A few thoughts on open primaries

August 5, 2009 3:05 pm

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By Don Paskini

It’s very impressive that over 16,000 people in Totnes voted to choose the Tory candidate for the next election in an “open primary”. Normally, about 100-300 people are involved in these kinds of selections. Couple of thoughts:

* Open primaries give a huge advantage to people who have “proper jobs”. For example, in this case the candidate who was a doctor beat two people who were involved in local government. I think this is broadly a good thing, but it is worth having another look at how much campaigning candidates are allowed to do. If local people are basically making their minds up on the basis of one leaflet per candidate, then parties might end up getting stuck with people who would, in fact, be pretty hopeless candidates and/or MPs.

* Apparently the cost of the whole thing was £40,000. That’s OK for a one-off, but not a good use of resources for parties to adopt as the main way of selecting their candidates (for that amount of money, you could get a full time campaign organiser, office, phone line, risograph etc.) It becomes more feasible if the cost per constituency can be got down to about £3-5,000.

* One way to do this could be for local parties to agree to hold their primaries on the same day and send out the information together and let people choose which primaries to vote in. It would require a culture shift for local parties to work together in this way – but isn’t changing the culture and doing things differently what this is all meant to be about?

This post was first published on Don Paskini’s blog.

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