By Graeme Archer
There will shortly be a by-election in Oldham and Saddleworth, as a result of Phil Woolas' "unfortunate" electoral literature. Discussion has already turned to whether or not there should be a Liberal and a Tory candidate, or if one half of the Coalition should withdraw, in order to maximise the chance of defeating Labour. Here is my proposal. I take it for granted that most readers share my view, that a defeat for Labour would be a delicious outcome, both in terms of what it would do to Ed Miliband's leadership, as well as just rewards for the disgusting campaign they ran in the seat at the General Election.
I do not see how we can have a Tory and a Liberal candidate on the day of the by-election. Were this to happen, a mischievous media would spend the entire campaign trying to get one of them to attack the other, in order to extrapolate back to the supposed inter-party tensions within the government. We would likely fail in our (joint, Coalition) objective to put Labour's failures in the spotlight.
Let us admit that we are separate parties, Tory and Liberal, and that we both wish to represent this seat. Let us admit that we agree that Labour must be defeated. How to proceed?
Hold an Open Primary, at which every elector in the constituency can vote. Field candidates from both our Coalition parties, free to put their party case for why each deserves to fight the seat. No need for Tories to pretend to be Liberal Democrats, or vice-versa.
Then field the winner as the Coalition candidate, and urge every Liberal and Tory voter in the constituency to support that person.