In the face of a declining, elderly and increasingly out-of-touch membership, the Conservative’s young Turks have been chattering away about US style primary elections. So excited are they that searching Conservative Home on ‘open primaries’ produces more than 400 results. Open to non-party members, this tactic would widen the electoral base and dilute the blue rinses.
With Labour opening up a slight lead in the polls, the Conservatives certainly need to do something radical and serious plans are being drawn up to pilot the scheme in London’s Mayoral elections.
However, old school Tories needn’t worry too much. Popular participation doesn’t come cheap and the party’s near bankrupt. Worse they’re mired in a controversy over loans for peerages that is unlikely to go away with the paying off of lenders who wish to remain anonymous. What’s done is done and if funding arrangements for the not-racist election ads were outside the law, paying off the dodgy lenders now won’t change that.
The upshot is that while you won’t need to join the Conservatives to vote in party elections, you may have to pay. The quality of candidates will be assured by requiring them to guarantee a campaign fund – just £1 million or two – that will ensure Conservative politics remains dominated by plutocrats.