Congratulations to Lucy Frazer who has been chosen as the Conservative candidate for South East Cambridgeshire in the constituency’s Open Primary. A Cambridge University graduate, Miss Frazer, is a barrister who specialises in commercial law. (2013 has been going rather well as she became a QC earlier this year.)
She is Deputy Chairman of the Hampstead and Kilburn Conservatives. This is a constituency association renowned for its campaigning vigour.
I should add commiserations to my friend, Paul Bristow, who was also shortlisted. At least he had the satisfaction of his efforts being acknowledged in The Economist, which considered the efforts of political parties to combat apathy. Their report noted that the Open Primary meant that on market day in Ely, candidates seeking selection were outward looking, setting up stalls among those “selling vegetables, Christmas decorations and old records”.
Would-be Labour MPs have taken to championing credit unions and food banks. Many of their Conservative counterparts hold job fairs. Some Tory associations, including the one in Ely, are trying to overcome apathy by inviting local residents to help select candidates. Paul Bristow, one of those shortlisted there, hopes that the final selection on December 7th will attract at least 100 non-members.
If successful, such innovations could boost turnout and upend British politics. For years, parties have run elections with an iron grip, precision-engineering policies and messages for broadcast. But if non-voters are as important as some think, such methods will be less important. No amount of advertising will win their trust; instead, the parties will need lots of boots on the ground. That is good news for Labour, with its larger, younger membership, and bad news for the greying, shrinking Conservative Party.
But perhaps not such bad news if it is the Conservatives that are holding Open Primaries and attracting new recruits when they do so. The Labour Party (or rather Unite the Union) adopt a less cerebral approach to their selection inspired recruitment drives.
The sitting Conservative MP, Sir James Paice, has a majority of 5,946.