Thoughts on politics and life from a liberal perspective

Saturday, 17 October 2009

Has Bracknell sent a message about local candidates in primaries?

The result has just been announced of the Conservative Bracknell open primary/caucus and the winner is Dr Phillip Lee. I want to extend my congratulations to Dr Lee for his victory in this hard fought contest.

The contest has been very closely tracked in the blogosphere not least because of the presence in the shortlist of the leading Conservative blogger Iain Dale who came third. My commiserations to him.

What I wanted to focus on in this post though is what message Bracknell may be trying to send to the Conservatives and politicians in general about these primaries and the candidates they were offered. I should state that despite being a constituent I was not at the meeting (I am abroad at the moment) so I do not know how each of the candidates performed. However I was concerned right from the outset that there were no local candidates on the shortlist.

My friend Darren did some interviews with some of the candidates on Bracknell Blog and from Phillip's interview, as well as other information I have seen it struck me that although he did not live in the constituency, he was the "most local" of the candidates having been a GP just 10 miles outside the seat boundary and actually having some on-call patients within the constituency. Given all of this, my hypothesis was that if the "localness" of a candidate was a crucial element in the minds of the voters then Phillip would win. That has now come to pass.

Of course I do not know if this was the crucial element in his election, there may well be other reasons. I would however be surprised if it was not at least a factor and given how close the contest seems to have been (it went to 5 rounds) it could easily have been what made the difference. So, perhaps there is a lesson here for all parties but especially the Conservatives who have been most keen on this form of caucus/primary type election.

I think it will be worth looking at how other contests of this nature go in the future to see if a pattern of local (or "more local") candidates being selected is borne out. If it is then it will be food for thought for the party bosses making the decisions about how to select candidates. After all, if it becomes increasingly difficult to parachute favoured candidates into safe seats in the future I suspect they will not like that. At all...

PS: I should just make clear my view that I think contests of this nature would be unnecessary if our electoral system was changed to Single Transferable Vote with multi-member constituencies. That would give the entire electorate the chance to rank multiple candidates from different parties as part of the election itself.


Dippyness. said...

I think you may remember, like you, I felt that the candidate should be local. Therefore I am delighted with the result.
I'm sure there will be another opportunity of Ian Dale soon. However I feel the best man won. :-)

CharlesM186 said...

This worked very effectively. 7 worthy candidates - 3 front runners. I do not share your view that the local issue was important. No one near me raised it once. Philip Lee won because of his presentation and the way he spoke. The conservatives near me believed he was very sellable to the electorate. The non conservatives liked the caring, sharing GP bit.

Mark Thompson said...

Charles. I was not at the event as I stated but Dazmando on Bracknell Blog who was at the event has posted a review here in which he highlights how Dr Lee focused very strongly on his local credentials in his leaflet and also kept referring to them during his spoken contribution. So even if it did not sway you and you heard nobody near you raise it, I still suspect it had some effect. Indeed Dr Lee clearly thought it would too or he would not have referred to it so much.

David said...

In STV elections, not everyone will use up all of their preferences. This means that if parties field too many candidates, it could damage their prospects. Given this, I don't think STV would lead to an end of internal selection.

It is ironic that the Conservatives clearly didn't feel that FPTP was a good enough system to use in the primary, despite being fine with it on the national level.

Anonymous said...

I think we should ask why a doctor wants to give up a practice and become an MP, seriously!

He might be a good tory but I have a problem with primaries in that it is possible for a bad tory to win with left wing votes. I notice on the doctors leaflet at Bracknell blog he was all about fighting to save the local hospital and fighting to bring home whatever bacon he could for the constituency, clearly not very aware of the fact that the state is too big and there's too much public spending so why should Bracknell get more ?

So all you need to do to win one of these things is be local and promise things you can't deliver.

Andy said...

I wonder how this will impact on the Primary idea-

dazmando said...

Andy said... will have a big impact for Iain Dale or any other man.

I did hear people talk about Phillip Lee being locak when I moved around the floor, not many but if its anough for a few it would have an effect.