The issue of open primaries was raised by ConservativeHome with the two party leadership candidates last year. It is the second question posed by Cllr Derek Tipp to the candidates for the party board…
Are you in favour of parliamentary candidates being selected by either
“open primaries”, or by selection panels which include people from
outside the membership of the Party? If so do you believe those methods
should be compulsory for all selections, or simply a voluntary choice
JOHN FLACK: These are interesting proposals that have only had one or two brief trials. I certainly have no problems if individual Associations wish to try these new methods. We should see the results of more “trials” before considering whether any one system should be “compulsory”. The key thing is to get new Candidates who will –
- Genuinely serve the local Constituents (as well as make a contribution nationally).
- Who will be willing and able to campaign effectively in what may be a long haul from selection to election.
- Who can easily relate to and get on with a wide cross section of the public.
- Who have a range of relevant talents, not just the ability to make a barnstorming speech at a selection meeting.
- Who will be an asset and a loyal supporter of the Party both locally and nationally.
- How we achieve these aims is less important than the fact that we do achieve them.
JEREMY MIDDLETON: I am happy that we test a wide range of different selection methods for Parliamentary Candidates. However, so far I have seen no evidence that any of these are preferable to our current system. I therefore think that our current system whereby members in Associations select their candidates on a common basis should be continued. The new guidelines offer Associations a choice of methods which seem fine to me.
SIMON MORT: I am fairly unmoved by these options. It should not be compulsory. If these people "outside the party" are so bloody useful why are we not recruiting them into the Party? There was a very successful primary at Warrington for the last election: it received extensive coverage in the Press. I attended such an event at Reading East (one of our gain seats). It seemed to me indistinguishable from any other selection.
TOBY VINTCENT: Open primaries? Under no circumstances. How do you vet those voting? How do you prevent opposition parties or single-issue groups from hijacking the list of potential voters? How do we exercise any control over the candidates we select?
EMMA PIDDING: I believe that the decision of how Parliamentary candidates should be selected is one that each individual Association should make. I am familiar with the ‘open primary’ selection process that was used with great success in Reading East, resulting in a Conservative gain in the 2005 General Election. The Association there speaks enthusiastically of the system. We must, of course, be mindful that any method of selection that included non-members does leave us open to possible infiltration by opposition parties!! The Party has a role to play centrally in advising Associations of the options, and in assisting in the facilitation of any methods that might be adopted.