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Exclusive: Tory Clacton selection will be an open primary

2 September 2014

How do the Conservatives make the Clacton by-election more difficult for Douglas Carswell? I hear from two extremely well-placed sources that the selection for the Tory candidate will be an open primary.

Carswell himself bemoaned the demise of this selection method when he announced he was leaving the party to join Ukip, and party sources have been muttering for a few days that the authority of the new Ukip candidate is rather undermined by his decision to shunt the poor, bewildered local Ukip chap, Roger Lord, out of the way. Now sources tell me that the party will revive open primaries for this election to make it more difficult for Carswell.

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Whether or not this will have much of a dent on Ukip’s fortunes in Clacton is another matter: Lord Ashcroft’s poll published this afternoon puts Ukip 32 points ahead in Clacton, and there are already mutterings from one camp of Conservative MPs in particular about avoiding the campaign like the plague.

P.S. The candidates for the open primary will be picked by the local association beforehand, so the sincerity of this open primary does rest rather on whether the constituency party is open to being nobbled by CCHQ or not.

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Show comments
  • Diggery Whiggery

    “Carswell himself bemoaned the demise of this selection method when he announced he was leaving the party to join Ukip, and party sources have been muttering for a few days that the authority of the new Ukip candidate is rather undermined by his decision to shunt the poor, bewildered local Ukip chap, Roger Lord, out of the way.”

    Which is exactly why they’ve chosen this method for this by-election…………..and only this by-election.

    Carswell also bemoaned the cynical spin and obsession with positioning that infects the Tory elites, and the above is another fine example. Do they really think this stuff fools anyone about their intentions and lack of principles?

  • chouenlai

    I read many of these comments and despair. How will many of you people feel next June, when you have Carswell and maybe one or even two others as MP’s and ED Miliband as PM. You will have got rid of Cameron alright and what a famous victory.
    You currently have 16 to 17% in the polls, that will buy you not one seat in parliament. So relying on Tory defectors you may get 3 seats. Many thanks for landing my country with a 5 year nightmare of LIB/LAB fcuk ups.

    • Fred Smith

      By no means all UKIP voters are ex-Conservative voters who would vote Conservative, apart from he fact that UKIP has stolen them in some sense. Many are ex-voters of other parties and some haven’t voted for years. Of the ex-Conservatives, many would never vote for them with Cameron in charge.

      If UKIP disappeared, by no means all of its support would go to the Conservatives and the advantage to the Conservatives would be slight.

      Furthermore the Conservatives are at a considerable electoral disadvantage because of unreformed electoral boundaries, postal voting and the collapse of the LibDems.

      If you want to thank anyone for delivering 5 years of Labour, thank Cameron.

    • the viceroy’s gin

      Goodness, if you’re that concerned about it all, might I suggest that you not split the UKIP vote, lad?

    • Chingford Man

      Would anyone notice any difference?

      Vote LibLabCon, get LibLabCon.

    • George Smiley

      Why would a supposed true-blue Tory have the name of the mass-murdering Chinese Communist thug as his nom de plume?!

  • Aberrant_Apostrophe

    Somehow the cynic is me says the only reason it will an open primary is that no prospective Tory candidate wants to be shown up.

  • Fred Smith

    What is it with the Conservatives?

    It’s pretty much inevitable that this by-election is lost and they’ll get a punch on the nose.
    They are not happy to let it go at that; they are trying to think up ways in which they can turn it into a thorough working over with a baseball bat.

  • LordJustin

    GCHQ??? Oh, no. I feel a Clactongate moment coming on.

  • thomasaikenhead

    “How do the Conservatives make the Clacton by-election more difficult for Douglas Carswell? I hear from two extremely well-placed sources that the selection for the Tory candidate will be an open primary.”

    Get a grip Isabel?

    Carswell is more than twenty points ahead in the polls, so who is REALLY interested in the arcane rituals of the Conservative Party?

  • Fred Smith

    So is it now their policy to have open primaries and this is something they will do in all future elections? Of course not.

    They’re not known as The Stupid Party for nothing

  • pobinr

    I just watched a documentary about the heroism of the men om the Cambletown that blew up the gate to the dry dock in St Nazare meaning the Turpitz never risked entering the atlantic.

    Then think of this traitor. Barking Mad Brigadier & EUssr quisling Geoffrey Van Orden the Tory who likes sharing out our money to East Europeans >
    Utter treason. Hang the scum.

  • Chingford Man

    1. If the local party is picking the wannabes then it’s not an open primary.
    2. If you hold the “open primary” for an unprincipled reason then don’t broadcast it to Izzy.
    3. Why is Izzy spinning for the Tories – does she fancy being a SpAD?

  • itdoesntaddup

    Is this really an open primary, or just a packed caucus like so many of the selections?

  • pobinr

    Vote Labour get right wing – pro mass immigration of cheap labour soley of benefit to min wage employers & slumlords

    Vote Conservative get Communist – Barking Mad Brigadier & traitor Geoffrey Van Orden the Tory who likes sharing out our money to East Europeans >

    Vote UKIP get UKIP get common sense >

  • FrankS2

    Must confess I’m puzzled by the idea of the open primary. Is the entire electoral role allowed to vote, or just party members? If it’s everybody, wouldn’t the choice be skewed by rival party supporters picking the candidate the consider least likely to win the actual election? Enlightenment, please!

    • the viceroy’s gin

      Don’t ask foolish questions. For the Camerloons, the point is to broadcast the empty phrase “open primary”, over and over and over again, and pose as something other than bubble denizens imposing diktat everywhere outside their ramparts.

      • FrankS2

        I expect you’re right, TVG, but I still seek enlightenment on how a proper open primary would work.

        • the viceroy’s gin

          A proper “open primary”?

          That would have many answers, I suspect. There are many degrees of openness… a full spectrum of openness. I guess my point was that the Cameroons have no plans on erring at the truly open end of that spectrum, no matter their propaganda.

          But I’ll feebly respond to your question. Some touchstones of an open political primary might be:

          > Degree of independence for the local party apparatus in choosing candidates?

          > Ease of candidate qualification for the nominating process and ballot access?

          > Anonymous voting for candidates, both in qualification and ultimate selection?

          > Who’s allowed to vote at the various points of the process? Paid up members? All of the electorate?

          > Simple rules for candidate selection, laid in place for review well beforehand, an assured adherence to these, and full transparency present in all matters preceding candidate selection?

          The more of this we can see and understand, the more “open” it would be. You can even make a case for rival party supporters voting in an open primary, as long as the reverse was possible as well.

  • the viceroy’s gin

    If this was a true open primary, Carswell would win it, as the numbers clearly indicate. He’d thus carry a dual party imprimatur heading into the general election.

    But it isn’t an open primary. It’s just another Camerluvvie trick, to despoil the political landscape of any possible redeeming value for the People, which is what the Camerluvvies do best.

    • Fred Smith

      It’s just a silly stunt and since their political radar hasn’t been working too well for the last many years, probably nothing more can be expected than a would be cunning scheme, which has plenty of potential to out to be a banana skin.

      Their best option is to play this one with a straight bat, accepting it’s probably already lost, whatever they do, and look to themselves as to why they are in this mess.

      Hint: a seven letter word beginning with a capital ‘C’.

  • Stuart Fraser

    Unless Cameron does something the Conservatives could start unravelling completely between now and the general election. Here is what he should do:

    1) Spell out to the nation how recent events in Russia and Ukraine together with the continued deterioration of security in the Middle East and North Africa amount to a fundamental change to the threat level to the United Kingdom, particularly for the security of our energy supply. The Nation must respond immediately to the new threat environment.

    2) Announce that he is therefore “Turning On” England for fracking with a view to establishing us as an emerging energy super power with a substantive degree of energy independence.

    3) Clearly state that neither local interests nor EU legislation will stop or delay the drive to securing the nation’s energy supply. Therefore the 17 or more EU Directives which need to be considered for a fracking site will be suspended by Act of Parliament with immediate effect insofar as they relate to oil and gas exploration and production. Undertake to work through the elements of the EU Directives that would stand in the way of our developing our own energy industry with our European partners – this will form the initial agenda for a progressive renegotiation of our relationship with the EU.

    4) The extraordinary powers to set aside local objections to fracking development need to be just that: extraordinary.

    5) Review all other fracking regulations to ensure that there are no unnecessary impediments to the development of a vibrant industry – publish revised regulations by end October 2014

    5) Extend the current deadline for applications for licenses for exploration for oil and gas from mid October 2014 to December 2014 to give the industry a chance to respond to the new political and regulatory environment.

    6) If Cameron reads this before the referendum in Scotland he can also throw out a line to the Scots. Sadly the Scots have no shale reserves and North Sea oil is running out so they would definitely be Better Together in the medium term. So stay with us, help us get the oil and gas out of the shale as you have the expertise, and participate in the long term energy security of the UK.

    This strategy will stuff the Ukippers as it provides a positive agenda to sweep aside anything from the EU which gets in the way of our drive to energy security as the first step of our renegotiation. It will play badly in South England fracking locations, but those nimbys will vote Tory in any case. It will divide Labour, either they get on board with the strategy or lose votes in the shale-rich Midlands and North East. It is the right thing for the country and it may well pay significant electoral dividends too. And if Cameron acts fast it may influence the Scots to stick with us too. Cameron can appear to be a real statesman with a clear strategic response to the changing world situation. A win-win all round.

    • the viceroy’s gin


      The Cameroons started unraveling long ago, and Dave is finished. The tribalists and media muppets may only now be picking up on that, but for the the discerning it’s been a known-known for quite some time now.

    • FrankS2

      Suspend democracy, you mean?

      • Stuart Fraser

        Of course not, Cameron will receive a massive popular mandate for this agenda in May provided he can summon up enough Churchillian oratory to pull the nation out of its torpor and inject some realpolitik into the political discourse

        • the viceroy’s gin

          You are injecting some satire into the political discourse, for sure.

    • Fred Smith

      Cameron largely IS their problem and they’re stuck with him until the GE.

      There’s no chance whatsoever of Cameron pushing for EU directives to be suspended.

  • ScaryBiscuits

    1. How an open primary works in the US: Anybody can stand and anybody can vote, hence the term ‘open’. It’s also the first stage of candidate selection, hence the term ‘primary’.
    2. How an ‘open primary’ works according to CCHQ. Candidates have first to be on the approved candidates list, chosen behind closed doors by unelected official in a completely non-transparent way. Secondly, local associations then select a subset of those approved candidates to consider locally. Thirdly, this rarefied group of candidates gets put to a selection of the public, the only change from previously is that you no longer have to be a party member to vote, but as all the ‘unsuitable’ candidates have already been filtered out by CCHQ it is highly dishonest to call it open or primary.

  • ScaryBiscuits

    So the Tories are planning an ‘open primary’, except that it isn’t ‘open’ or ‘primary’? The initial candidate selection will be done from a closed list behind closed doors by unelected officials, Dave’s mates.
    An open primary has to be open to all and the first step in the selection process. This is just a con and explains why the Cameroons just don’t get it. To be win, they need to start being honest. Stunts like this fake primary might fool gullible journalists like Isabel but I fear the voting public has seen through all this long ago.

    • Jacques Strap

      Exactly. This sort of pathetic positioning just hardens people even further.

  • chouenlai

    The Conservative Party, and I am an official of a constituency, therefore a party member, may as well put Jeffrey Archer up for Clacton. We will be cattle trucked.
    UKIP and Tory accommodation nationally is the only hope of keeping Labour out, in the GE. Either Farage and Cameron make friends, or we find new leaders. Failing this, we get the ED’s.

    • Jacques Strap

      Fat chance. The Tories need to dump Cameron and replace him with Boris.

      • Swiss Bob

        Boris is a Cameron clone. And doesn’t deny links to Common Purpose.

        • Jacques Strap

          True, but the public still think he is god. It is the Tories only chance.

          • Swiss Bob

            Do you think the sorts of things that have been going on in Rotherham and elsewhere in the country have also been going on in London.

            Boris of course knows nothing. . .

          • the viceroy’s gin

            …then they have no chance.

  • Jacques Strap

    Oh gee im sure that will make the world of difference (!)

    A UKIP win in Clacton will inspire more defections without by elections, meaning a storming great UKIP bandwagon right up to the GE.

  • T00th_Fairy

    Cynical politicising. Do they think we don’t see right through that?

  • gerronwithit

    Even Boris knows that Boris could not win Clacton as a Tory, so why do the Tories think this pitiful gesture will make any difference?

  • swatnan

    Smart move by the Tories; maybe if a local worthy and a popular Mr or Ms Clacton is chosen, UKIP will be shafted. Of course Labour are well ahead in the campaign having already selected their candidate. Despite appearances, it could produce a surprising result.

    • KestrelSprite

      Dream on

    • alabenn

      Yes it could be a surprising result, the surprise being if Labour make double figures.

    • Swiss Bob

      Why do people make such dim comments. Have you not seen the polling?

      • YahYah

        I guess some people just aren’t as clever or polite as you.

        • Swiss Bob

          I see you’re new.

          swatnan is a troll.

          He is trolling a political blog.

          He knows nothing about the subject he’s trolling, he’s that dim.

          Now do you see?

    • Jacques Strap

      Will you bet on that? I mean considering the odds you make a huge amount of money if you turn out to be correct.

      I think the bookies know more than you.

      • Holly

        So do the folks in Clacton.

    • Holly

      That police bod from South Yorkshire might win eh.
      No not that one.
      The one making a right moron of himself in front of the select committee on the Sir Cliff episode.
      He was shamefully hopeless, clueless, and utterly disastrous.

      • chouenlai

        I did not think he was that good.

      • swatnan

        Clacton is in Essex. I was there for the Air Show a fortnight ago; and I’ll be helping Labour out during the by-election campaign.

  • A_Libertarian_Rebel

    Says it all, doesn’t it? Tories plan to hold an open primary for their Clacton candidate, not because it’s the right thing to do to promote more democratic selection procedures, but in order to make it more difficult for Carswell.

    No wonder Carswell condemns the leadership as regarding the party as “the property of a small clique, not a mass movement”. He’s right.

    • Swiss Bob

      You could also take the view that those waiting to be parachuted into a safe seat wouldn’t touch it with a bargepole. After all, the above is not much more than a press release.

      Her earlier article suggesting Boris would give Carswell a run for his money was tripe because she hadn’t even bothered to look at the polling on that specific issue.

    • The Masked Marvel

      Isabel only hints at it, but if anything this is a superficial move not so much to make things difficult for Carswell but to make the Tories look more democratic than UKIP by comparison. It won’t win them the seat, but they will have the hypocrisy weapon to use against UKIP in future. At least Carswell already represented the area and wasn’t parachuted in just for this, but it remains to be seen how much that will help. Farage may regret this.

      • ScaryBiscuits

        I don’t see having fake open primaries makes the Tories look more democratic. It just emphasises their contempt for voters.

        • The Masked Marvel

          It won’t convince those already alienated, no. But it might be an effective weapon to undermine Farage’s claims of being more democratic later on.

          • ScaryBiscuits

            You’re missing the point. It’s not more democratic to have a fake primary. It’s deceitful and more likely to alienate those yet to be alienated when they work that out.

            • The Masked Marvel

              I understand the point. It’s just that I don’t necessarily agree that will happen. You may be giving people too much credit, and discounting just how much the establishment media have invested in keeping UKIP from succeeding.

              • ScaryBiscuits

                It’s true; sometimes a good lie can go a long way, especially with a pliant media. However, you might agreed that copying Blair’s spin techniques hasn’t worked well thus far for Cameron. He failed to beat Gordon Brown outright and now looks on course to lose against an even weaker opponent.

                • The Masked Marvel

                  I do agree. Cameron didn’t have the BBC behind him like Blair did.

        • razzysmum

          It means they need a local to stand because any big names have chickened out. Or they may even get Lord in the Tories and have him elected to stand. Not much else they can do really, is there.

      • Jacques Strap

        No they wont, because Mr Carswell is already an MP who cares about the area and is very popular.

        Mr Farage wont regret anything. The Lynchmob Crosby smear tactics have failed dramatically.

        This is a byelection not a GE. The circumstances couldnt be any different. Come 2015 Mr Carswell will have to go through the same selection procedure.

        UKIP are a fast growing party and need to continuously update their internal procedures to suit. You cant hold that against them.

        • The Masked Marvel

          I did say this won’t help the Tories here. I was thinking more about the future national election.

      • Aberrant_Apostrophe

        Hypocrisy weapon? UKIP just need to list all the safe Tory (and Labour) seats that the Chipping Norton and Hampstead sets have been parachuted into, over the heads of local candidates.

        • The Masked Marvel

          That doesn’t alter the potential hypocrisy charge against UKIP. The other parties aren’t claiming not to parachute people in. There have been previous instances when Farage has been shown up to be just the same as those against whom he rails. Filing his expenses, for example. To the rest of the public who are not already on board and have been influenced by the BBC and punditry (or are just lazy and inertia dictates their voting habits), it could be seen as another mark against him and the party.

    • Kitty MLB

      Oh this will be clear win for Carswell regardless, a decent
      Conservative chap.they’re vote for him whatever party he
      belongs to.And as for this UKIP chap shunted out of the way.
      He should be grateful..they should remove the atrocious Paul Nuttall chap and give Carswell his job if they had any
      But I am still not too sure what the decent abandoned working classes(old Labour voters) will think of this Conservative face..
      but never mind..onwards and upwards chaps.

    • Earthenware

      Is there any point fielding a Tory candidate after Matthew Parris’ comments?

      The Tories will be lucky to retain their deposit.

  • WatTylersGhost

    Another hollow Tory gimmick.
    Next they will tell us they will be offering a referendum on the EU – how many more empty stunts?

  • SPPP2

    Token gesture, and that’s why natural Tory supporters are abandoning them. If open primaries were so important they’d adopt them widely not dismiss it, then dig it up at times like this. It just smacks of being unprincipled.

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