Open primaries

July 24, 2008 at 9:55 pm | Posted in British Politics | Leave a comment

In the past few months, we’ve heard a lot about what Barack Obama’s presidential campaign could teach British progressives (indeed, I’ve been more guilty of that than most), but too much has been vague hypothesising  and rueful ‘what ifs’, rather than a practical sense of how to get started. So I think Sunder Katwala’s support for an open primary to choose the next Labour candidate for Mayor of London is a really positive first step.

There’s much in the mechanics of the Obama campaign (and the US netroots in general) that we can admire and wish to transplant into British politics, but as none of it has ever been tried before, we’ve no idea whether it would work in a country that appears to have a more cynical, less involved approach to politics than you’ll find in America.

At the very least, having an open primary in London would give us the opportunity to road-test methods like online fundraising, organising and building a movement that tries to reach as many people as possible (ie, not just Labour activists) and bring them into the tent. If it doesn’t show any signs of success in Britain’s biggest city, then there’s not much hope for the rest of the country. However, if progressives do find some positive signs from the attempt, there’s hope that the process of choosing mayoral & parliamentary candidates could one day be more open, inclusive and, yes, democratic.

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