Frank Field MP
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Time to Open Up

A new group, Open Up, is calling for all MPs to submit themselves to an open primary before the next election. This is the one move, the campaign claims, that would do more than any other to purge the political system of the expenses scandal.

All campaigns overplay their hand. Open Up is no exception.

A renewal of our political system will take more than open primaries. But the campaign's message is a thoroughly good one and would begin the long process of reform.

How can it be taken forward? Take my own case. I have long campaigned for open primaries, especially in safe seats.

When I first mentioned this idea to colleagues a Parliament ago I was accused of simply wanting to draw attention to myself. "You know you will win so what's your point?", was the common retort.

I would now like an open primary in Birkenhead more than ever. I have been accused, with polite language, over my expenses.

I have replied to Sir Thomas Legg about the cost of my second home.

I await his reply but I still feel unclean. His letter bangs around in my head incessantly. This is the basis of my renewed interest in an open primary.

Such a move would allow my constituents to pass a specific judgement on the question of my expenses, but also my record as their MP. They would have a choice between me and other candidates wishing to stand in a safe seat.

This is not a choice that my constituents get in a general election. Whenever that occurs they also have to consider how their vote will affect the formation of a government and who will be Prime Minster.

So, over to you, Open Up. If I can persuade my local party to back me, will you come and organise the contest?

The Totnes open primary cost £40k. Does your campaigning extend to raising the money to put your idea into practice?

For you not to respond positively would be a lost opportunity to expand the means by which democracy is renewed in our country.

Failure to respond positively would also label Open Up as part of the campaign that is much enjoying denigrating MPs but which is not coming up with anything positive.

As MPs we have much to answer. But there is a huge danger in this expenses campaign. It is doing much to boost newspaper sales, but it has yet to begin influencing the renewal of our form of representative and responsible government.
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Showing comments 1 to 3 of 3

I applaud you for this, Frank. I have no doubts myself that you are one of the good MPs and that you will regain your seat, as a parliament without you would be a much poorer place. I'm sure that is as apparent to your constituents as it is to me.Even so, it takes a bold MP to take this step in the current climate and you are to be commended for doing so. My hat is off to you, Sir!- Elliot Kane
Comment by Anonymous on 15 Jul 2011
You are right to cite the huge cost of open primaries. The great majority of constituency parties, of all political stripes, simply do not have the money. And in many constituencies a party with little or no chance of winning has difficulty in finding even one candidate, let alone a few, and could not put in the time (let alone the money) for such a process. Are these people only wanting primaries for the incumbent party?
Comment by Anonymous on 15 Jul 2011
It's a start. 1. Politicians have been porking it at the public's expense. All of them, you included are not to be trusted.2. The clean out needs to be done externally to Parliament. Fox in charge of the hen house reasons. The clean out is the prosecution of people who signed to say the expenses were wholly necessary for their work as an MP. Overclaim, and its fraud under the theft act and false accounting. The correct venue for that is the courts. No doubt some will try and claim that they can't be prosecuted because there isn't a fair jury - the jury being made up of the victims.3. Freedom of information and the confessional. The government has its head up its backside when it comes to debts. Why shouldn't the state pension be a debt? It looks, waddles and quacks like a debt. You've taken money up front, to pay it out later. It's Enron accounting to do otherwise. Unless of course you intend to default on the state pensions.Without being truthful, and when a politicians says its not a debt they are lying, there isn't a hope in hell of getting a sensible discussion on the matter.4. Why should unelected people get to decide on laws, and even sell changes to the law for cash? Abolish the House of Lords. 5. Half the number of MPs. Most of you are glorified social workers employed at huge cost.6. There is a democratic deficit. Why should I have to vote for a package, the manifestos? Why can't I get to vote on an issue? If I vote for a manifesto, you just ignore it. Lisbon being a prime example. What about things that weren't in the manifesto? Why have you put them into law without telling me and giving me an option? It's a fascist socialist dictatorship. The next one will be the right wing Tory dictatorship.7. All legistlation should be approved by referenda. Period. It's quite cheap to implement if you allow proxy voting. So someone might appoint you as the proxy. You get to exercise your choice. Other people would set up a system where via the net you get to exercise your vote, and they will vote the way you tell them to vote. ie. Individual votes. People can change their proxy when they want. That way its the issues you vote on, not the next thief of westminister. This is why there are more special interest groups around single issues. It's also why MPs are redundant.Nick
Comment by Anonymous on 15 Jul 2011

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