In the last few months, many Conservative supporters and bloggers have been singing the praises of open primaries. They see this as a way of trying to ensure that seats, even potentially safe seats are at the very least openly contested at the candidates stage which should improve democracy.
Sunday, 27 September 2009
I am quite dubious about the benefits of open primaries, not least because they sound like reform without in my view delivering real reform. A change to multi-member seats using a transferable vote system would be a better reform in my view and allow the electorate to make their choice from a wider field as part of the actual election.
Despite my misgivings, I was however intrigued to learn that in my own constituency of Bracknell, the Conservatives have decided to hold an open primary* to select their candidate to replace the current MP Andrew MacKay. For those who aren't aware, Mr MacKay was forced to announce he was standing down at the next election back in May as a result of the MP expenses scandal.
I have already done a post on Bracknell Blog about my surprise that local Tory council leader Paul Bettison has not been shortlisted for the primary. I am even more surprised to learn now that the shortlist has been released that there are actually no local candidates at all on the shortlist of 7.
This seems bizarre to me. Are the Tories saying that there are no local candidates of a high enough calibre to be on the list? Mr Bettison clearly wanted to be on the shortlist (see this article from the "Get Bracknell" website just a few weeks back) and I suspect others from the local party would have liked to have been too. I understand that in any process like this the candidates have to be whittled down but I am curious to know what sort of process they use for this that has led to no local representation on the shortlist.
The recent Totnes open primary which was held up by the Conservatives as a great example actually had three local candidates in the final vote.
Why is Bracknell being denied a similar choice?
* To be strictly correct, what the Conservatives are holding in Bracknell is actually an open caucus as Douglas Carswell MP has already pointed out, although everyone else seems to be referring to it as a primary.