Wednesday, 25 September 2013
Open Primary - details and dates.
Earlier tonight the Tonbridge & Malling Executive Council voted overwhelmingly to hold an Open Primary to select the next Conservative candidate for this constituency.
Obviously I am personally delighted at this news, though, of course, it was solely a matter for the members and I rightfully did not vote or speak until the members had decided. That being said, no-one who reads my blog could have been in any doubt where I stood on the issue.
My passionate support for an Open Primary is based on the simple premise that we must start engaging with people on their terms, not excluding them if they don't accept ours. Politics is changing, and we must change with it if we are to attract the voters and activists of tomorrow. The days of candidates emerging from private meetings in smoke filled rooms are over. As Labour have found to their cost in Falkirk, trades unions buying discounted membership so they can gerrymander the contest to get one of their "own" selected does not go down well with the voters. And rightfully so.
I was very proud of our members tonight. The rules on selections state that constituencies with fewer than 300 members are "strongly expected" to have an open primary. In T&M there are 700 members and they could quite easily have insisted on a closed selection. It is to their enormous credit that they didn't do so. Praise must go to the Officers, led by the Chairman, Jacques Arnold, for unanimously supporting and promoting this new approach.
So, what next?
Tuesday 8 October: a "sifting committee" (elected by the Executive Council) will meet and select 10-15 applicants to go forward to the next stage.
Saturday 19 October: There will be a series of assessment tests involving all applicants. This will include street stalls and traditional door-to-door canvassing, allowing an opportunity for voters to meet the applicants and for members of the interview panel to see the applicants at work and judge how well they are received by members of the public.
Saturday 26 October: In depth interviews with members of the Executive Council. This process will reduce the field to a final shortlist of up to 4 applicants.
Saturday 2 November: The final. A big, inclusive open meeting which every local registered voter will be invited to attend. Residents will have an opportunity to ask each of the applicants why they want to be our MP, what qualities they will bring to the job and how they will make a difference. Unlike Labour where the unions have special privileges, in the Conservative Party every vote will be equal and every vote will be count. It really will be a case of LET THE PEOPLE DECIDE!
Having taken this truly momentous decision, the Executive Council is now determined to do all that it can to deliver the most open and exciting contest possible.
A new blog has just been launched: www.tmselects.blogspot.com. This will carry news and updates at every stage, keeping local residents, the press and applicants informed at each step of the way. When the finalists have been selected, their CVs and personal statements will be published so every interested person can see why they wish to be our next MP. Residents can also register to attend the Open Primary via the Blog or by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org by phone (01732 842794) or letter to TM Selects, Freepost MA 487, 91 High Street, West Malling ME19 6BR.
Invitations to attend the Open Primary will be delivered to tens of thousands of homes. There will be street stalls, posters in shops, leaflets on shop counters - and we will be making a special effort to involve thousands of first time voters in the process.
And as the Returning Officer, responsible for the administration of the process and organising the ballot, I will be open, accessible and transparent in everything I do. If any resident has questions about the contest, please email me at email@example.com
GOOD LUCK TO ALL THE APPLICANTS - LET THE CONTEST COMMENCE!