At yesterday’s Liberal Conspiracy Blog Nation event there was a lot of disagreement on a whole range of issues. One relatively uncontroversial topic was the need for greater activism at a grassroots and local government level.
My proposal – primary elections to help choose Prospective Parliamentary Candidates.
Currently PPC’s are mainly selected by members of the local chapter of the political party. Occasionally the party leadership will decide to ‘parachute in’ a candidate they like to get them into parliament, but lets ignore that for the time being.
I could see the sense of local selection at a time when communities were more stable and rooted. However in modern Britain where the workforce is incredibly mobile and people don’t stay in one city let alone one borough for all their lives, it is anachronistic and more importantly undemocratic, that a small band of essentially unaccountable people wield so much power.
Primaries could energise the political process in a number of ways;
1) Local people could decide what type of mp represents them. The extreme whipping of mp’s is a big problem and being able to hold them to account for how they vote would encourage them to be more independent.
2) The Oona King/George Galloway contest was essentially a glorified primary. Unfortunately, partly because it involved a split within the party it became a lot nastier than it needed to be. Primaries would allow disagreements while holding on to a broader party unity.
3) Following on from point 2, I think this would mean that left-wing political parties would be able to form a larger political tent rather than getting stuck up on dated talking points such as old labour v new labour.
4) It would help get rid of some of the hand-wringing over who should be selected; a-lists, all-women shortlists, ali meraj and other similar controversies would be minimized. I don’t think that Britain in the 21st century is a fundamentally racist society. In a fair election, the chances are that the most skilled politician (defining politician in a good way e.g. Barack Obama) would come through irrespective of identity. In the current system I get the feeling that the person who is best at navigating the much messier world of internal politics are the ones who are successful.
I’m sure there’s more but for now I’d conclude by saying that i think that the current selection policies are outdated and need a radical overhaul. Meanwhile primaries would be a really interesting way in helping to positively define what parties actually believe, in rather than what they think in comparison to the other two parties.
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Filed in: Party politics