Monday, 16 November 2009

Parachute PPCs

...Looks like Liz Truss's failed to open, given her impact on the Conservatives (and others) in the Norfolk consituency that didn't choose her as a PPC. "Lead balloon" springs to mind.

At all times, candidates for Member of Parliament should be local people. I would have thought that was blindingly obvious to all but Iain Dale, who's banging on about it in yet another pretty bitchy little post today (you have to wonder whether his personal ambitions in the direction of parliament have coloured his judgment on this), Conservative Party Central Office - and, oh yeah, the Labour Party. I doubt if Dale would be in the running for MP anywhere were it not for the prospect of the helpful parachute. Mind you, it looks like he might have given up after coming third in Bracknell. Don't get me wrong, however, I wish neither him nor Miss Truss any ill will. I just don't like candidates foisted on people. It's a stitch-up, it's patronising, it takes the electorate for granted and it should never be tolerated. To put it another way, there should be a law against it.

Conservative policy on this really does need to be clarified, as the excellent DT commentary from Melanie McDonagh (see link above) states. To say there are mixed signals coming from the Tory high command on localism is a major understatement. Pickles' presence, no less, is required.

Iain Dale (I had no idea he read this little blog - maybe he has staff to do it for him) believes that the shortlist system helps to stop the "parachute effect" from ever happening, although he didn't put it quite like that (see comments). I'm not convinced, frankly, although I concede that the picture is more complex than the one I painted in my slightly bilious initial remarks. It does not, for instance, answer the question that is being put by Swaffham's Conservative Association: how much influence does, can and should Central Office bring to bear on local Associations in the selection of candidates? A better argument for universal open primaries (or open caucuses, to be precise) I have yet to hear. Mr Dale himself came a dignified cropper because of this excellent innovation as the people of the constituency for which he had hoped to stand opted for someone who, in terms of the crowded clusters of towns and villages in the south east of England at least, qualifies as a local man.

Interesting, that, and, I think, goes some way to proving my point. In the case of Elisabeth Truss, David Cameron on the radio just now said that he thought she would be an excellent candidate and that he hopes she is selected. I am sure he is absolutely right - she would most likely be an effective MP. But given that he sounds like he's otherwise washed his hands of the whole affair, it seems she's on her own, and we haven't been given the policy clarification on MPs' independence, localism and the relationship between constituency and party that is clearly needed.

We haven't forgotten about the expenses scandal yet. Does David Cameron (and, perhaps, Mr Dale) really need to be reminded just who MPs are elected to serve: constituency, parliament and party in that order?


  1. I don't like candidates being foisted on people either. But Liz Truss wasn't, despite what you and others try to insinuate. And nor was I in Bracknell. In each case, the local association shortlisted from 200 applications. How is that interpreted as a candidate being parachuted in? Buggered if I know.

  2. I thought she actually won the initial vote because she was seen as a superior candidateby the local bigwigs. Not her fault no-one local was a better performer.

  3. Possibly. But the choice of candidate was limited by Central Office, as is the case in the vast majority of constituencies. The 'local bigwigs' are as susceptible to pressure from central offfice suits as anyone else. It's a thorny issue for me, this one, having grown up in a constituency which had a woman from Cardiff (Cheryl Gillan) foisted on it upon the retirement of Ian Gilmore. She was not the person we wanted but we had absolutely no say in it. That's what I mean by 'stitch ups'. To me, the fact that she's been a fairly decent MP (I'm sure she would have been for Llandaff, too) in probably the safest Tory seat in the known universe is neither here nor there. She wasn't local and she wasn't really wanted. Made no difference, though.

    And that's the problem, at least to me: wherever possible, local candidates should be preferred and open caucuses make that possible. However, I accept alternative views and recognise that this is not going to change any time soon. The parties are too terrified of losing whipping control in parliament for that.

    It's not a popularity contest - these are just my views and people are welcome to disagree with them. Hell, even my own dad has called to tell me he agrees with Iain Dale! Typical (and I had no idea he read the man's blog. I didn't even think he knew how to use a computer).

    You live and learn.


Any thoughts?