Primaries? What do you think?

There aren’t many issues politically where I dont have a strong view – yet the use of a primary in candidate selection is one where I really can see both sides of the argument. This is going to be a rambling post (no change there) and I would really welcome some views.

I am a firm believer in the rights of members of political parties – or else you have to ask the question why on earth should you join. One of those rights or at least one of the things you got to be invovled in was the selection of candidates be it for a parliamentary candidate right down to a council candidate.

In recent weeks and indeed months the party has seemingly been moved to favour the use of an open primary. Firstly I guess I have to ask the question are they really open primaries? I always thought that in a proper primary a candidate would have to actively campaign to get the nomination – possibly more so than in the actual election. In this sense the election actually became the primary and not the election if you get what I mean. Your SELECTION was the important thing. The election rumber stamped your victory.

In Totnes people as I understand it were written to and could choose their Tory candidate. Fine – but if as reported it cost £40,000 then frankly is is completely unworkable. When I stood for parliament the local association probably committed to spending a tenth of that on the whole campaign, so you can see how unworkable it is.

But then after the expenses saga, wouldn’t any party be wise to try and invovle the electorate in the selection of a candidate so that they feel some sort of ownership and therefore are much more likely to vote for them – as opposed to hold the view – Well you lot selected em… and you’re all crooked so I’m not going to vote.

Of course as a candidate I have experienced both methods of selection. I have been successful when chosen by members and also unsuccessful. I have (apparently) done really well in one primary but was ultimately unsuccessful. So what does that tell me?

The one nagging feeling I have is that on the one hand the party is constantly wanting current members to increase membership. I have always held the believe that if you are a member of a party you should look to getting funds, getting members and getting votes – everything else is almost secondary.

Now if someone asked me what was the benefit of being a member part of me would seriously think you could get many of the benefits, by NOT being a member, without any of the drawbacks. So where does that leave my thinking with regards the use of primaries. Yes I can see why they are being used. I  would be interested to see if there use has actually lead to an increase in memberhsip locally – as if they have the opposite effect – with members feeling neglected and then leaving the party, then come an election when you need ACTIVISTS, who are usually your hardcore membership, they could be counter productive?

What do you think about the use of primaries??

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6 Responses to Primaries? What do you think?

  1. Mark Reckons says:

    You probably won't be surprised to hear this but I think you can get all the benefits of primaries and involve the electorate even more by switching to a Single Transferable Vote system with multi-member seats. This would then be part of the actual election rather than beforehand. You would almost certainly get a bigger turnout for the election than any primary so it is even more inclusive and democratic.

    The extra costs involved with primaries would not be a factor either.

  2. editor says:

    Thanks Mark. Though of course what is democratic to one person is not always democratic to another. I didn't agree with my MP in Chesterfield on my when I lived there, but one thing I did agree with Lord Stansgate… err Tony Benn… on was that FPTP was democratic as it only needed a few votes to change hands and you could get rid of a Government.

    Of course the debate on the electoral system can wait for another day.

  3. Disorganised1 says:

    I don't think primaries are good for everywhere, but when a seat suddenly becomes available and there is no PPC, then can we rely upon the local party to put forward a candidate suitable for purpose ?
    Whilst I feel my constituency has an excellent candidate for the next election, some of those proffered in the past have made me seriously consider where my X was going.

  4. Mark Reckons says:

    I see it as integral to the debate though. Why waste money and effort on an open primary when you can get even better involvement from the electorate by changing the electoral system (aside from all the other benefits)?

    Even Douglas Carswell MP, one of your most interesting thinkers on reform seems to be coming round to the idea.

  5. editor says:

    Some would say it wasn't a waste – and as it wouldnt be taxpayers money who cares. Personally I still think I would side with party members chosing who represents them on the whole and would spend more time getting people invovled in politics.

    Douglas is interesting – though I wouldnt necessarily agree with him on everything. Whenever anyone mentions proportional representation there are then caveats. Oh we want it to be more representative – but not if it means the BNP get represented or so on….

    I am wary of any system that would lead to a minority party every holding a balance of power in conjunction with a larger party – as that would mean the smallest party of say a three party system could be permanently in Government. Not that demoractic.

    There are many ways to increase involvement. How about actually campaigning. Why would Lib Dems vote in say Bassetlaw where I stood? They didn't campaign and went over to Chesterfield to campaign. Get out there and make the case no matter if you don't think you are going to win.

  6. Gavin Mc says:

    You could have a hybrid system were Party members and the electorate have equal weight like the Labour leadership electoral college gives equal weight to the PLP, members and the unions.

    But in all honesty a combination of AV or STV-PR and Louisianan 'jungle primaries' would be the best possibility.

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