Back blogging

Been absolutely rubbish blogging but being a dad, hubby, company director and chair of governors is taking up most of my time. Yeh, break out the violins!

Anyway, I thought I’d post about Progress’ call for Primaries to select our candiates. I know our current system isn’t perfect and can be open to alleged abuse, I think moving to primaries won’t help the party or help us serve the electorate.

Here’s my post on Labourhome:

It’s no surprise that the call for Primaries has followed Obama’s successful campaign.

Countless young Labour activists flocked across the Atlantic to campaign for him and as they travelled back enthused by hope and victory, secretly longed for a primary system to solve our woes in Brown’s Blighty.

But let me tell you why I find Progress’s call for Primaries at best puzzling and at worst, potentially damaging to Labour’s future.

As acting Co-Chair of Greenwich and Woolwich CLP, me and my fellow officers have to ensure we manage our budget, raise money and get ourselves on a campaign footing, not only for local elections in May but a General Election which could come at any time. A double dip, if you will.

We’ve got a good membership of our 200 and 2000 Club, the annual fundraising dinner pulls in quite a bit (it’s Andrew Adonis this year – tickets £35, November 26th) and we’ve had a surge of new members in the last 12 months.

But there’s not a chance in hell my CLP could afford to fund an open primary – and we’re one of the more solvent ones.

The Tories Totnes Primary cost £40,000. That means I’d need to sell more than 1,000 tickets to that annual dinner, have Elvis as the entertainment and blag the food and service for free.

Even if we managed to get the cost of running each primary down to £10,000, this still amounts to nearly £6.5m per national party.

Seeing as we’re £18m in debt and we’ve not even fought the election, it seems highly unlikely Ray Collins will be getting his chequebook out. Believe me, I’ve tried!

The alternative is getting the taxpayer to pay for it. But forcing them to fund the selection process of a candidate in this current climate will snap what remains of a connection between politicians and the electorate.

And it’s bad enough the BNP is going on Question Time but would we really want to subsidise its open primaries?

No. The real answer is actually a lot more boring and hard work. But hey, if you like your Obama glamour, it’s exactly how he got elected.

It’s getting more involved in the community, it’s holding coffee mornings with pensioners, it’s rolling street surgeries, it’s permanent campaigning, it’s door-to-door engagement.

But to do that, you need members. To get more members and keep the ones we have, we’ve got to get them more involved and give them more power not less.

The chance to choose the person to represent their local party is a cherished right and privilege. Taking that right away, getting the wards into debt and then expecting members to go out canvassing on cold December nights strikes me as being a bit naive.

So let’s not concern ourselves with primaries and instead make members our primary concern.

Greenwich and Woolwich was proud to be one of 11 CLPs that successfully proposed that the National Policy Forum members should be elected by OMOV, not by delegates to conference.

Personally, I’d like to see a directly elected and accountable Chair of the Party – a charismatic Howard Dean figure who could support the General Secretary, be responsible for campaigning across the party – in AND out of Government – and be a true voice for the membership.

I’m all for reconnecting with the electorate.

But if we want a sustainable future, re-build a mass membership and win back the public’s trust, let’s reconnect with the members first.

David Prescott

Acting Co-Chair, Greenwich and Woolwich CLP and Campaigns Director, Go Fourth


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