Sunday Times: Michael Portillo on Eltham Primary

Michael Portillo writes in today's Sunday Times about the Eltham Open Primary which takes place tomorrow evening at the Bob Hope Theatre in Wythfield Road. 

Selection procedures have been altered radically. They used to culminate in a speech from the platform to the local Conservative association (which, of course, constitutes only a tiny part of the parliamentary electorate). That procedure more or less guaranteed victory for the Tory Boy, maybe an investment banker with shiny shoes and a dishy wife. Whether he could relate to constituents on a council estate or provide help to a victim of loan sharks went untested. It scarcely mattered if he had the voter appeal of television’s Alan B’Stard.

Nowadays the three short-listed candidates are questioned in a television-style interview. I shall be the inquisitor in tomorrow night’s selection in Eltham in the London borough of Greenwich. The questions will be designed to test the candidates’ commitment to public service and their empathetic skills. In advance of the meeting each has been sent to meet residents in three streets. Their reports on their experiences should provide the selectors with clues about how they would tackle their work in the constituency if elected to parliament.

The Eltham meeting will be open to any local resident, Conservative or not, who has registered to attend. There is therefore a danger that the meeting could be packed by one of the three finalists or indeed by the Labour party. But the risk is worth taking because admitting “outsiders” forces the party to understand that it should choose the candidate who appeals to the voters, rather than the one that Tory members like.


Link: Full article