Londoners to vote on Tory mayor candidate

All Londoners eligible to vote will have a say in the Conservative candidate for the capital’s mayoral elections, David Cameron has announced.

The party leader said the election, which will take place 18 months before the 2008 election in the capital, would help people get “talking and thinking about politics again”.

All registered members of the Conservative party will be able to stand and head hunters will be used to “encourage a broad range of candidates to apply”.

Party officials refused to confirm whether the principles behind Mr Camerons’ A-list of preferred parliamentary candidates – which have already been rejected by one local party – would apply when a designated panel drew up the shortlist.

They said only that the panel would consider “who would most successfully represent the capital if they got elected” when choosing who to put forward to a public vote. This will then be carried out by text message and conventional means to ensure wide participation.

“Too many people are fed up and disillusioned with politics. I hope that doing things differently will fire the public’s imagination, and get them talking and thinking about politics again,” Mr Cameron said.

The announcement came as the Conservatives kicked off a series of road shows across the country, as part of their ‘built to last’ policy discussion with party members to inform a new statement of beliefs to be published at the autumn conference.

Shadow education secretary David Willetts is in Cambridge today and party chairman Francis Maude will visit Birmingham on Wednesday. Further road shows will take place in Nottingham, Glasgow, Newcastle, Cardiff, Southampton, Exeter and Leeds.

The initiative is designed to prove how the Tories have changed under Mr Cameron, but Labour party chairwoman Hazel Blears insisted it was simply another gimmick to catch the headlines.

“It is increasingly hard to take the Tory policy commissions seriously. At the weekend, we discovered that Michael Heseltine hasn’t actually got around to appointing anyone to the inner cities taskforce which the Tories launched with such great fanfare,” she said.

“The only policy conclusions the commissions have reached so far are to propose that drivers should be allowed to turn left at a red light and that milk floats be allowed to use bus lanes.”

She added: “The test at the next general election for all political parties will be in how they address the long-term policy challenges we face as a country. The vacuous PR approach of the Tories is not the answer.”