It's been brewing for a a while but today David Cameron has finally announced how the party will choose it's candidate for London Mayor. As I've just posted over at Anyone But Ken, the selection method will be an Open Primary. What that means is that anyone on the London electoral register will be able to vote for a candidate found in a totally open application process. Anyone will be able to apply for the selection process and there's no requirement to be a Conservative member (although for legal reasons they will have to join before they stand).
David Cameron has said that "too many people are fed up and disillusioned with politics. I hope that doing things differently will fire the public's imagination and get them talking and thinking about politics again. Somewhere in London, there's a Mayor in the making. If its you, please consider applying today.... The Mayor's decisions have a huge impact on the lives of everyone who lives in the city, so it makes sense to give everybody the opportunity to have a say in choosing who they think is best suited to the task."
As many will know I'm a bit of cautious conservative, and my instincts are to avoid radicalism if unknown consequences create to much risk (I'm also a professional IT sysy admin where risk is BAD). However, I think the potential gain of this idea actually offsets the risk quite nicely. Yes, Labour and the Lib Dems could quite easily try to exploit the voting process. However, we're not stupid, we'll make quite sure that all the candidates that make it to the primary are the best and that we would be happy with any of them as the final candidate (plus I don't think either party has significant membership in London to genuinbely impact the vote).
This idea I think is certainly radical, but it could very well be the beginning of much wider change in the way politicians represent themselves to the electorate before a ballot. I think it's worth at least one try to see how it goes.
N.B. Yes, I still have concerns the Open Primary at a constituency level may not produce the balance we want in women at Parliament. That does not however mean that I think the primary system is per se bad.