British voters should quiz would-be politicians in US-style 'caucuses', says former strategist to David Cameron

Exclusive: Steve Hilton wants the UK to adopt caucuses - in which small groups of voters gather to discuss the merits of candidates

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Indy Politics

British voters should quiz would-be politicians in American-style “caucuses” before they choose their councillors and MPs, according to Steve Hilton,  the former chief strategist to David Cameron.

In an interview with The Independent, Mr Hilton said: “It is really important that we make the political process more human, as well as making government and public services more human.  Caucuses could re-energise our politics. It is a really important goal at a time when people are frustrated about what politics can deliver and find the whole system pretty impenetrable.”

Mr Hilton, who left Downing Street in 2012 to live in California, wants the UK to adopt American-style caucuses  – in which small groups of voters gather in homes, school gyms or community centres to discuss the merits of Presidential candidates at the start of the election. He also want candidates chosen in primary elections open to the public as well as party members. To encourage voter engagement in politics, he wants the ideas tested in  local authority elections before they are extended to Parliamentary elections.

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Steve Hilton was instrumental in getting Government backing for the Big Society (PA)

He also wants to boost turnout in UK elections by switching voting from a Thursday to weekends or to making polling day a bank holiday.

Mr Hilton, a close friend of Mr Cameron who was one of his closest aides, met him in his Oxfordshire constituency home at the weekend to celebrate the Conservatives’ election victory.  He is in Britain to promote his book, “More Human, Designing a World Where People Come First,” published by W H Allen on Thursday, which includes his plan to make UK elections “more human.”

The former Number 10 adviser said he was “absolutely thrilled” by Mr Cameron’s election victory. Although he was “never really in doubt” that he would remain Prime Minister, he was “surprised by the process”  in which Mr Cameron won when opinion polls showed the Tories and Labour neck and neck. “The country wanted David Cameron as Prime Minister, not Ed Miliband. The electorate are pretty wise and usually get the result they want,” he said.

Mr Hilton said Mr Cameron’s “radical heart” would be more on display now the Tories have an overall majority. He insisted the Prime Minister had been a “real reformer” in the past five years but that his public service reforms had received less attention than the economy. “Now you will see more of that,” he said.

The architect of Mr Cameron’s “Big Society” theme before the 2010 election, Mr Hilton denied it had been dropped in government.  “It never went away,” he insisted. “It was not a particular programme or policy but it was an idea about how government and reform should work that applied to a broad range of domestic policies. There were three themes – decentralisation of power,  public service reform and social action.  The third element got most of the attention. But the first two were more important to us.”

 

Mr Hilton denied that he had offered advice to Mr Cameron from California, insisting his input had been  “absolutely zero”.  He added: “There is nothing more unhelpful and annoying than a former insider trying to get involved from afar when you have no idea of day-to-day issues.”

He now wants to contribute to the UK political debate “as a citizen” and will make “occasional interventions” through the Policy Exchange think tank, where he has become a visiting scholar.

Mr Hilton denied that he quit Number 10 out of frustration at his radical ideas being blocked or ignored. “The reason I left was that as a family we thought it would be better for us to live in California,” he said. His wife Rachel Whetstone, who have two boys aged four and seven, moved there to become a senior executive with Google.

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