It has now been announced that the next Conservative Parliamentary Candidate for Esher & Walton will be chosen at an Open Primary to be held at Sandown racecourse on 21st November 2009. All registered electors in the Esher & Walton constituency, whether Conservatives or not, will be able to register to attend and to cast their vote.
This system is common in America – that is how the main parties there choose their Presidential candidates. It was introduced by David Cameron as means of ensuring Conservative candidates have as wide an appeal as possible, rather than being chosen by the party members alone. Party members can still choose the final shortlist and reject candidates they do not like. The final choice however is left to the interested voters of the constituency as a whole.
In Britain, the vast majority of our Parliamentary constituencies are “safe” – in other words the party currently holding them is unlikely to lose unless there is an absolute meltdown in their vote, or they are on the wrong side of a burning local issue. It means that voters who do not support the party in control feel disenfranchised at election time. They cannot see how their vote will count given their opponents’ massive support.
Open primaries give such voters some ownership of the candidate which they otherwise would not have. In Esher & Walton it means that those who may not be Conservative supporters can at least have some input in who is going to be the Conservative candidate. Experience in other seats tends to suggest that supporters of other parties do not as a whole attend these primaries in order, cynically, to vote for the lease attractive Conservative candidate in the hope that this will make the seat less safe come election time.
So far I have kept out of the public debate over the succession to Ian Taylor. I took the view that Ian was entitled to have some time to explain his decision before others scrambled for the succession. The local papers began to speculate about possible candidates immediately and other blogs, such as that run by the Thames Ditton & Weston Green Residents’s Association have a running thread on the issue.
When the vacancy is advertised I will apply to be considered, and at that time I will post on this blog the reasons why I think I could make a good MP for this constituency. In the meantime, anyone who is interested can check my Councillor web pages for a little more information about my background and my priorities: http://www.elmbridge.gov.uk/cwcouncillor/JamesBrowne/default.htm