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« David Davis plays down Clarke threat | Main | Portillo and Yeo get the Clarke bandwagon rolling... »


Selsdon Man

COPOV also lists David Davis,Alan Duncan, Mark Field, Eric Forth, Paul Goodman, Nick Herbert, John Redwood, Richard Spring, Robert Syms and Nick Winteron as supporting party democracy.

James Hellyer

But in the case of Davis that's simply misleading. He did not exercise his vote to stop disenfranchisement. I don't count that as support.


Conservative Associations are as narrow a representation of the general electorate as the MP's they elect. If the CA Chairpersons actually could get a better representative membership or supporters club, instead of just more people like them, they would automatically have more sway and say.

The MP's shouldn't just speak for themselves, they speak to many different people in their constituency and they should listen to the people's views they purport to represent (including those in their area that didn't vote for them - which Ed V claims to do in his article today).

James Hellyer

"Conservative Associations are as narrow a representation of the general electorate as the MP's they elect."

Evidence for this assertion please.


I think the evidence is the other way round. MPs are much more male than association members. There is only one MP from Scotland. Only three from Wales. Only one, I think, representing NE England.

Tory MPs also come from a much narrower background than party members - they're from the City, law and, increasingly politics.

None of this means that the party membership is representative enough and it's one of the reasons why I've consistently argued for primary-style elections that involve floating etc voters.

Dave J

"Conservative Associations are as narrow a representation of the general electorate as the MP's they elect."

Excuse me, but what about the MP's they DON'T elect? There's a Conservative Association in every constituency outside Northern Ireland; there are party members in every seat, not just the ones currently represented by Tory MP's, including exactly the target seats the next leader should have to be able to appeal to in the next election.

Narrowing the franchise isn't just bad in principle, but also stupid and counterproductive politics.


It wasn't just the male/female imbalance I was thinking of, I've read recently (and I promise Mr Hellyer I'll try to find the article for you next week - it may even have been an article posted on this site) that the membership is represented by only three out of 20 socio demographic groups and that they are dominated by the over 50's.

Fiona Bruce was a fantastic candidate and I enjoyed reading about the primary she held in Warrington in order to be the chosen parliamentary candidate in May 2005.

Francis Maude said in an article dated 16/08/05 that at the time Mrs Thatcher was elected there were more supporters of her and the Tories under the age of 35 than among voters over 35. Those were the days when the Tories were seen as a forward thinking party.

By this reckoning the potential leader should enlist the help of Derek Laud as he's probably the best known Tory in the under 35 age group!


'a-tracy' - none of us are saying that the CP's rank-and-file membership is as representative as it could be. But, for the reasons I gave above, it's more representative than the MPs. The solution must be to broaden our election process - not to narrow it. You cite Fiona Bruce's election primary. I know Fiona and she's certainly an excellent advert for the open primary system.

James Hellyer

"the membership is represented by only three out of 20 socio demographic groups and that they are dominated by the over 50's"

While I can believe that certain groups are underrepresented, I find it scarcely credible that they are entirely absent from the membership.

If the MPs are supposedly more representative, perhaps you could tell me how many groups they derive from...


Surely people join a political party because they broadly agree with its policies and want to have a say in how their party develops. The members want a leader who represents their views, not the views of focus groups, or those who support other parties.

Thank goodness for the MPs who are standing up for the rights of the ordinary members, the 20 brave enough to come out, plus the other 30 who also voted against this thoroughly undemocratic proposal.

Michael Howard says in his letter to chairmen that we should support it because it will be quicker and cheaper, and yet he and Central Office have sent out three separate mailings in two days to all 1100 members of the National Convention.

The existing system could be made quicker and the cost could be shared among the members by using telephone voting with a secure pin number.


I'm advocating that you widen the franchise not narrow it!

The more people that give their opinion the more likely they are to support the new leader in the next election.

The MP's are too narrow a band and the CA's are too narrow a band of the electorate and the UK as the Editor pointed out. Mind you for what the public know about many of the candidates it would be just as evenly balanced to put the names in a bag next week and pull one out.

Selsdon Man

Despite the favourable comments on Ms Bruce, I have severe reservations about the open primary. It leaves us open to outside influence in picking candidates. Selections should be open to Party members only - they pay the subs, deliver the leaflets and knock on doors. No subs - no vote!

Dave J

Selsdon Man: it depends on just how open an open primary you're talking about. In most states in the US, people register to vote by party affiliation, unlike (as I understand it) in the UK, although of course one can register as an Independent/Unaffiliated/"Decline to State" (the actual term varies) and about a third of voters do. A closed primary in the US mean voters registered under that party label, not, by analogy, paid-up card-carrying members of the RNC, DNC or whatever. An open primary is open to every registered voter. Some states allow independents to vote in whichever party's primary they choose to at a particular election (but not multiple primaries, of course).

In Florida, whose electoral system I'm most familiar with, you have a bit of a hybrid: usually closed primaries, but if no candidate runs at all in a major party's primary, the other one's becomes an open primary (because it's effectively the general election and, the logic goes, should therefore be open to all voters).

Selsdon Man

Dave, your understanding of the US is correct. An open primary in this country would open up the process to influence from our opponents who could infiltrate meetings. That is why I support closed primaries - members only - here.


I can understand your concerns Selsdon Man but plenty of people submit donations though are not members. So what if the opposition and other other vested interest groups (perhaps pay to vote via text or phone) to choose a candidate from the ones the Party has put up. If the candidate is good enough what's the problem - it's not like potential leaders can just be put up off the street is it?

Or are you saying that they may not pick the one you want? or that the conservative party is so split and wide that you can't rally behind one or the other candidates presented because I would support any one of the five key persons in the race presently as conservatives with core issues at heart?

Dave J

A-tracy, I oppose open primaries here in the US and would suggest the experienece is lesson learned for the UK, rather than having to reinvent the wheel. As a matter of practical politics, open primaries can allow political opponents to vote for people because they think they'll lose in the general election; as a matter of principle, open primaries undermine freedom of association, because a political party is not an agency of the state but a private entity whose members come together voluntarily, and should not be forced to accept leaders imposed on it from outside.


Dave, I understand what you're saying, I don't know enough about how open primaries work in the US but in the one open primary I do know of in Cheshire the Association put, if my memory serves me, just three of their preferred candidates up for election and it was up to those candidates to get out their local vote and their message to all the local people in order to win. Ms Bruce was a stronger candidate in her area for this process, however, she has years and years of opposition leadership to overturn.

The time to remove weak candidates should of course always be a case for MP's or CA Chairpersons to block vote for their membership.

Selsdon Man

Well put, Dave J! The danger is that our opponents would vote for the weakest candidate. Some of the shortlists, even in marginals, defy belief. A strong local is often up against two weak opponents (wonder why!).

The Cheshire primary, it appears, was not an open contest like in the US where anyone (with the money) can run in the Primary.

The Warrington selection, as you describe it, would have favoured a well known local candidate as result showed. That might be good for marginals but not necessarily for all seats.

Ms Bruce did achieve a swing of 5% and halved the Labour majority. But will she fight again or seek a safe seat? That is a dilemma facing those who did well in May.

Dave J

Then it sounds like Cheshire was not truly an open primary as I understand the term. Indeed, if you have the party picking who gets to run in advance, it's in some ways not even as open as a closed primary is here. The whole idea of a primary is that voters rather than back-room party officials pick the candidates: it's part of what contributed to weakening "machine politics" in the US after WWII. To really have American-style primaries in the UK, you'd probably NEED to have voter registration by party affiliation/preference.


I think a closed primary of just Conservative registered voters has to be the way forward.
While the open way which means that Independents could vote(and where McCain was able to beat Bush) seems a way to include possible floating voters it will lead us open then to tactical voters from other parties and fringe groups.

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