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Stuart Weir
16 December 2009

Don't be fooled again - or perhaps you knew? Anyway, I live in Cambridge which the Lib Dem MP David Howarth has just abandoned for life in an ivory tower. The Conservatives have just held another of their 'primaries' here which chose a young Cameron look-alike and sound-alike candidate who has been working for David Willetts. A friend went to sound out what was going on and was almost expelled at once by a party apparatchik who plainly has a career awaiting him arresting people who take photographs in the street. 

Anyway, my spy asserts that the primary 'electorate' amounted to no more than 50 to 60 people. Publicity for the event was so low-key as to be near invisible and even Conservative party members, let alone likely voters, were quite unaware that it was taking place. But apparently attendance at  recent 'primaries' in Brighton and Ipswich has been equally sparse.

So these primaries are clearly not the open or populist enterprises they pretend to be and they are not opening up the choice of candidates. So what is going on? Is this just a fashionable ploy so that the candidates can be paraded as 'the people's choice' at the next election?  Are they a way of evading local party control over the choice of candidates? Deliberate or not, the low-key approach seems very fishy.

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