Has Tories' independent-minded MP put the party off open primaries?
It was supposed to be one of the Coalition's landmark ideas for admitting ordinary voters to the often closed world of party politics.
The new Government committed itself to stage US-style "open primaries", where local people choose election candidates, in 200 safe seats.
But it emerged yesterday that ministers are backing off from the radical electoral experiment, with the Cabinet Office only saying it was contemplating "how to take forward this policy".
The official explanation for the delay is that the Government is awaiting the outcome of the review which will cut the number of Westminster constituencies from 650 to 600. But there could be more pragmatic motivations – money and self-interest – behind any retreat. It cost the Conservative party £40,000 to stage a primary in 2009 to select a candidate in the Devon constituency of Totnes. If the Government pays for 200 similar exercises, the taxpayer could be left with a bill for £8m. Moreover Sarah Wollaston, the winner in Totnes, and now its MP, has proved to be an independent-minded thorn in the flesh of the Tory leadership. Dr Wollaston was among 81 Tories who demanded a referendum on Britain's place in the EU and even turned down a job as a ministerial aide.
Ahead of her selection, David Cameron described primaries as an "exciting opportunity" to engage with the voters and the Coalition Agreement promised: "We will fund 200 all-postal primaries over this Parliament, targeted at seats which have not changed hands for many years."
Since then nothing has happened. The Cabinet Office said yesterday: "The boundary changes legislated for in 2011 will have implications for almost all existing constituencies and we will need to take this into account as we continue to consider how to take forward this policy."
Dr Wollaston told BBC Radio 4 that primaries would "change Parliament for the better".
She added: "The whole point of an open primary is to demonstrate you can bring people into politics from non-political backgrounds and bring their experience to bear."
Liam Neeson's Downton dreams
- 2 Scottish independence live: Scotland gives a clear 'No' in historic referendum - as it happened
- 3 iOS 8 is full of shiny new features - but it's terrible news for app developers
- 4 Friends 20th anniversary: Six things we wouldn't have without influential comedy series
- 5 Scottish independence: Tory revolt against 'devo max' grows as Rail Minister Claire Perry joins
Scottish independence referendum results: David Cameron pledges plans for 'English votes for English laws' by January
Scottish independence live: Scotland gives a clear 'No' in historic referendum - as it happened
Scottish referendum results: David Cameron set to unveil major devolution of powers to England
Iranian blogger found guilty of insulting Prophet Mohammad on Facebook sentenced to death
Scottish independence: Tory revolt against 'devo max' grows as Rail Minister Claire Perry joins
Daniele Watts: Django Unchained actress detained by Los Angeles police after being mistaken for a prostitute
Scottish independence referendum: A nation divided against itself
Scottish independence: David Cameron is becoming the 'George Bush of Britain'
Russia freezes Ukraine into submission: Kiev admits country doesn't have enough fuel for winter
Scottish independence: The Queen breaks silence on referendum debate – as think tank warns of £14bn black hole if Scotland votes Yes
Portuguese academic says British are 'filthy, violent and drunk'
£32000 - £42000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is curr...
£27000 - £31000 Per Annum Excellent Benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...
£300 - £350 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is currently ...
£21000 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Primary teachers requ...