Labour activists are given the power to deselect their MPs, what about everyone else?

May 27, 2009 10:36 AM

The Telegraph reports that the chairman of the Labour Party has written to their activists to invite submissions calling for MPs to be deselected.


Unfortunately, all that does is move the Labour Party to a similar position to the Conservatives, where the small core of local activists can take action but the rest of an MPs' constituents have no say in the matter.


Less than one per cent of the population are members of one of the major political parties. Party members tend to be unrepresentative of the views of the wider population, they're far more likely to be die hard loyalists and many of the most influential members will have worked with a sitting MP, in a safe seat, for years. They might decide to back an MP when the rest of the constituency would love to see the back of them.


That means many voters will, at the next election, be left in the uncomfortable position of having to vote for the party whose policies they support, in the knowledge that means returning a candidate they loathe, or get rid of an MP they've lost confidence in at the expense of voting for a party they don't want in power.


This isn't just a temporary problem created by the expenses scandal, the current problems facing many incumbent MPs just make the issue more urgent. Too many MPs in safe seats have no need to build support in their constituency and, as a result, they don't respond to their constituent's priorities and steadily erode support for their party over the years. That leaves many voters feeling deeply disillusioned.


The parties could strengthen their position if they put in place open primaries, and let all voters choose their candidates with sitting MPs forced to defend their position. That would mean that every candidate was the one most attractive to the constituency that the party could offer. MPs would have to represent their constituents and earn their loyalty or they would be kicked out at the next election, even if their party was doing well. That would not just be great for the performance and reputation of British democracy, it would also be in the interests of the parties themselves.

The Telegraph reports that the chairman of the Labour Party has written to their activists to invite submissions calling for MPs to be deselected.


Unfortunately, all that does is move the Labour Party to a similar position to the Conservatives, where the small core of local activists can take action but the rest of an MPs' constituents have no say in the matter.


Less than one per cent of the population are members of one of the major political parties. Party members tend to be unrepresentative of the views of the wider population, they're far more likely to be die hard loyalists and many of the most influential members will have worked with a sitting MP, in a safe seat, for years. They might decide to back an MP when the rest of the constituency would love to see the back of them.


That means many voters will, at the next election, be left in the uncomfortable position of having to vote for the party whose policies they support, in the knowledge that means returning a candidate they loathe, or get rid of an MP they've lost confidence in at the expense of voting for a party they don't want in power.


This isn't just a temporary problem created by the expenses scandal, the current problems facing many incumbent MPs just make the issue more urgent. Too many MPs in safe seats have no need to build support in their constituency and, as a result, they don't respond to their constituent's priorities and steadily erode support for their party over the years. That leaves many voters feeling deeply disillusioned.


The parties could strengthen their position if they put in place open primaries, and let all voters choose their candidates with sitting MPs forced to defend their position. That would mean that every candidate was the one most attractive to the constituency that the party could offer. MPs would have to represent their constituents and earn their loyalty or they would be kicked out at the next election, even if their party was doing well. That would not just be great for the performance and reputation of British democracy, it would also be in the interests of the parties themselves.

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