Conservativehome participants will know that we’re planning to open up the
selection process for our candidate to run for Mayor of London in 2008.
Everyone on the electoral register in London wi
ll be able to have a say over who
will be the Conservative candidate to challenge Ken Livingstone for the
capital’s top job.  And every Londoner who supports the Conservative Party
has the chance to be our candidate.

We already
have the loyal support of our me
mbership, which is essential for any political
party, and was absolutely key to our recent local election success. But now we
need to reach out to the wider electorate and get new people involved in

This is
the very first time in British politics that such an important post has been
chosen like this.  By doing things differently, Conservatives will get
people talking about politics again and encourage them to get involved.
We need to tackle the disillusionment and mistrust that the public has in politics,
and doing something truly innovative like this is the best way of getting
people engaged again.

Mayor’s decisions have a huge impact on the lives of everyone who lives in the
city, so it makes sense to give everybody the opportunity to have a say in choosing
who they think is best suited to the task.

process will be complete by early December, giving our candidate eighteen
months to campaign for the job.  And having been chosen by Londoners at
large, that candidate will start with a huge advantage.

thought very carefully about the details of the process.  We’re inviting
applications over the rest of the summer, with a panel – not just Conservatives
– interviewing to draw up a shortlist by Party Conference time.  The
shortlisted candidates will then campaign through London o
ver the next two months, with a
number of hustings meetings spread around the metropolis and suburbs.

If you
think you have the skills for London’s
top job, please do co
nsider applying.  You can find the details here."

These are radical plans, with an emphasis on involving the London electorate as a whole. The initial proposals to have an open primary
for London’s mayoral election were revealed to Watlington at the start
of April, it is very welcome that the Conservative blogosphere has been engaged with in this way again.

The Editor of ConservativeHome wrote an open letter to Francis
welcoming the initial proposals, but also giving ten reasons for why he
believed the process should be extended by six months. The ballot has
now been put back to November/December, rather than rushing it through
before party conference.

There is likely to be a great deal of interest in the 2008
candidacy, with the Conservatives becoming the biggest party in London
after the May 4th local elections. Steve Norris, the Conservative candidate two times in a row, said he would consider re-re-running
if he didn’t rate the other candidates. Candidates will have to be party members, and have broad support as there will be a cap on individual donations. The extent to which they will have to fund their own election campaign against Red Ken – who wants to hang on until the Olympics – is not clear, one of Watlington’s early concerns was that this would restrict candidacy to the wealthy.

Political opposition is often a catalyst for innovation. The Party plans to make much use of the internet in the selection process and voters will be able to cast their votes by phone and by text message.

Open primaries were successfully used at the last General Election
in the Warrington South and Reading East constituencies, if the London
selection goes well there will be more interest in the concept next
time around. We know of at least one seat in the first tranche of 35 that is planning to use an open primary. They can be expensive (the cost of the London one is expected to come close to £500,000) but are very effective at raising the profile of a candidate and giving them popular appeal.

Deputy Editor