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« David Cameron calls for fixed-term parliaments and majority-elected Lords | Main | David Lidington MP: The Case for David Willetts MP »



Jonathan, you and others have commented that the spending in America by politicians on elections is too high. I don't think the existence or nonexistence of party primaries is the cause of that. And while I'm not happy about campaign spending, I don't think it should be limited by government.

America has a written constitution, with Freedom of Speech enshrined. And "Freedom of Speech" means, primarily, freedom of political speech. Any laws that limit political spending limit free speech.

In practice, Aermican donors tend to give money to candidates perceived as winners. I won't go into the why of that. I'll merely observe that in practice the money goes to the candidates with the votes, father than the votes going to the candidates with the money. Thus the danger is minimal that unqualified candidates may spend their way to victory.

In practice, limits on political parties and candidate's election spending give more power to the media, which is of course free to publicize issues and parties. Since in America the mainstream media is predominantly anti-Conservative (often virulently so), campaign spending limitations tend to benefit the political Left. And benefit incumbents, who get free publicity from the media by virtue of their incumbency. Why the Tory Party would want to preserve a system that benefits incumbents and the media is beyond me.


James, "Dubya" was leading in the polls for the 2000 Republican nomination before any money was spent. I've never heard a mainstream Republican seriously contend that George Bush "bought" his way to the nomination, or that some anonymous PAC "bought" his nomination.

Another common misconception is the notion that the Republican Party is financed by millionaire donors. In fact, and this is true for the last 40 years at least, the average Republican donor gives less money than the average Democrat donor. There are just a lot more Republican donors. It's the Democrats, if anyone, who are in the thrall of the megabucks donors.

James Hellyer

He wasn't leading in all the polls and spent and massively outspent all the other candidates in the primaries.

Simon C

"Oh they do matter - but not to me as much as electoral success does."

Point being (and yet to be answered IMHO) that you cannot separate the two as clearly as that. If we engage with the electorate in the way that a primary would require, we would improve our prospects of electoral success.

A primary is not a universal panacea - far from it, but it would be an important step in the right direction.

Jonathan Sheppard

Labour didnt need primaries to win two landslides. I think its putting far too much faith is something that quite frankly could raise more problems than it solves.

No evidence has been presented as to how effective primaries were when they were used in various seats for the 2005 election. Has there been a huge surge in membership in those seats? Did we increase membership to a huge extent?

James Hellyer

Are two seats enough to make a decsion on, or would that require a huge generalisation to be extrapolated from a small base? Would the results be expected to be immediate anyway?


James, in an earlier post I have addressed the fundraising point you raise. Put simply, donations are a sign of the candidate's support, rather than the cause of that support. More to the point, Bush was ahead in the polls from the start. Just do a google search for "1999 poll bush republican" like I did and view the CNN/USA Today/Gallup polls of March 5, 1999 and June 28, 1999, among others.

Jonathan Sheppard

A small scale trial is seemingly a better basis for using primaries that just a feeling they may help us engage.

And as Ive asserted before -Labour and to a similar extent the Liberals in certain areas have connected with the electorate without primaries.

Simon C

"Reform's manifesto strikes me as offering the worst of both worlds."

James, please would you elaborate a little? What's your critique of Reform?

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