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ERS: Open primaries - a diversion from the change we need to see

The Electoral Reform Society has welcomed the Conservative decision to give electors more say through a primary in Totnes, but the Society has warned that without a change in the electoral system primaries will do little to make the Government more accountable and parliament more representative.

Ken Ritchie, the society's Chief Executive, said:

"No-one should kid themselves that primaries amount to electoral reform. We are pleased to see electors in Totnes being given a chance to have their say on potential Conservative candidates but, come the general election, Totnes will remain a very safe Tory seat votes for candidates of other parties are unlikely to count for anything at all. The primary will not make more votes matter when the general election comes, and there will be too many people who feel their voices are not being heard.

"If we want a parliament that better represents the electorate, which is a more effective debating chamber and which is better able to hold the government to account, then we need a change in voting system. Primaries should not be a diversion from the reforms that are really needed.

"If a system such as the Single Transferable Vote (STV) were used for our general elections, then there would be less need for primaries. STV would allow voters to choose between several candidates of a party, effectively combining a primary with the election.

"Whether or not parties use primaries, what we want is a referendum on the day of the next election to allow people to choose a better voting system because that is the one change that could make a real difference."

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