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Saturday, August 08, 2009

Engaging with the electorate

It is unlikely that even the Tories can afford to repeat the Totnes open primary experiment too often. The cost was estimated to be about £50,000. However, there is no doubt that the exercise gave the eventual winner a head start in contesting what is effectively a marginal seat at the next General Election.

That does not mean though that other parties should rule out doing something similar in the future. Indeed the challenge is finding a form of selection that is much more inclusive and representative than the present party-based method whilst, at the same time, being affordable.

David Miliband's idea, published in Tribune of widening the party franchise is therefore worth serious consideration. He suggests emulating the model pioneered by the Greek socialist party, Pasok, in which sympathisers can register as “friends” and then take part in selection contests:

“The traditional political structures of mainstream political parties are dying and our biggest concern is the gap between our membership and our potential voter base,” he writes.

“We need to expand our reach by building social alliances and increasing opportunity for engagement and interaction with our party.”

He adds: “We say we want to listen to our voters, why not a system of registered voters as in the US to create the basis for primaries?”

All the major parties have seen a fall in their membership base and this is one way to widen engagement in a structured and affordable manner as well as to restore confidence in politicians by giving people a greater stake in who the candidates are. The Liberal Democrats should not leave it to other parties to take the lead on this.
I thought that is why you joined a political party, many members do not go to meetings, many Union members I know have not once bothered to turn up at a debate or a Union meeting, but they are labour, yet they get an option of voting. Friends who register are they not the swing voters labour like so much. I mean in you register with a party as a friend , come on that means your a labour member.
Will be an interesting result in Totnes, as will much of the South West.
In what way is this different from what we already do?

Membership of our party is available for a fairly nominal sum, and has no obligations, and allows voting in candidate selection.
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