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The Financial and Emotional Cost of Dementia

As of today 22nd May, the Tories are in disarray over their plans to change the rules over the funding of social care. In particular their plan as described in the manifesto does not appear to have addressed the position of surviving spouses or partners. Typically husband and wife hold their house as ‘joint tenants’ whereby the surviving spouse inherits the whole of the house whether or not there is a will. What happens if the house has to be sold on the first death? What if the survivor then needs social care? See:

It also appears that Philip May is a key executive of Capital Group a key provider of Equity Release schemes which the Tories are specifying as the only means of retaining the property up to the first death – surely a conflict of interest.

I expect lawyers will be very inventive in devising ways of getting round the ‘dementia tax’. But not everyone will think of contacting their solicitor.

But the Tories are only making worse a dilemma which couples face regardless of finance. Someone getting dementia may not want to impose a huge emaotional burden on their partner, but be unable to do anything about it. Living with someone who no longer knows you must be a nightmare. Dignity in Dying  believes ” the right law for the UK is one that allows dying people, with six months or less to live the option to control their death. We do not support a wider law.” They believe that their position is supported by 82% of the public. The Swiss organization Dignitas supports assisted dying in a wider range of circumstances.

Traditionally Christianity has condemned suicide as being a terrible sin in any circumstances. That attitude has changed somewhat, but the attitude of modern Tories seems to be logically consistent with a situation where people can make legally enforceable Living Wills. This could be implemented in the form of modified Last Powers of Attorney, Health and Welfare in which the attorney would have to be an independent person who would consult the family but not be bound by their opinion.


A Party to Enact Voting Reform?

This post is to explore the idea suggested by Jon Sessions of forming a political party to secure proportional representation. This recognises the difficulties of forming an effective ‘Progressive Alliance’ to oppose the Conservative Party in the forthcoming election. The idea of a progressive alliance has been especially promoted by the Green Party though it has had some support from the Lib Dems. Whereas the Greens have backed down in a couple of constituencies and the Lib Dems have withdrawn in Brighton Pavilion, the Labour Party has not reciprocated. Apparently its constitution forbids it. In Jeremy Hunt’s constituency where an independent is standing to try and unseat him, the Constituency Labour Party decided to withdraw, but their decision was overturned by the centre, and two local Labour activists have been expelled from the party. This finally convinced Green Party co-leader Caroline Lucas to say enough is enough; the Green will fight every seat, see

Decisions to co-operate can be tricky, for example in the recent Dorset County elections a very popular Labour councillor lost his seat to a Conservative. The local Green Party regretted this result which may not have transpired if the Green Party candidate had stood down. However this result could not reasonably have been predicted, and the Labour candidate had indicated he was not actively campaigning. The Green Party felt it had been right to stand everywhere on the basis of the information we had.

We can do nothing before the forthcoming election on June 8th, so we are thinking about a future election which could be in 2022, or in a couple of year’s time if it is realised Britain has made a huge mistake in deciding to leave the EU. We could threaten to field candidates to oppose progressive party candidates in winnable seats unless certain conditions are met. We do not need to register a new party for this; they would be formally independent. The conditions are:

a. That all ‘progressive’ parties make proportional representation their policy.

b. That it is recognised that AV, AV+ as defined in the Jenkins report, and Hansard AMS are unacceptable.

c. That no party’s constitution should prevent an alliance.

d. That active discussions on interparty co-operation commence in each constituency by October 2017.

This would be a wrecking action which would not result in legislation being brought forward to achieve PR in the ensuing parliament. There is a good chance that the progressive parties would regard our threat as not credible.

There are several possible outcomes to the forthcoming election, but the most likely is a Conservative win with increased majority. The economy might not suffer too much as a result of Brexit, and voters may accept the scrapping of environmental legislation and restrictions of our freedom of expression. The destruction of the NHS, which it will not be possible to reverse for a generation at least, will however give the Conservatives some problems. This could cause a Conserevative split.

I think we have to wait for June 9th before deciding what to do.

If the Labour Party does not split irrevocably after the election then MVM should be campaigning for them not only to adopt PR as their policy but also modify their constitution to allow alliances under certain circumstances.

Can Christians help to Clean up our Politics?

Ever since 1982 I have campaigned for political reforms, which would hopefully make politics fairer and more constructive. Changing the voting system has always seemed to me to be the best single reform. The trouble is that most campaigners have had strong party allegiance. People who support a party that has benefited from our existing First Past the Post (FPTP) system have argued for its retention, whereas people who support parties that have suffered under it demand change. I admit that I fall into the latter category. Could churches put a more objective case for some kind of reform?

I received the newsletter (entitled ‘Emergency Praxis: General Election’) of the Joint Public Issues Team set up by a number of non established churches. The words of John Wesley on Oct 6th 1774, were quoted prominently:

“I met with those of our society who had votes in the ensuing election, and advised them, 1. To vote without fee or reward for the person they judged most worthy; 2. To speak no evil of the person they voted against; And 3. To take care their spirits were not sharpened against those who voted on the other side.”

A very careless interpretation of these words might suggest that Christians should be pretty passive during election campaigns, but you have to remember that they were said in the midst of an ill tempered, not to say violent campaign. Rev. Mark Woods (Note 1) has written:

“…When I see Christians I know and respect repeating mindless slurs on the character and policies of their political opponents in all seriousness, I think a little Wesley might be good for them. Don’t speak evil of your enemies. Don’t let your spirits be sharpened against them. They are, on the whole, decent people trying to do their best.

Does that mean politics has to be bland and nice? Not a bit of it. I’m all for passionate engagement. It’s our opponents as people to whom we owe respect; to their weak, dangerous arguments, unworkable policies and bankrupt philosophies we owe none at all. We ought to be able to distinguish between the two, and vote, without fee or reward, for the person we judge most worthy.”

It would be great if the current election campaign were to be conducted on the basis of principles, policies and reliable information. But those relying on the mainstream media will find the latter hard to come by, and most voters will simply not have the time or patience to seek out and compare alternative sources. All the signs are that it is the alleged qualities of the key people that will dominate. The best that Christians can do during the campaign period is to follow Wesley’s advice, but they must expect to be drowned out by slogans, sound bites, and biassed media reporting. Mrs May avoids proper debate, constantly mouthes the words ‘strong and stable government’, and appears in factories surrounded only by a small invited audience (note 2). By contrast Mr Corbyn expounds his policies passionately to large and enthusiastic audiences, but for the most part is only reported on social media. The mainstream media do not report him fairly. His policies may or may not be practical, but he has the right to be heard, and incidentally there is some evidence that people are more likely to agree with his policies than with the man.

Mrs May says this is a very important election, and I agree but for rather different reasons. She argues that a strong Conservative majority is essential in order to secure a good deal on Brexit. I argue the opposite. If the rest of the EU were determined on revenge then there can be no good outcome, but I do not think that is the case. I think that, at present, they want to be firm but fair. If negotiators on both sides are reasonable, then the fact that the government has to convince parliament that the terms negotiated are the best obtainable, would tend to strengthen its hand. If on the other hand Mrs May and the British team are unreasonable then Europeans may act irrationally and take revenge. If the Brexit deal is bad for Britain, which I fear it may be, then the government will be tempted to take repressive measures to stifle dissent.

It is outside election periods that Christians might perhaps make more of a contribution. Since the 1980s the behaviour of politicians seems to have deteriorated.

In his book ‘The Rise of Political Lying’ (2005), right wing journalist and commentator Peter Oborne traces the history of political falsehood back to its earliest days but focusing specifically on the exponential rise of the phenomenon during the Major and Blair governments, Peter Oborne demonstrates that the truth has become an increasingly slippery concept in recent years. From woolly pronouncements that are designed merely to obfuscate to outright and blatant lies whose intention is to deceive, the political lie is never far from the surface. And its prevalence has led to a catastrophic decline in trust, at a time when people are more politicised than ever. In his witness statement to the Leveson enquiry in 2012 (note 3) there is no suggestion that the change of government had changed his mind.

In his subsequent book, ‘The Triumph of the Political Class’ (2007), Oborne makes essentially two points:

  1. He paints a picture of a political class of MPs drawn from all the main parties in parliament who have stronger loyalties to each other than to the people they are supposed to represent. Further the media (including the BBC), far from holding government to account, are in an unholy alliance with them, peddling the manufactured picture of reality that government chooses to cook up. The differences between the two main parties had become insignificant.

  2. The political class consider themselves to be morally superior to the rest of us – not something most of us would agree with!

Recently Oborne has revised his view on the first point. With the emergence of Jeremy Corbyn as leader, the Labour Party is once again a socialist party. He celebrates this, but he forgets that the media make it very difficult for Corbyn to get his message across. However the sense of moral superiority is not peculiar to New Labour. It has led for example to Conservative ministers asserting that they do not require evidence for their point of view; they know they are right because of who they are. This can lead to poor decisions and inhumanity. It also leads them to believe that they are the ones who should be in power and that this justifies them using any stratagem to retain it. This self conceit or Pride is surely the worst of sins. As C.S. Lewis writes (note 4) ,

“The Christians are right: it is Pride which has been the chief cause of misery in every nation and every family since the world began. Other vices may sometimes bring people together: you may find good fellowship and jokes and friendliness amongst drunken people or unchaste people. But Pride means enmity – it is enmity. And not only enmity between man and man but enmity to God.”

It is not in my opinion sensible for Christian churches to proceed by accusing particular politicians of Pride. As Lewis points out (note 5), people are very ready to recognise Pride in others, but never (unless they are a Christian) in themselves. It is better to recognise that British politicians, especially Prime Ministers, experience a unique degree of temptation arising from the fact that there is no obvious limit to their power. By contrast CEOs of large companies face the discipline of the market and US presidents face the separation of powers – even Trump has to recognise he cannot do everything by Executive Order. This introduces a modicum of humility. I am suggesting that Christians of all denominations should debate what practical measures could be put in place to limit the arbitrary use of Prime Ministerial power. This power derives in no small part from our First Past the Post Voting system under which not only does a single party enjoy an absolute majority in parliament but also the Prime Minister can rely on the loyalty of most of his or her MPs, (note 6). My proposal would be to campaign for a change to that system. There are several organisations arguing for a more proportional system, e.g. Make Votes Matter and the Electoral Reform Society. I personally support the Single Transferable Vote System along with retired Anglican bishop Colin Buchanan (note 7). This is the system used since the 1920s for Church of England synod elections. He wishes the Church would ‘preach what it practises’.

The first step however is for Christian churches to recognise the issue.

Note 1. Rev Mark Woods, Managing Editor Christian Today, ‘Can John Wesley teach us how to campaign in a general election?’, 25 April 2017,

Note 2. The right wing journalist and commentator Peter Oborne observes in his book ‘The Triumph of the Political Class (2007) that in 2005 Tony Blair employed the same tactic.

Note 3.

Note 4. C.S. Lewis, ‘Mere Christianity’, Book III – ‘Christian Behaviour’ – Chapter 8 – ‘The Great Sin’. ‘Mere Christianity’ was based on a series of radio talks during World War II. It now seems to be out of copyright and can be downloaded from,

Note 5. ibid.

Note 6. Under First Past the Post most MPs are elected in ‘safe’ seats, so it is the local party that chooses the MP – hence an MP’s primary loyalty is to the party rather than constituents or the national good.

Note 7. Colin Buchanan, ‘An Ethical Case for Electoral Reform’, Grove Books, July 2015, A rather inadequate review of this booklet can be found at

Forget Prosperity, Humanity, or Security – It’s Power They Crave

If people find today’s politics confusing, it may be because they fail to realise that the further up the greasy pole politicians rise the more they crave power for its own sake. If they affect to work for prosperity, humanity or security, that becomes just a pretext. This love of power outstrips even their personal greed. The love of power is a symptom of what Christians rightly call the Great Sin, namely Pride or self conceit. But whereas greed may lead to criminal behaviour, Pride remains unpunished for far too long.

While this is a problem for any country or regime it is disastrous for Britain with its almost unique form of pseudo democracy, one in which the Prime Minister has virtually unlimited power – until that is his or her rivals feel strong enough to stab him in the back.

Britain enjoys both an uncodified constitution and the highly defective First Past the Post voting system, in which the majority of MPs owe their seats to the party rather than voters. This means that they put loyalty to party ahead of loyalty to their constituents or to the good of their country. That is what makes the prime minister so powerful and so corrupt. Any more proportional system would help MPs  to take some notice of voters. Single Transferable Vote where you can choose between candidates of the same party would be much better.

There are many useful reforms that could be made to the working of parliament. None of them have any chance whilist we keep First Past the Post. All MPs who adhere to the ‘settled view’ that we keep First Past the Post are the true enemies of the people; our judges are not.

Reforming the Voting System for Westminster

An open letter to Richard Drax MP, Con. South Dorset

Dear Mr Drax

I wrote to you some time ago to ask you your views on the subject. It was clear that you were then unprepared to countenance any change from First Past the Post, though I found your reasons unconvincing. The fact that the majority of MPs agree with you would seem to be due to the fact that it suits their convenience rather than that it is good for the governance of Britain. This is immoral. Therefore, and in the light of recent events, I ask you whether you are prepared to reconsider.

When in 2013 Mr Cameron promised a referendum on Europe, he should immediately have commissioned a study on what Brexit would mean. He should then have stressed what is still the statutory position that referenda are only advisory. Nevertheless he should have brought forward legislation to amend the fixed term parliaments act to provide that in the event of a convincing Brexit vote, a general election would then be called. Mr Cameron’s dereliction of duty has created the biggest constitutional crisis since 1688.

Having established the people’s view on Europe it would have been far better, rather than rushing for the exit, to have sought allies amongst those countries who have become Eurosceptic, and fought either to secure reform that is fair to all (rather than just in the UK’s interest) or to force a break up of the EU. The way we are going about it is guaranteed to make us enemies and the country will suffer.

Now we have the situation in which the vote is regarded politically as more legitimate than any decision made by a government elected with just 37% of the vote and 25% of those who could have voted. The referendum trumps parliament, but the people have no chance to change their minds. All this implies that First Past the Post is not fit for purpose. Our democracy such as it was is shattered.

Mr Cameron’s poor judgement is just one example of the increasing ineptitude of governments of both stripes. This is largely hubris. For example ministers seem to have given up seeking evidence to support their decisions, or evaluate their effects. Also decisions seem to be made for presentational purposes. The whole truth is rarely told, and the mainstream media (including the BBC) are content to parrot what the government says when they are not simply trying to stir up hatred.

British prime ministers have too much power and as Lord Acton said, “power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely”. One major reason for this is that too many MPs put loyalty to their party ahead of loyalty to constituents or to their country. This is not surprising as in ‘safe’ seats the MP owes his or her seat to the local party rather than voters, and PPSs and junior ministers are chosen more for their party loyalty than for their ability.

One MP who has not sold her soul to the party is Dr Sarah Wollaston (Con., Totnes), who was selected to fight the 2010 election in an open primary. A bold experiment by Cameron, but she asked too many questions and so it has not been repeated. Recently as Chair of the Health Select Committee she had the temerity to challenge the government’s story of NHS funding. Good for her; that is the kind of MP we want.  She has suggested more open primaries, and an open and  proper selection procedure for PPSs. Needless to say this will not happen while we retain First Past the Post.

My solution is a voting system which is both more proportional than First Past the Post and also gives voters the chance to consider other qualities than the candidates’ party. Single Transferable Vote is the obvious choice. For example, South Dorset, West Dorset and North Dorset might be merged into one constituency returning three MPs. It would be likely on past showing for two Conservatives and one of another party (or possible an independent) to be elected. It would be in the interests of the Conservative Party to field three candidates and so Conservative voters would have some choice of which candidates they prefer.

The conurbation of Bournemouth and Poole might be one constituency returning a number of MPs.

yours sincerely

David Smith, [address supplied]

Those of Faith Should Think about Voting Reform

Christians try to engage with government over a number of public issues, but must often be frustrated by dumb government decisions.

On its website the Joint Public Issues Team (formed by several non established Christian churches) has posted a document entitled, “Faith in Politics: Preparing Churches for The General Election 2015”

In the section ‘Constitution and Democracy’, there is one significant omission, namely any mention of reform of the House of Commons or the way in which MPs are elected. I find this odd as it is the dominant chamber and is the body that gives the Prime Minister her enormous power. The authors appear to have assumed that now most MPs have adopted the ‘settled view’ that the existing First Past the Post ,(FPTP) voting system be retained, reform was off the agenda. I argue that this is too timid a view. Of course the document was written before an election in which the relative numbers of MPs from each party elected differed widely from the relative numbers of votes cast, but it could do with updating in view of renewed interest in voting reform. A Conservative government was elected with just 37% of the vote or just under 25% of those who could have voted. But it is not just that most of us did not want them, but also that under FPTP party loyalty ensures that there is virtually no check on the Prime Minister’s power.

As Lord Acton said, “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Under our system the temptations are almost irresistible. The effects on the quality of government are:

  • Those in power make stupid mistakes through not looking at the evidence,

  • They use their position to benefit themselves, their friends, or their donors, and

  • They bend the truth to avoid disclosing bad news on the grounds that they are the best people to run the country and thus must on to power.

The best remedy is not to try to identify and punish the transgressors but to lessen the temptations. I think this something that Christians and those of other faiths should argue for. I believe that the adoption of the Single Transferable Vote system for electing MPs would help in this. This is the system that the Church of England has used in its synod elections some the 1920s. In a booklet entitled ‘An Ethical Case for Electoral Reform: A Christian Approach’, retired bishop Colin Buchanan expresses the wish that the C of E ‘preach what it practises’. I have written to Lambeth Palace suggesting that at least parishes be encouraged to discuss the matter but nothing has resulted from this. Perhaps the non established churches can afford to be braver.

I believe those of faith need to take a lead because most of those currently interested in politics have allegiance to some political party which gets in the way of radical thinking about reform. Polls indicate that most people support a fairer voting system but need motivating to do something about it.

For more information on voting reform refer to:

Should Christians Fight for Reform to Secure Competent and Honest Government?


Christians speak out on a number of public issues such as inequality and the treatment of refugees. In so doing they are implicitly criticising government policy, although without naming names. They seem very shy however of commenting on the behaviour of those who make our laws. I argue that they should. Laws should be based on some sense of Justice and if our politicians lack that sense then we are in trouble; laws are likely to favour the powerful and oppress the rest of us.

99% of humanity recognises most of the Christians’ moral code (Note 1). in that we all know how we ought to behave although we dismally fail to do so. In spite of our failures it enables us to function most of the time as a harmonious society. Britain is nominally at least a democracy. This means there has to be a meaningly dialogue between our representatives and the rest of us. Without a common sense of morality that would surely be impossible.

In 2007 the journalist and commentator Peter Oborne documented the hollowing out of our democracy since the early 1980s (Note 2). Prior to then, the various institutions making up the old establishment were respected, thus providing valuable checks and balances. The new political class that has emerged from the wreckage has arrogantly asserted that they are morally superior to the rest of us – a judgement that few outside the ‘Westminster Bubble’ agree with. I see no indication that the Cameron governments did anything to reverse this process.

The Brexit vote has revealed deep divisions in society. Following the vote there has been a marked increase in the reported incidents of hate and violence. But it was not the referendum and the vote that caused the divisions. Britain has been deeply divided along economic, educational, social and geographical lines. A study published by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation found that those who feel marginalised were most likely to vote for Brexit. (Note 3).

But why did the marginalised vote for something that is as likely to harm them as to benefit them; why take such a colossal risk? Some will have believed the line that immigration is the main problem and that only Brexir can address it. Others though have lost trust in an elite that has failed to look after them and tries to conceal the fact. The elite wanted us to remain in Europe so the marginalised voted for Brexit. Mrs May’s government has chosen to respect the vote without questions, and in consequence seems unassailable. The opposition is disunited, and so the Conservatives are able to implement policies that harm the majority. If, as the Brexit process goes forward, it becomes clear that most people will suffer significantly, then people will listen to demogogues, and we are likely to land with an inevitably inefficient populist dictatorship. The Brexit vote together with the Trump victory suggests that democracy will only flourish if politicians are more honest and acknowledge their mistakes.

I believe that most people going into politics start with high ideals. The trouble is that they face strong incentives always to vote the way the party wishes, no doubt justifying it to themselves by the thought that unless their party gains or retains power then they cannot implement any of their programme. They tend to believe that their party is right and that the main thing is to overcome the opposition in order to implement their policies. As Green MP Caroline Lucas noted when she first entered Parliament, many MPs when responding to the division bell, will not only not have heard the argument for and against the motion but may be unaware of what motion they are voting on. Some need to be physically pushed by the whips into the right lobby. Much debate in parliament thereby loses much of its point. The fine detail of parliamentary Bills is discussed in Public Bill committees which considers amendments. It is very rare for any amendment not supported by the government gets through. Select committees, which typically scrutinise the performance of government departments, produce some good reports but they rarely influence government policy. For the leadership, distracted as they are by lobbyists and party funders, gaining and retaining power becomes the goal rather than the means. Sound bytes, generated by ‘triangulation’ (Note 4) replace coherent and principled statements of policy.

If an individual seeks power for its own sake it is a sign of self conceit, which to a Christian is the worst of the sins. Self conceit has unfortunate social consequences in that the individual will think of him or her self as infallible, which is never the case. Also self conceit is competitive by its very nature and will attract enemies. A little humility would surely improve the quality of government.

Many successful business men realise they are subject to the discipline of the market, and accept that they may have to abandon cherished beliefs and listen to advice. Under our current system, politicians do not face such clear discipline and are therefore subject to much greater temptation to succumb to Pride.

If we could reduce the temptation for politicians to behave badly we could expect better government, but how do we do this? One way is to change the voting system for the House of Commons. Currently the First Past the Post (FPTP) system is used. FPTP is usually criticised as being unfair to voters in that it is not proportional; many votes are simply wasted; and many voters feel they have to vote tactically (Note 5). Any proportional system would address these failings, and most campaigners are open minded about what system is chosen.

But I have a second objection to FPTP. It encourages MPs to behave badly. Firstly under FPTP most constituencies are ‘safe’ seats. Politicians have worked out that they only have to worry about swing voters in marginal constituencies. Using a technique known as ‘triangulation’, instead of promoting their full manifesto they focus on the narrow range of concerns raised by these key voters. Although effective, this is fundamentally dishonest. Any proportional system would make this much less effective. However any system based primarily on voting for a party rather than an individual generates excessive party loyalty, which prevents MPs identifying flaws in government policy, and allows ministers to yield to the influence of lobbyists or party funders rather than the grass roots. This leads me to support a particular system known as Single Transferable Vote (Note 6). Basically voters should be able to choose not just which party to support, but also which candidates of that party should be elected. This means that MPs loyalties would be more to their constituents and less to the party.

Other proposals for reform have been put forward but I find them less convincing (Note 7).

I have argued that the case for reform is essentially a moral argument. You do not have to be a Christian or indeed to follow any organised religion, to accept these arguments. I believe that Christians should nevertheless engage with this issue for the following reasons:

  • I am not asking them to criticise particular persons or parties, but instead to argue for incentives for all politicians to behave better.

  • Arguably Christians should be paying more attention to moral issues than non Christians

  • Far too few people currently think about how parliament and government should work. Many of those who do have strong party loyalties which I feel gets in the way. Christians could show a lead by lending some moral authority to the debate.

  • Someone needs to challenge the arrogant assumption by the majority of MPs that only they should determine how they are elected.

Many people criticise MPs for their expense claims and for in other ways using their office for personal benefit. However there are worse sins than that. The habitual mendacity of members of governments of either stripe, condoned by lazy and compliant media, does much to distort the democratic process. Furthermore their self conceit, leading as it does to serious mistakes and the quest for power for its own sake, leads to bad government. Reforms are needed to reduce temptation.



Note 1: excepting the theological virtues of Faith, Hope and Charity (or Christian love), which Christians claim for themselves and are bestowed on humans during baptism.

Note 2: Peter Oborne, ‘The Triumph of the Political Class, Simon and Schuster, 2007

Note 3:

Note 4: Triangulation: a technique first used in the campaign to elect George W Bush in 2004. but then copied by Conservative and Labour in 2005. ‘Swing’ voters in marginal constituencies are identified, their particular concerns are identified and used to create ‘sound bytes’ as the main means of mass communication. A lively account of this is given in Chapter 14 of Peter Oborne’s book ‘The Triumph of the Poltical Class’ , published in 2007.

Note 5: Commonly identified defects in First Past the Post: see . An excellent account by retired bishop Colin Buchanan entitled ‘ An Ethical Case for Electoral Reform: A Christian Approach’, is published by Grove Books 2015

Note 6: Single Transferable Vote (STV): see, A site devoted to STV is

Note 7: Other remedies: In 2009 a local GP, Sarah Wollaston was selected as the Conservative parliamentary candidate for Totnes by open primary. That is to say that the local Conservative Association put forward a short list of possible candidates which all registered voters could vote for regardless of party. This was Cameron’s idea which has not subsequently been repeated. Sarah was elected and has been a conscientious back bencher and was subsequently made Chair of the Health select committee which has criticised the government on its less than candid statements about NHS funding. She had hoped to have had more access to ministers to advise them of problems with policy. She has suggested an extension of open primaries, but that is unlikely to happen. Parties would not see it to be in their interest and it would not be practical to try to force them to do it. She has also made suggestions about the ‘payroll vote’ see

The Campaign for a Free Parliament (CFP) , which has been endorsed by Lord (Digby) Jones: The idea is to select independent candidates by open primary and aim to achieve a majority of such in parliament. In the Copeland by election their candidate got just 2.6% of the vote and it was not clear that he had been selected by open primary. Apart from that I believe parties are necessary in order to present competing visions of how the country should be run.