This Tory leadership contest. I mean, I am reluctant to say anything since I’ve never even been a supporter of the Tory party, let alone a member. But isn’t it a good idea that its MPs get to express their preference, but that the entire membership gets the final say? The members can cast their vote, taking parliamentary preferences into account, but finally choosing somebody with broader appeal than just the Westminster bubble.
My only criticism of the process, really, is that their MPs whittle it down to a final two candidates before this members’ vote happens. Surely, if they just whittled the list down to a half dozen, say, then the MPs could still be able to express a preference, as they did yesterday, but the membership would have a wider choice in selecting the leader?
If you have many candidates, as there were yesterday, then you could use the MPs vote, just to whittle the list down into a “top six”, say. So, we’d know from a process such as yesterday’s, that Boris Johnson is by quite a distance the favourite amongst MPs, say. That seems totally fair enough. If you have fewer than six candidates, then every candidate could be put forward to the members, but you could still have an initial MPs ballot, just to sort out their preferences. The only time this system falls down is if there is only one candidate, but in that scenario, the one candidate would automatically be the winner, whatever system you use.
My half-dozen number here is pretty arbitrary. I’d see a number large enough to give a decent choice, but small enough that filling out the ballot paper does not become overwhelming. In parliamentary elections, it’s not unheard of to have a dozen or so candidates, so I’m sure six would be bearable.
I mean, if you wanted even more from your process, you could get people to express an order of preference, pick your top three candidates, say, although it’d be difficult for the Tories to use such a system internally, while at the same time resisting any proportionality in terms of parliamentary elections. But it boils down to a simple choice : would you sooner have a leader who, say, received 50.1% of people’s first choice, but 0% of their other choices, or would you sooner have someone with 49.9% of people’s first choices, but with >50% of people’s second choices. It seems to me that the latter person, more people would describe them as “acceptable”.
But, as I say, this is all centred around a party which I find unacceptable anyway, so not something I am prepared to get too animated about. These people, from the outset, have a different idea of representation to mine.