Monday, July 20, 2009

A Primary Masterstroke?

I think the Totnes Associations decision to hold a fully open primary election to pick their next Candidate is a brilliant move that I hope heralds a new beginning for British democracy.

One of the only major drawbacks with the First Past the Post electoral system we have in this country is the problem of 'bed blockers' - long established veteran MP's in very safe seats who having been selected years ago simply get re-elected time and time again because of an inbuilt one party majority in an area. These people often become out of touch with their electorate because they simply don't have to maintain the aggressive level of electioneering and campaigning that is required in seats that are closer fought each time.

Various potential cures for this have been cooked up over the years and none have worked. One cure was the introduction of the need for sitting MP's to be formally re-adopted by their parties each Parliament, unfortunately all that happened is that long-serving MP's weren't challenged and simply got re-adopted unopposed.

Cameron's hope is that if the idea of primary contests takes off there will be eventually a choice of candidates from each party offered to the electorate of each seat in between elections. A long serving MP who is good, like Ian Gibson, would be reselected by the whole electorate; whereas a 'donkey with the right colour rosette' might find some stiff competition for the job from within the ranks of his own party. This would give a modest level of choice to all the electors, even if the demographics of the seat make it overwhelmingly a one-colour likely outcome in the end.

Totnes is very much the test-bed for the system so here's hoping it all goes well next weekend.

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