Primary elections would give the British system some needed fresh air

“In Britain, anything like the Tea Party movement would be strangled at birth”.

“unless the parties give up the central power of veto over candidates, you have achieved nothing”.

    Now that the AV phoney war is over, let’s think about a voting reform which would truly transfer power to the people and cut out the malign influence of centralised political parties – primary elections.

Listening to LibDem leader Nick Clegg and his ilk talk about how they are still committed to voting reform is just sickening. If you actually examine what the man and his party are saying, what they want adds up to the antithesis of reform. The LibDem’s proposed reforms – some form of proportional representation – might spread the votes around in a “fairer” way, but they would still retain the malign practice whereby the political parties retain central control of the lists of candidates. So however you manage to design a system which purports to be better and more representative, unless the parties give up the central power of veto over candidates, you have achieved nothing. Candidates will always be from a narrow group acceptable to the central party hierarchies.

In Britain, anything like the Tea Party movement would be strangled at birth. In America, those radical Tea Party Republicans (and sometimes people without party) were able to bring pressure for reforming Washington by mobilising locally to make sure that the candidates in last autumn’s mid-term elections for all of the House of Representatives and a third of the Senate and some Governorships represented the views of the local people, not what the central bureaucracy thought they should have. Radical outsider candidates fought primaries and won.

The British system would be transformed if we adopted this idea. The primary system positively cries out for different candidates than those the current system throws up. People with long business careers could offer themselves at the primary, where now only time-servers who have always toed the party line can enter because the system is biased towards those who have proved themselves pliable to Conservative Central Office. If a new candidate is required for a general election, the short list always comprises those approved by Central Office. There is a vote, but after a ludicrously short 60-odd minute election campaign at a constituency meeting. Primary elections would allow for an extended campaign by those seeking nomination. Local party members would have the candidate they wanted, not an imposed one.

Under the British system, time-servers in hock to Central Office or Labour’s Transport House (or whatever it’s called today) dominate ballot lists. This is why many of our Parliamentarians are career politicians with no experience of the outside world. Tory leader David Cameron springs to mind among a small army of others who have done nothing in the real world.

Bunnies and apple pie

Primary elections would be a huge step forward in pushing power out to the people, but not the “open” primary system being pushed by Cameron. Given something the prefix “open” always gives it a bunnies and apple pie aspect. What could be bad about something that is “open”. Plenty. Think about it for a few moments and you will agree that open primaries are a nonsense. This would mean that if each party in a constituency had open primaries, there would almost be no reason for a main election. Each party primary would find itself dominated by non-partisan candidates who were all things to all men. (The more you think about it, the more you can see the dead hand of the LibDems at work).

No. Party primaries must be between registered party members. Let them fight it out. Each party’s registered voters (and this would be a big incentive for parties to recruit new paying members) would be eligible to vote.

If you feel that Britain’s current system fails to adequately represent you, give the primary system a chance. Can you imagine what sort of Tory party we would have in Parliament, if all the MPs had fought primaries? They would stand no nonsense from Europe. They would insist on lower taxes and smaller government. Immigration policy would make the man or women on the street happy. Maybe someone would even have a critical thought about the blessed NHS? Come to think of it, a wet, time-serving compromiser like Cameron would have stood no chance of winning the Tory leadership because he couldn’t possibly have won a primary election.

Isn’t that reason enough to give the idea a go?

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