One unfortunate feature of the debate within and outside the Conservative party about the "A list" is that far too much of it has consisted of unfair attacks on individuals.
Incidentally, the official description is that there is no definitive "A-list" as such, but that the Conservative party has one list of "approved candidates" within which some people are currently "priority candidates".
Local constituency Conservative parties can interview anyone they ask to interview and select whoever they wish to pick, although in practice it appears that target seats are strongly encouraged to pick either a "priority candidate" or someone they regard as having genuine local connections (and the days when that could mean that your father rented a house in the constituency fifty years ago are gone.)
I have been told clearly and unequivocally that although all priority candidates are among the "brightest and best" the party has to offer, the fact that someone has not yet been given that status definitely does NOT mean that he or she is regarded as second rate. The national party accepts that there are other very high quality candidates in addition to the current set of about a hundred "priority candidates" and does not regard it as a problem or a snub to David Cameron if a local party selects an "outstanding local candidate" as Bromley and Chiselhurst just has.
I personally believe - and I accept that I'm obviously biased - that the general level of ability and commitment of the 550 or people on the Conservative approved list is extremely high, both among the current crop of "priority candidates" and the other men and women on the list. There is room for internal debate within the party about whether this is a good system - and we would be wise to keep an eye on Blanau Gwent to see what can go wrong with "positive discrimination" and try to avoid repeating the Labour party's mistakes.
We do need to get more women and ethnic minority Conservative MPs elected. The "priority candidate" system would not have caused the problem Labour had in Copeland, where a "token woman" allowed into the final selection promptly waltzed into the local newpaper offices, announced that she had previously been what is now euphemistically referred to as a "sex worker," and that Tony Blair should appoint her as a health minister when she was elected so that she could "take evidence on eternal life."
However, it is not sensible for Conservatives to attack one another as part of the debate, and particularly not to criticise individual candidates. I am equally irritated when I read of fellow Conservatives slagging off either "local candidates" such as Bob Neill, our excellent standard bearer in the forthcoming Bromley and Chiselhurst election, or "A-listers", and the person who has come in for a particularly large helping of undeserved abuse has been Adam Ricketts.
So I was very pleased that Adam performed so well on the television with Andrew Marr this morning, particularly in response to a difficult question about the Iraq war. I am sure he will make an excellent MP.