Is this a way of reconnecting with the voters?
The result of the Conservative Totnes primary was announced this lunchtime and the big number that will be looked at is the 24.6% turnout. This puts it on par with what we saw last year in the US presidential primaries and gives the winner a very different mandate from those selected as parliamentary by standard selection procedures. Here it’s almost always in the hands of local parties with, in the case of Labour, trade unions involved as well.
One of the weaknesses of the the current system is that in the vast majority of seats the general election outcome is not in doubt and ordinary voters have almost no say in the selection of the person who will represent them at Westminster.
From a democratic standpoint the primary, surely, is a good thing – but I wonder how ordinary party members are going to feel? For being part of the process to select the candidate is normally the most power that they have – but with this that is being taken away.
There is a certain safeguard in that in the Totnes case the local party drew up the short-list. The final decision was taken by the electorate at large.
Before the vote, possibly to downplay expectations, the Tories were talking of a 15% turnout being mark of success. Well they certainly must be pleased with this.
What will be interesting is to see if today’s winner, Dr Sarah Wollaston, performs any differently than other Tories in the region. My guess is that she will if only because she’ll have a higher level of name recognition.