Monday, 12 October 2009

Ken would be up for a London Mayoral Primary

Dave Hill reports the interesting news that Ken Livingstone says the idea of a primary election to select London's Mayoral candidate would be "fine with me".

Progress are holding a debate among supporters and critics of primaries tonight. Alex Smith of LabourList will be reporting from it.

The London Mayoral Election is an obvious place for the Labour Party to carry out a major experiment with a primary election. It could do a good deal to energise the party ahead of 2012, and prove one of the most important ways to recruit new members and supporters, and to build on ideas about new campaigning methods and movement politics.

It would also make a refreshing change from the futile attempts to stitch up the nomination back in 2000.

And while the idea of primaries in parliamentary selections remains a controversial one, I suspect the idea that a London primary will appeal to a broad range of voices across the party's left, right and centre.

Indeed, we now have Ken Livingstone, David Lammy and Chuka Umunna all among those to advocate primaries. It seems a particularly suitable way to choose a candidate for a high-profile, directly elected post - and I have yet to hear any prominent voices speak out against primaries as a way of selecting Mayoral candidates.

Ken Livingstone might well have good reasons to think that it would be a system that would favour a candidate with such strong name recognition - as I noted when I argued for a London Mayoral primary back in July 2008.

But those on the centre or right of the party who have been calling for primaries could hardly now become less enthusiastic about them on instrumental grounds.

Instead, there should now be a good chance to work out how to hold a primary election in a way which does most to engage new people in Labour politics - and to do so well before the issue of which particular system might help one candidate or another risks dominating.

So let's hear more ideas about how to run an engaging primary which helps Labour to take back City Hall.

And let the best man - or woman - win.

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