Cllr. Howard Roberts, of Dunchurch and Knightlow Ward on Rugby Borough Council, has called for open primary for the selection of candidates for the next elections next year. A third of the seats are due to be contested.
Cllr. Roberts said:
“In the 2011 elections the same party won in 13 of the 16 wards contested in 2003. It shows that the reality is that the party hierarchy picks who represents us rather than the public.”
“When I was selected to be my party candidate there were no more than a handful of people in the room. I would like to see open primaries brought in so that we re-energise the public in the democratic process, giving legitimacy and a stronger mandate to councillors.”
“Remember, our current MP Mark Pawsey was selected by an open primary. He has shown that the process leads to the best candidate for the area being chosen rather than a party favourite who appeals to a narrow party base.”
“The turnout in local elections is often disappointing and I hope that open primaries would go some way towards re-engaging the electorate with local politicians.”
"Most Rugby Borough Council Wards are small communities with around 6,000 voters represented by three councillors. Holding an open meeting allows residents to meet those who wish to represent them, see them debate local issues before deciding who they would like to be candidate at the election. It is true democracy in action.”
Cllr Roberts says that so far no candidates have been chosen for next year (which seems a bit slack although I suppose some will be sitting councillors.)
I like the idea of open primaries. I think they make it more likely that good candidates are chosen and that those candidates then go on to be elected. The problem is they don't organise themselves. Is Cllr Roberts prepared to pay the booking fees at the church halls, to deliver the invitations, to adminster the lists of elgibile voters?
There is the risk of disappointment that after the effort of sorting out the logistics few turn up. What if, in some safe Labour ward, there is little competition to be the Conservative candidate?
These practical arguments are stronger regarding Council elections than Parliamentary elections.
On the other hand the process itself can bring in donations and new volunteers. Where feasible I think it is the right approach.