and to win back power. It is a sure sign that we know what has to be done to represent modern Britain, and that we are prepared to take those steps.
Over the coming months and years, we will work to ensure that more women re selected. We will raise the profile of Conservative women in the Party and in the media. We want to raise the money to provide the training and support they need.
We want to work with the Party, with candidates department and training team to ensure that the finest candidates we can find are selected to represent our Party
And we want to arm our candidates with the skills they need to win back seats from Labour and the Lib Dems at the next election.
But of course, we can only play our part. As I have said, the support for our aims is wide ranging, and it is continuing to grow. But there are two people who we need to recognise what needs to be done if we are to guarantee success.
Of course, I am talking about the David’s!
It is a little known fact that there are more men in the Shadow Cabinet called David than there are women.
It is for that reason, that Women 2 Win are making this challenge to anyone who views themselves fit to lead our party and to govern our Country. Over the course of the remaining leadership election campaign, make clear your commitment to reform the Conservative Party into a Party that represents, reflects and understands Britain today. We urge you to sign up to the women 2 win declaration, and make a positive commitment to securing our parties future success.
In short recognise what we all recognize. That the Conservative Party really does need women to win!