Alex Massie

A Parliament of Doctors

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So, it seems that if you want to win a primary contest in the modern Tory party it helps to be a GP. Having selected a local GP in Totnes the Conservatives have selected another local MP in Bracknell. As Liberal Vision's Mark Littlewood says, Phil Lee may well become an admirable Member of Parliament but, from an ousider's perspective it does seem a shame that neither of the two high-profile candidates - Iain Dale and Rory Stewart were selected.

Since I've complained about excessive control from the centre it may seem churlish to grumble that there are problems with the way that local parties select their candidates too. But there you have it. There are trad-offs everywhere and nothing and no system is perfect. As Littlewood argues:

It strikes me that the key attributes that the three main parties look for in candidates are usually:

1. Something approaching slavish loyalty to the party, its leader and its policies. 

2. A Stakhanovite work ethic - in which your suitability for office (or at least for selection)  is partly measured in terms of the number of leaflets you have stuffed through doors or the number of by-elections you’ve assisted in. (This is to some extent a practical demonstration of point 1)

3. Proof of “local” credentials. Ideally, you and your family have lived within the same 5 square mile radius for generations.

This is a real annoyance for a voter like me. I basically want my politicians to be controversial, lazy and rather aloof. Me too. I suspect Rory Stewart might find being an MP an exceedingly tedious business, but he would bring a perspective and an expertise to the House that would, let us face it, be welcome. As for Mr Dale, well, little more need be said save that he too shows every sign of being able to think for himself and is, therefore, far from cut-out for life on the green benches. This too is a shame.

It's early days in the experiment with open primaries - and such contests are certainly preferable to the implacement of Central Office Androids  - but if the existing pattern (small sample size alert!) is repeated across the country we will end up with a parliament of doctors. Which doesn't seem ideal. Personally, like most sensible people, I'd rather have a parliament of veterinarians. 

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

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