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I don’t support Iain Dale’s political ideology but he and I agree on one thing: we’re both advocates of use of the internet for politics, and hence the use of social networks and blogs within a political environment. For any other members of political parties concerned by the same issues, Dale’s efforts to be selected in Bracknell in the Tory Party’s open primary must be of considerable interest. This is not the first time that Iain has tried to be selected for a Tory seat – he failed at the first hurdle in Maidstone & The Weald but that was a standard selection process and not an open primary.

Overall I’m not a particular fan of the idea of political parties running primaries to select their candidates for seats, and this is due to the oft-cited reason that being a party member therefore ceases to be important. It’s essentially that I would prefer Single Transferable Vote as the UK election system, and as that system uses open lists the election and the selection are effectively combined. But I diverge…

Advocates of the primary system (such as Labour’s Chuka Umunna) claim the system gives outsiders a better chance. You don’t have to subscribe to the party line as much, you don’t have to play the rubber chicken circuit in the same way, and alternative candidates might have a chance. To that I would add that a primary candidate could make more radical and innovative use of the internet to highlight local issues among a wider group of people. I don’t know enough about the individuals involved in the Totnes Primary to determine how well any of them used the internet; for me Dale’s experience will be the yardstick of whether there’s mileage in the primary system in the UK.

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