Is Totnes the way forward?
Mike Smithson has a piece on the result of the Totnes open primary which saw Dr Sarah Wollaston elected as the Conservative candidate. The turnout was 24.6% which Smithson says puts it on a par with US primaries. In his piece Smithson rightly makes the point that it might give voters in safe seats a greater say over which candidate is selected. However, he wonders:
“how ordinary party members are going to feel? For being part of the process to select the candidate is normally the most power that they have – but with this that is being taken away.”
Problems with this aspect have already emerged with tensions between local associations and CCHQ. Actually, CCHQ’s ‘sifiting’ shows how an ‘open’ primary can in fact be the controlled creature of a central party machine.
Other problems exist as highlighted by one of the commenter who pointed out the disproportionate advantage to candidates who can secure large financial backing. Also, let’s be honest they are open to manipulation as another comment from ‘wageslave’ highlights:
“I’m sure I saw a Lib Dem on the TV saying they were going to get their supporters in the area to vote for this awful Nye bloke.”
It remains to be seen if the open primary system will improve the Conservatives result in Totnes and whether there will be a wider adoption of the system beyond the confines of the Conservative Party. I rather think that actually it won’t end up being widely adopted despite the media hype; it might well be that other parties study Totnes and other such contests closely and despite the debate they will ultimately be judged on the electoral results they produce.