David Aaronovitch has written persuasively this morning about the case for the election of the next Labour Party leader to be conducted as an open primary of Labour supporters, rather than being the preserve of the current system.
I believe that primaries are ‘a good thing’. But there are legitimate arguments against them; voting in the election is an incentive to membership which is a valuable source of funds. Without party registration, how can you determine who is a party supporter? Etc. And let’s face it: at the speed the Labour Party moves, it’s not going to happen this time around.
However, it has been inspiring to see how many people have joined the party in the last week. And we do know that it is vitally important that we make the right choice at this election (disclosure: I think that’s David Miliband). But most importantly, that we don’t spend the next few months talking amongst ourselves but open the conversation up to the wider public. Party structures are anethema to the modern, connected, flat world in which we live and would like to lead.
So here’s a modest proposal for how we can achieve some of the best bits of an open primary without steam-rollering legitimate concerns:
A Labour supporters network, which you have to pay a modest fee to join, which goes straight to the party. Supporters will then be polled online for their choice of party leaders. And party members who support the concept can pledge to vote according to the way the ballot of supporters turns out. Entirely voluntary; not binding on anyone.
It’s an idea with weaknesses, but I’d be grateful for your riffs on the theme to see if we can’t get it into a decent proposal.