Previously, I looked at the concept of the “Open Primary” – and its potential risks – and then considered the Tories’ use of the concept in the Devon constituency of Totnes. The result has just been announced, as the Guardian has noted.
The outstanding feature of the exercise has been the turnout: 24% of the whole electorate, many of whom will not be natural Tory voters, took the time to make a positive choice and mail it off. The party line was that they would have been happy with 15%. Moreover, the winner, GP Sarah Wollaston, is the only one of the three shortlisted candidates that is not at present in politics: her campaign leaflet was not long on detail. Perhaps the doctor trumps the career politico in the trust stakes.
So are there any losers? Well, yes, there are: the local Lib Dems, as I posted earlier, were hoping for a very low turnout so that their ploy – to vote for Nicholas Bye, currently mayor of Torbay, who they considered more beatable than the others – could embarrass the Tories. Bye came last, so the Lib Dem campaign in Totnes has got off to a less than auspicious start. The other significant loser is the constituency association, whose power to hire (and fire) candidates has been lost.
Will the exercise be repeated? Certainly if the Tories – or any other party jumping on the Primary bandwagon – see a potential advantage in it, then expect to see the process repeated. But it brings risks with it, as I pointed out, and the cost, at an estimated 40k, is not trivial.
One to watch.