We need open primaries to nominate parliamentary candidates

Often perceived as the only benefit of being a member of the Conservative Party is a vote in candidate nomination for the parliamentary seat.

I’ve exercised that benefit a few times over the years. Once to select a replacement for my MP, Enoch Powell, who resigned from the party shortly before the general election on 23rd February 1974. My memory is a bit hazy on the numbers, but I don’t recall there being more than 100 people, probably a lot less.

The current number of paid-up members of the Conservative Party is nowhere near what it was. How, therefore, is it possible to involve more people in candidate nomination. The solution is to use an open primary.

An open primary to nominate a candidate allows residents in a constituency, irrespective of party allegiance, to be involved in candidate nomination. Douglas Carswell MP and MEP Daniel Hannan have argued well of the benefit of holding open primaries.

It takes courage for constituency officers to relinquish a large degree of control over candidate nomination, as Tonbridge and Malling’s Conservative party agent Andrew Kennedy describes.

Rather than prattling on about the benefits of an open primary, you can read more about them from the experience of the one held yesterday at Tonbridge and Malling,

What an advocate for modern democracy, trusting the people to decide.

Praising Britain: 1-Opening Speech

It’s tough finding the right title for a series of positive articles on Britain. I considered Boosting Britain,  Bigging-up Britain, and even the boring phrase Britain Matters. I’ve settled on Praising Britain, because that’s what the articles will be about. Praising people and organisations who help the economy grow.

Stable economic growth is what the nation needs. Growth to reduce our debts, and more than anything, we need it to come from private investment, not government spending.

Enough. Here’s what’s prompted this series, it’s the Prime Minister, David Cameron’s impromptu statement, at the recent G20 meeting in Russia, in response to Russia’s put down that Britain is a “a small island no one listens to”.

Britain may be a small island, but I would challenge anyone to find a country with a prouder history, a bigger heart or greater resilience.

Britain is an island that has helped to clear the European continent of fascism – and was resolute in doing that throughout World War Two.

Britain is an island that helped to abolish slavery, that has invented most of the things worth inventing, including every sport currently played around the world, that still today is responsible for art, literature and music that delights the entire world.

We are very proud of everything we do as a small island – a small island that has the sixth-largest economy, the fourth best-funded military, some of the most effective diplomats, the proudest history, one of the best records for art and literature and contribution to philosophy and world civilisation.

For the people who live in Northern Ireland, I should say we are not just an island, we are a collection of islands. I don’t want anyone in Shetland or Orkney to feel left out by this. 

I’m thinking of setting this to music…

The Spectator helpfully offer a series of musical choices to play along with Cameron’s short speech. Guido Fawkes has the video of the speech, to which they’ve added their musical choice.

Review of the County Council candidates

Here’s what I know about the candidates for Surrey County Council in Surrey Heath. These are local elections, and residency in the ward is one of my judgements in any election, which I’ll be focussing on in this review. Apologies for this being a rather long post.

There are six county council wards in Surrey Heath, two of which have changed significantly. These two new wards for County Council elections are; Lightwater is now part of a new ward comprising Bisley, Lightwater, and West End; while Chobham joins with Bagshot and Windlesham to create the other new ward.

Bagshot, Chobham, and Windlesham: In this ward two candidates are local parish councillors – Ruth Hutchinson [LibDem] and Mike Goodman [Conservative]. Hear Mike being interviewed HERE. Both have strong links into their communities. Robert Shatwell [UKIP] on the other hand is not resident in the ward – living in Woking. I do think ward residency is a requirement in local politics. Richard Wilson [Labour] brings tribal politics to local elections, which I believe is not appreciated by the majority of the local electorate, being more suited to national politics. He’s also given to gratuitous comment on Twitter and elsewhere about local councillors and others, a sure sign of the lack of the necessary ability to work with others to improve our communities.

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Remembering the Blessed Margaret thru two videos

I lack the eloquence and intellect to offer a eulogy to Margaret Thatcher. I know others will do it better. I heard  Charles Moore, Michael Howard, and Norman Tebbit on BBC Radio 4 World at One provide just such measured responses.

The Margaret Thatcher Foundation has two videos to understand the qualities of Margaret Thatcher as a great Prime Minister and person. I’ve watched both again, an unquestionable great in world politics. The eulogy to Ronald Regan I’ve commented on before, contains this fine turn of phrase, which equally applies to her.

For the final years of his life, Ronnie’s mind was clouded by illness. That cloud has now lifted. He is himself again, more himself than at any time on this Earth, for we may be sure that the Big Fellow upstairs never forgets those who remember him. And as the last journey of this faithful pilgrim took him beyond the sunset, and as heaven’s morning broke, I like to think, in the words of Bunyan, that “all the trumpets sounded on the other side.

Michael Howard said of her speech to Parliament that it was the finest he ever heard, and was amazed at her strength and courage to deliver such a speech at such a moment.

Watch and reflect on the passing of the greatest political post-war figure of our nation.

Farewell to the Blessed Margaret

Finding the right words to say farewell on the death of someone is never easy. And so it is with the sad loss of Margaret Thatcher. This short video will surely bring back memories to those of us who lived through the difficult times of the 1970’s, when many of us feared the demise of Great Britain.

Like many, I was proud to have met her. It’s one of my fondest lifetime memories.

Hoping it doesn’t snow or rain in Eastleigh today

Today, I’ll not be doing our regular Thursday winter activity, working for the Rangers in Lightwater Country Park on their winter works conservation programme, either coppicing, pine pulling and so on.

I’ll be visiting Eastleigh to spend the day canvassing for Maria Hutchings, in her campaign to become the local MP.

Graphics of 2010 election turnout & other stuff

With Parliament in recess political debate won’t return until September 6th. So, to keep you fed on political stuff, following my earlier post on voting systems, I thought you might be interested in seeing fascinating graphical representations of voting in the 2010 elections.

MapTube, created by the wonder-people at UCL Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis, has national maps of voting patterns for each of the three main political parties. The site also has maps on MP’s expenses and other stuff, and the Centre has a blog in which these maps on UK politics are discussed.

I leave you to draw your own conclusions from looking at these maps. That Labour retained quite so many seats is amazing, when one considers just how much of the country voted blue, and looking at the share of the vote is also instructive.

Question Time analysis: a useless blood sport?

I’ve pondered whether it’s time to bin the BBC’s Question Time programme in its current form. I said then that “the format does not work when the country has a coalition government and is in the midst of an economic emergency”. Big national issues need intelligent discussion, not to be treated as a point scoring blood sport.

Last night’s programme was again a humourless affair, shedding no light on any topic.

I’m wondering whether a change of presenter might make the difference. I get the impression that David Dimbleby sees himself as some grand inquisitor, trying to draw blood from sharp jabs of questions. In this he’s aided and abetted by producers whose aim seems to be to create unbalanced panels where the most strident opinion is favoured over the most thoughtful.

What were the delights we were offered last night? There was George Galloway, no longer an MP, with views at the very margins of our society; Sally Bercow, famous, or is it infamous, for the verbal dribble she commits to Twitter, and who happens to be the wife of the supposedly impartial Speaker of the House of Commons; Francis Maude, a rather earnest government minister with the rest of the panel likely to be against him; Andy Burnham, a failed Labour minister seeking to justify his recent political judgements and to promote himself as the new leader of the Labour Party – enough of elections, pleeeeease, and finally Nick Ferrari, a talk show radio host given to offering pithy and populist opinion.

Where, oh, where was the thoughtful discussion? I rest my case.

Review: This Week of two weeks ago and political honeymoons

Reviewing old news, what use is that? Well, there are a few useful conclusions from Andrew Neil’s This Week programmes that I’m not sure have been fully commented on.

Two week’s ago one of Andrew’s guests was lead singer with Scouting for Girls, Roy Stride. He was revealing on the thoughts of youngish and keen LibDem supporters. His view was that the coalition is positive development in British politics, and that it should be given a chance to succeed. Roy felt that the coalition has rid the country of the overly tribal nature of British political discourse and reporting.

Know what, I think he’s right. For years the internecine warfare among the Labour hierarchy, and the twisting of the truth by Labour spin doctors, has poisoned the well of goodwill towards politicians of all parties. The other notable thing in the interview with Roy Stride was the strength of his optimism about the coalition. This was said in face of strong political negativity from others on the programme.  

A small point on political honeymoons. I believe this one to be different, in that there’s a separation of honeymoons for individuals in government, from the hopes of what a coalition might be able to achieve that a single party could not. That’s why this honeymoon will be longer than might be normally expected.

Andrew Neil has invited all the Labour leadership candidates onto the sofa with Michael Portillo, and then grills them hard on their political vision. He despatched Diane Abbott’s ambitions with cruel efficiency the week before. In this show it was the turn of Andy Burnham, who fared little better than Diane. Pressed hard about why he should be Labour leader, Burnham’s replies were insipid. Again Neil was a clear and easy winner in the exchanges, leading to the conclusion that another contender had bitten the dust of political disappointment.

Question Time analysis: Is it time to bin it?

Watching BBC’s Question Time this evening from Canary Wharf, I’ve concluded it’s time to bin the programme, or at the very least to make major changes to its format.

While the make up this week’s panel is left-wing, last week’s was right-wing. Whatever, the format does not work when the country has a coalition government and is in the midst of an economic emergency.

Having panelists airily criticise the changes being made to save the nation from bankruptcy serves absolutely no purpose. Frankly, I’m not any longer interested in a programme that sees value in creating argument over a national disaster. For example with the polarised views of a Marxist, in Caroline Lucas, or the delusions of political columnist, in Peter Hitchens.

One possible solution is to take one or two ‘hot’ topics and have a couple of politicians, and academics or experts discuss the topic in detail. Just take a look at blogs on the internet, there’s plenty of thoughtful comment and analysis there. The time will come again when Question Time is the perfect format for political discussion. Now is not that time. Now is the time for serious analysis of the financial threats to the UK and world economies, and the nature of work in a globalised business world.

Continuing with a programme format that designs in partisan and tribal argument adds nothing to public discourse or enlightenment.

Here are my marks out of 10: Peter Hitchens, brevity is not his forte, nor is sound argument – 5: Caroline Lucas, a panelist twice in as many months is enough, no more please, too full of convoluted Marxist babble – 4: Ed Balls, all Labour politicians are in denial on the scale of our economic woes – 5: Vince Cable, more animated, impressive and cerebral than I’ve seen before – 8; Brent Hoberman, most probably an intelligent and thoughtful businessman, but not a worthy panelist, although he didn’t interrupt as Lucas and Balls were allowed to do – 6.

Finally, it’s going to get very boring if all the opposition aims to do is find, or promote splits in a coalition.