Last week the Battersea Conservatives held an 'open primary' to select their next parliamentary candidate. This is a novel idea - for British politics at any rate - in which anyone who is a registered voter can come along to the hustings and vote for their preferred candidate. The idea being, of course, to ensure a candidate with wider appeal than just to the local Tory activists. It is open to manipulation by those who hate you, I suppose, but the Battersea Tories largely prevented this by offering a slate of four candidates, any of whom would be a decent choice. The eventual candidate chosen, Jane Ellison, had plenty of experience as a campaigner, and a political position on the centre left of the party (yes, she's a former TRG activist!). This may well have explained her victory in the open primary, and ensure a decent chance of ousting the sitting Labour MP, Martin Linton, sitting on a majority of just 153!
The right-wing tendency hated the whole process, and particularly hated Ellison - just read some of the comments on the neo-liberal Fawkes blog to see that - but in the end the voice of the Battersea people - or at any rate those who could be bothered to turn out - won out! The point about Ellison is that she is a good campaigner and hard working candidate, who doesn't give any quarter to those she disagrees with, especially in her own party. And she is a graduate of the old, factional Tory student and youth politics of the late 80's and 90's, so made many enemies by simply not worshipping at the altar of Thatcherism.
The primary idea is a far more interesting concept than some of the those being hawked around the Tory Party at the moment, and could, I suspect, encourage a much better participation than the 'webcameron', as well as producing a more rounded selection of candidates. This can only benefit Cameron's modernisation process, and give him the parliamentary support next session that he will so clearly need if he is to remain secure. Tony Blair's situation shows - as did Margaret Thatcher's, and Iain Duncan Smith's - that whatever the nods in the direction of greater party democracy, it is still the voice of the MPs that matters most. Lose your parliamentary party, and you lose your position. And in the media driven political world today, that is something that is too often forgotten.