The Futility Monster

He'll pointlessly derive more enjoyment out of your resources than you

Will Woolaston Win?

Posted by The Futility Monster on August 5, 2009 @ 14:53

Yes She Will; and at least the local electorate had some say in the matter, unlike other safe seats...

Yes She Will; and at least the local electorate had some say in the matter, unlike other safe seats...

The Tories little exercise in democracy in Totnes has attracted a lot of interest, especially as the winning candidate, who now becomes the Tories candidate for the constituency, and surely the next MP for the seat, has only been a member of the Tories for three years.

How upsetting that must be for all those other local Conservatives who’d been climbing that greasy pole for years, jockeying for position, waiting for Anthony Steen MP to retire, when all of a sudden a carpet-bagger arrives and – worse – is endorsed by 25% of the electorate before she’s even run for office. What a confidence booster for her to have so much legitimacy before she’s even begun.

Yes, democracy really is a ruddy shame sometimes, getting in the way of all that hard fought patronage and back-scratching. Oh, OK – I admit it… yes, this was a very limited primary, the voters only getting to choose from three hand-picked candidates. But it is a very interesting step in the right direction, one that seems to suggest that voters have engaged with the process fairly meaningfully and can be trusted to choose a sensible candidate… even when members of other parties are invited in.

However, I’m not going to claim that open primaries are about to rescue our democracy. But the outcome of this one is an encouraging sign that people are prepared to get involved. They could certainly make selecting candidates in safe seats, where the winner is almost certain to become an MP, more interesting in the sense that, even though the electorate may have little outcome to which rosette the winning MP is going to be wearing… they can at least choose who that will be from the likely winning party.

I’d favour a closed primary system, with individual registration and each citizen specifies which party they are a supporter of. If they don’t want to indicate a party support, that is fine, and they could still decide just before the closed primary which one they would like to vote in. That way, only registered party supporters will get a say on the candidate. That seems fair and sensible. Much as it seems unlikely, it could potentially be possible in certain seats for an organised campaign by the opposition to influence the outcome of an open primary. 1,000 mischievous Tories in a seat like Bootle (and they do exist) could certainly shift the result if Labour turnout was poor, as it almost certainly would be.

The key point to all this is to try and remove some power from the hands of the local parties, which are invariably cliques of people who all know each other and select each other as candidates at varying times. This is especially true for small parties. But how much more legitimate, and engaging to local party supporters, but not activists, would the whole process be if all of them were invited to get involved?

Despite all this, I’m still unconvinced, simply because there is a much more elegant solution.

STV. The Single Transferable Vote. The system that effectively allows us to combine party primaries and an actual election in the one package. Each election is a genuine fight not only between but within the parties.

That is, unless you’re Sinn Fein – whose fantastically loyal support literally take orders on a street-by-street level on how to rank the candidates. Vote management is the name of the game.

Some say this is a flaw of STV. It is. But all systems are flawed. STV is the best of a bad bunch.

But since we’re never going to get STV, closed primaries will have to do.


One Response to “Will Woolaston Win?”

  1. […] Will Woolaston Win? […]

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