Funny how British political animals get carried away with the drama and excitement – the romance, even – of the US presidential elections. This year’s contest’s parallels with the seventh season of The West Wing will have helped, of course.
Inevitably, at some point, the prospect of UK parties adopting a primary process for selecting candidates is mooted. It will never happen, of course, but that doesn’t stop some over-optimistic activists and commentators fantasising about it. Let’s be clear: allowing all your party’s voters (as identified in your canvass returns) to take part in a selection contest is hardly the same as US-style primaries.
The most important difference (of many) is that we can’t raise or spend huge amounts of money, and if we could, we wouldn’t be allowed to buy TV or radio advertisments. And would we really welcome a change of the legislation in that regard?
In 2004 I was the guest of some friends who were Democrat party activists in Denver. When asked how much it cost me to get elected, I said: “About four thousand pounds.”
“You see?” said my friend, turning to her other guests. “That’s the system we need here.”