A blog by Luke Akehurst about politics, elections, and the Labour Party - With subtitles for the Hard of Left. Just for the record: all the views expressed here are entirely personal and do not necessarily represent the positions of any organisations I am a member of.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

The Tea Party - another argument against primaries

The mid-term elections in the US have reinforced my hostility to the idea being floated that Labour should select candidates via open primaries rather than selection by party members.

The rise of the Tea Party shows how in a primary system a well-organised, well-funded and hyper-energised extremist grouping can foist its candidates on a more mainstream host party. In this case the Tea Party ousting mainstream Republican candidates.

Because the general election has a higher turn-out than the primaries, extremist candidates who do well on the back of highly motivated but minority support at primary level then get beaten at the main election.

Hence the Republicans failed to take control of the Senate because the primary system meant they had Tea Party candidates who lost in Delaware and Nevada, seats moderate Republicans might have won.

Let's not put Labour in a position where a leftwing version of the Tea Party can use low turnout primaries to foist unelectable candidates on us.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sounds a bit like the hijacking of Trade Unions in the UK!

4:17 pm, November 03, 2010

Blogger Jon Lansman said...

Yet again I agree with you, Luke. I wouldn't put it quite the same way, of course. I don't want any bunch of people whose values are not those of the party (or of party members - the two should be the same) selecting our candidates, right or left, single-issue campaigners or religious fundamentalists.

Jon Lansman

5:20 pm, November 03, 2010

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm against primaries as well, but I'm definitely on the left of the Labour Party. I think that you could just as easily have right-leaning populists trying to tap into the Labour vote on certain issues. Triangulation paved the way for it. If you have a safe Labour seat and a primary, then you could end up with all manner of unusual characters who would not normally be Labour coming out of the woodwork to get a slice of the action. Anyway, left wingers generally don't like primaries so I find it hard to believe that they would try to engineer them as part of some 'Trot conspiracy'.

4:56 am, November 04, 2010

Blogger Bill said...

Actually, AV makes primaries redundant, since, as in Malta, a party could put forward more candidates than seats, without affecting it's outcome (so long as their electors remain brand loyal and give all the transfers over).

11:42 am, November 04, 2010

Anonymous Anonymous said...

'Brand loyal' now there is an insidious thought. Does the personality and quality of the candidate suddenly count for nothing or do we elect branded morons around the country simply because they carry the right label. The fabled 'sack of potatoes' springs to mind.

No more would we have crusaders campaigning on an issue, like Martin Bell, or locally popular independents if we simply vote for party first and foremost.

AV to me sounds scary and leads to people being elected on second and third choices, like our current leader, rather than on the majority of first choices. Primaries offer the opportunity for interest groups to foist unsuitables candidates on constituency parties.

No one in the party speaks highly of the current coalition so why would we want to risk facing a future of behind doors deals every time we have an election.

Stick to first past the post, candidates selected by local party members and all the campaigners and colourful independents free to participate. Don't fix what ain't bust!

1:55 pm, November 04, 2010

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes but an MP will often vote according to career considerations and the like. He would have to tread a bit more carefully if he thought there might be a primary challenge. That might have persuaded some MPs not to vote for things like the Iraq war etc.

Also, I think it is unwise to take a view about primaries simply on the basis of one set of election results.

3:36 pm, November 04, 2010

Anonymous Anonymous said...

What is the point of a right wing or wet LP?

We want left wingers with more fire in them.

7:35 pm, November 04, 2010

Blogger Merseymike said...

Me too. I think they are very dangerous, whether the entryist group are from far right or far left. I doubt that it would be from the far left, frankly, but there may be other threats. Many states have open primaries as well which can mean those sympathetic to other parties altogether participating

10:22 pm, November 04, 2010

Anonymous Gideon said...

Luke, easier for extremists to overcome a smaller selection group of dozens or hundreds than one of thousands amougst wider electorate. There are good arguments against primaries but this is not on the right lines. Tea party ousider candidates got mandates from lots of regular people ticking their box in the primaries.

Tea party candidates got chosen in 2010 because their populist views may be extreme by our standards but they resonate with significant element of wider US electorate, and one that not felt very included under Obama. But be careful about too broad a brush, Whitman, as ex ebay ceo and Fiorina, ex HP CEO surely have been chosen without primaries and both did not exactly disown tea party values.

8:06 am, November 05, 2010

Blogger Bill said...

Jesus wept Anon., my point about standing more candidates than there are seats was that the electors choose on the basis of the candidate character, without having to risk letting in a candidate from a party they oppose utterly - I'm sure a Labour left voter would rank Luke above a Tory even if they don't agree with him over much.

Again, the outcome in Malta (albeit with full STV) is a strong two party system, I suspect since the broad church nature of the parties themselves makes forming a rival party less effective than joining in.

1:59 pm, November 05, 2010

Anonymous Rich said...

I don't think you can compare the left of labour to the tea party. labour do need a shift back to an agenda that is more supportive of workers, whether you can call that left wing is completely debatable.

9:34 am, November 06, 2010


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