So much for ‘open source’ politics…
Conservative Home has this rather damming indictment of the Conservatives claim that their jaunt in Totnes represents a radical shift in how politics is done. It is a lengthy article detailing an ‘unprecedented’ shift of power over selection shortlists into the clammy hands of CCHQ and Eric Pickles.
Pickles along with association officers will ‘sift’ all the applications for those seats where Conservatives are standing down and send forward six candidates to the Special General Meeting or Open Primary. Provision exists to reduce this field to four and those deemed ‘completly unsuitable’ can be removed by the Association Executive. In 2010 any seat where an existing MP stands down will see its association simply presented with a list of three candidates to choose from; ‘by-election’ rules will apply.
Jonathan Isaby raises a number of questions from these proposals but I think there is a broader one about how the ‘open primary’ system; far from ‘open sourcing’ politics actually entrenches power with a central party machinery. In my mind there is no doubt that David Cameron’s ulterior motive for its introduction is to get people more sympathetic to his kind of politics in place as Conservative candidates.
However, the notion that Open Primaries allow a ‘free-for-all’ feast of democracy is simply nonsense. How many candidates in American open primaries with a serious chance come from outside party machines without some kind of base and actually go on to be nominees? In his response, Pickles says;
“As to whether the selections in the autumn would be by Open Primary or Special General Meeting, he said that the former was “rapidly becoming the norm”, although there was a financial question over whether it was feasible to run more all-postal ballots like the one currently underway in Totnes.”
However, they blatantly do not improve or even add anything to democracy except maybe a strong circus-aspect.