8/04/2009

Open Primaries - Another way for a party with money to buy off the electorate

Forgive me for scoffing at the Conservative Party holding open primaries, but for me these do nothing for the democratic process as a whole an instead are a means of buying lots of publicity for the Tory party whilst giving a pretence of being at the leading edge of reform of the political system.

The cost of the Totnes open primary is reported to be in excess of £40000. This is a cost that Lib Dem and Labour constituency parties cannot afford. So instantly this idea is a one sided affair, with the Tories using their Ashcroft money (when will he get his affairs in order as he promised when he got his peerage) and and the rest of the cash that is flying in to their reserves in order to appear to be the bastions of electoral reform when anyone with any political knowledge will know that the Tories are the very last party who want to see a fairer electoral system in this country.

The truth of the matter is that this is an expensive PR exercise, and in many ways it has worked. But let's not pretend that this is a model for all constituencies or all parties. If the Tories were lower in the polls do you think they would do this ? Why are they not doing it in safe Labour seats ? Might the answer be that they know that in Tory seats the Tory majority of the electorate are more likely to choose the candidate the Tories want whereas in safe Labour seats the Labour majority could land the Tories with the least palatable candidate ?

So yes, I am a sceptic of this system because it is a system that discriminates against the parties without cash and a system that pretends to be more democratic than it is.

Update : Iain Dale has linked to this article referring to my arguments as apthetic, yet in the article above his Daily Dozen he points the the electoral reasons for the open primary being a good thing. The Tory Party can't have it both ways. Is it about opening up democracy (the Tory line) or PR and winning votes (Iain's line) ?

13 comments:

Anonymous said...

Come off it. No-one is suggesting this as a model for all seats. I know a hell of a lot of Tory seats, both safe and unwinnable, where you tremble to give half the members a vote never mind the electorate.

As for it being tewwibly unfair because the nathty nathty Tories get some PR, don't pretend the other parties couldn't do it if they weren't afraid of the lack of control. The Libs, for example, could ask that nice Michael Brown to fund a couple... drop in the ocean for him.

Norfolk Blogger said...

And your second paragraph spoils any argument you had.

Liam Murray said...

"The Tory Party can't have it both ways. Is it about opening up democracy (the Tory line) or PR and winning votes (Iain's line)?"

Not quite sure why it can't be both those things - there's nothing mutually exclusive about them. Can you explain?

Anonymous said...

Does your anger with open primaries have ANYTHING to do with the fact that the LibDem election machine is slowly falling apart?

After all, the LibDems seem to be taking one pounding after the next lately:
Down in Crewe, down in London, down in the Southwest, down in Europe, down in Norwich.

It's the first rule for political parties staring losses in the face: trash any good idea a well-performing party has.

It's so old, mate, it really is. People can see right through it.

Disco Biscuit said...

Starting the whole April 1st thing early this year, aren't you? Can't possibly expect this post to be taken seriously.

The Tories allowed the electorate of the constituency to choose the Tory candidate - rather than having someone chosen by the Tories forced upon them.

Your point about not running these in safe Labour seats is ludicrous. It cost £40,000 - why spend that amount of money selecting a candidate who won't get elected anyway?

And yes, of course it got some good publicity for the Tories; why is that a bad thing? Obviously if you do something good, it'll generate some good PR.

You also whine about Labour and the Lib Dems not being able to raise sufficient funds to do this. So what? Fundraising reflects the popularity of a party. If you want to bring in more donations, try finding some more supporters.

Stamping your feet and crying, "it's not fair! It's not fair!" isn't only unedifying, it's pitiful.

Norfolk Blogger said...

It's not about having lots of supporters, its about being bankrolled by hedge fund managers and Lords from Belize.

peter_dtm said...

sounds like yet another attempt to plea for state funding of political parties.

To which the answer HAS to be a resounding NO

If your political views do not garner sufficient cash support then you do NOT represent enough people to be listened to.

Plenty of rich people in the LD party; plenty of grass roots support (well the LD after all keep saying the system is rigged and they have far more support than the number of seats they get shows; ergo you are claiming to have lots more grass roots support)

I happen to think open primaries are a lunacy. Open PARTY primaries; yes. If the LD or Labour Parties had an open primary here; I'd vote for the worst possible candidate.

Joker said...

Norfolk Blogger has a point. Many constituency aren't going to be prepared to fork out that money just to get messed about by a portion of the electorate that will try to saddle them with the worst candidate, so when are the best circumstances for a primary, and are they so infrequent as to be a pointless distraction?

Will primaries only be run when a new PPC is being selected, or can a party challenge it's current PPC, or even MP? Isn't that deselection?

If you have a healthy, democratically run constituency party, which will pick the best candidate for that constituency, primaries should be an irrelevance.

Anonymous said...

This from the Times:

"An operation by the Liberal Democrats, who encouraged Tory opponents in Totnes to vote for Mr Bye, believing him to be the weakest candidate, failed when he came last."

I can only pray that your scoffing at the Tories' open primary is not anything approaching LibDem party policy.

Given the shameless way the LibDems tried to gerrymander this perfectly democratic process, it would be quite unfortunate for them to be seen as devious AND bitter.

The LibDems really do have egg on their faces over this, don't they?

Norfolk Blogger said...

Gerrymandering is the redrawing of boundaries. Clearly you need to read up on your politics before making silly attacks.

Anonymous said...

"Gerrymandering is the redrawing of boundaries. Clearly you need to read up on your politics before making silly attacks."

No, Sir, redrawing boundaries helps ensure a more even distribution of voters per constituency.

And was that a denial that the LibDems tried to get Mr. Bye selected? The only ones being silly here, it seems, are the Liberal Democrats.

Anonymous said...

Why can't opening up democracy be a vote winner?

People like democracy, people vote for it. Simple.

Norfolk Blogger said...

From Wikipedia

"Gerrymandering is a form of boundary delimitation (redistricting) in which electoral district or constituency boundaries are deliberately modified for electoral advantage. Gerrymandering may be used to help or hinder particular constituents, such as members of a political, racial, linguistic, religious or class group."

Now Mr Anonymous, go away, learn to read, and stop making yourself seem so dim.

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