Theresa's primary support

CONSERVATIVE Party chairman Theresa May has come around to a change in British politics that I have long advocated – the adoption of US-style primaries to select wannabe MPs.

CONSERVATIVE Party chairman Theresa May has come around to a change in British politics that I have long advocated – the adoption of US-style primaries to select wannabe MPs.

She believes local people should choose the Parliamentary candidate from a short-list drawn up by activists with the primary polls open to all party members in a constituency. Ms May says the move could provide the party with more women and ethnic minority candidates at the next General Election.

Let's take as an example the Suffolk constituency of Waveney, where the Conservatives may have a sporting chance of turfing out the sitting Labour MP Bob Blizzard at the next election.

Under the May plan, Waveney constituency Tory officers would advertise for a candidate in the normal way, and draw up a short-list from the applicants. But instead of choosing the standard bearer themselves, the choice would be thrown open to registered Tory members in the division that covers Lowestoft, Beccles and Bungay.


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Ms May told the Hansard Society last week. "You can impose rigid structures from the top or you can give people on the ground the choice of how they address the problem. The Labour Party tried the first approach. Its all-women shortlists achieved temporary success but it has not been sustained. I believe that in order to achieve progress in this area we must work with local people and local parties and give them choice about how they deal with the problem."

If the Tories do adopt this approach, Labour and the Liberal Democrats may also feel obliged to follow suit to prevent a democratic deficit from opening up. The downside, of course, is that primaries would have to be held to decide whether an MP should be readopted – and party members might embarrassingly prefer a difference candidate for the following election.

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