Magazine article The Spectator

A Quiet Revolution

Magazine article The Spectator

A Quiet Revolution

Article excerpt

The success of the open primary held by the Tories in Totnes could mark a turning-point in British politics. A candidate is usually selected by party members, but in Totnes all constituents were allowed to vote and they achieved a remarkable result: a turnout of one in four.

Also remarkable was the candidate they chose: a doctor with little political experience who defeated two candidates, both with a long history of involvement with the Conservative party. Would the doctor, Sarah Wollaston, have been elected under the traditional system? It's very unlikely. Party members, who make up less than 2 per cent of the population, would have chosen someone who reflected their own view of politics.

Naysayers have long claimed that open primaries won't work because people are too apathetic to vote and because they'll be dominated by extremists or antagonists, eager to promote the weakest candidate. But Totnes suggests that these fears are unfounded. …

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