Tories will stage ‘open primary’ in Totnes

By Liz Stephens

Voters in Totnes will be able to pick their Conservative general election candidate in an “open primary” contest, David Cameron announced today.

Voters will be invited to take part in a postal ballot to choose a successor to Anthony Steen from a shortlist of between 2 and 4 candidates.

Mr Steen is due to stand down as a casualty of the expenses row after the Daily Telegraph reported he had claimed over £87,000 in four years for his country home.

The Tories are hoping to re-engage the electorate of Totnes following Steen’s departure.

Mr Cameron said: “This is the first time any political party in Britain has sought the views of the voters in such a direct way.”

“I hope people will take part in this unique chance to have a real say over how politics works and who represents them,” he added.

The open primary will be based on a system used in some US states for selecting party candidates.

Foreign secretary David Miliband has spoken favourably about this system in the past.

In 2007, Boris Johnson was chosen as the Conservative candidate for the London mayoral elections in a contest which was open to all Londoners on the electoral roll who registered on a telephone hotline.