Many of our readers will, by now, be familiar with the concept of the political primary: a process designed to resolve the tragedy of seats with an overall progressive majority yet predicted to return a Conservative MP (on a minority vote) because the progressive vote is split. The idea being pioneered in South Devon (formerly Totnes constituency) clearly has application elsewhere. The three co-founders (of whom I am one) have made the entire Primary ‘kit’ available to the 50 plus constituencies across England which fall into the category popularly known as ‘progressive tragedy’ seats.
A team in the new constituency of East Wiltshire has adopted the process with enthusiasm, determined to remove the unpopular MP, Danny Kruger. Mr Kruger is firmly on the right wing of his party which now translates into very far right indeed. He has had the wit to acknowledge that the Tories face obliteration in the next election, but he is likely to squeak another term unless something is done. Polling for the LibDems and Labour has swung around a bit, but there have been two constants: 1) he’s going to win on a minority of the vote; and 2) the constituency is NOT Conservative. The majority support progressive parties and that is why the Primary is needed.
Labour are currently polling higher than the LibDems but cannot win without support. People want guidance on how best to vote to stop Kruger. The Primary will resolve ambiguity about who to back and have the massive advantage of mobilising communities to engage with the political process and take back their power as voters.
To paraphrase the Green Party candidate for Kenilworth, Zoe Leventhal KC, it’s high time that the voice of constituencies was heard in Westminster, rather than Westminster’s voice being heard in constituencies. Politicians need reminding that they work for us but also that they cannot hide behind the fascistic mantra of ‘the will of the people.’
Here at West Country Voices, we are running a series of interviews with the volunteers who are devoting much time and energy to organising a primary. We are starting with East Wilts’ Jan de Jonge. Jan is one of a core team of three – including his wife, Debbie and forester, James Noble. As is the case with South Devon Primary, this team is not politically tribal (apart from being vehemently anti this incarnation of the Conservatives) and are all relatively new to any sort of political campaigning or engagement. They just care.
Jan is unusual in that he does not have a vote. A victim of Brexit, he cares passionately about democracy and about the UK’s future, as you can tell from his answers.
But let’s allow Jan to speak for himself. Maybe what he says will chime with you. Good! Maybe your constituency needs a Primary to save it from tragedy? Maybe you live in one of the constituencies where a Primary is already up and running and you would like to join in? Great! You are needed! You will find links at the end of the article. Do, please, get involved!
What prompted you to get involved in organising the Primary? Have you been politically active before now? In what way?
“Although with my Dutch passport I cannot vote for UK elections, I have lived in the UK since 2000 and pay taxes here. I feel strongly about things like decency and fairness. I believe in accountability and a balanced approach to managing a country which, like any ‘organisation’, needs to be managed and led with accountability and a sense of balance.
“Brexit is a misguided act of self-destruction; I was active in campaigns, leafleting, and quite a few demonstrations in London. Some of the bad choices people make are based on misunderstanding, plus manipulation and misrepresentation (twisting) of facts. I am also prompted by the notion that our undemocratic voting system needs to be changed if we want a more democratic system of governing our society.
“Lastly, we need to get rid of these Tories who have made such a huge mess of things and have taken us for fools.”
What do you hope to achieve?
“I hope that the population will equate Conservatism with wrong values. Even the term “Conservatism” makes me feel uneasy. It is suggestive to me of greed, keeping things as they were (“the good old days! ”..) and extreme, but not always directly visible, inequality, and disrespect for those who need more help in our society.”
How has the idea been received on the street so far?
“It is surprising to see how many people seem to support our thinking around progressive values and the need for a new, modern national-level voting system. The First Past The Post system is simply no longer of our time, even if proportional representation may have some drawbacks (nah..), it is clearly more democratic.”
What are the key challenges you face?
“Some people would rather keep schtum and not get involved for fear of losing their ‘friends’. I can’t live like that. I also sometimes feel that some people feel that to vote Conservative gives them some sense of belonging…: belonging to (or being associated to) a group of people, a class, even, that likes to conserve what it ‘has’.”
When would you like the election to be?
What do you consider to be progressive values?
“I feel that progressive values emphasise the importance of government intervention to address social and economic issues. The market is not the be all and end all to solve all problems. Progressive values in my mind means that government can play a role in addressing issues such as poverty, inequality, and discrimination. Also, government has a role to play in making sure that everyone has access to the resources they need to succeed or lead a humane life. Equality of opportunity, whilst acknowledging that we have different strengths and needs. Some shoulders are able to carry a heavier weight than others. The moderate progressive type of values, for me, means that there is value in personal responsibility, but this is balanced by the understanding that some need more help in securing their access to resources and support.
“An important aspect of progressive values is the idea that we mustn’t just preserve traditional values and maintain the status quo for their own sake, without proper scrutiny. Instead, we need to be open to making changes to address issues: innovation, evolution, progress. Change for good, steps forward, rather than conservation as an undisputed dogma to held on to. “
If the Primary process manages to cause what would be a major upset in your seat, how will you celebrate?
“I have not dared think of this yet. Ask me again in a good few months’ time.”
What’s your message to readers?
“We need change in our journalism and printed (and possibly social) media, which feeds us what the powerful media barons want to feed us. Read independent papers like Byline Times rather than, for instance, the dreadful Daily Mail.
The Conservatives have had over a decade, nationally, to make improvements, but have, instead, made a pig’s ear of it. On top of this, the party has moved so far to the right that they have become practically unrecognisable to many Conservative voters.
We need change, real change and, in short, the message is this: change is possible.”
If you want to help make the East Wilts Primary a success, please sign up here.
To learn more about how the Primary will work, please watch this brief explainer from co-founder, Ben Long.
To discover if your constituency is a potential candidate for a Primary, visit www.politicalprimary.org. You can get in touch via the website.
Ultimately, this is all about people power and the greater the awareness of the initiative, the better! You can help just by spreading the word. Share this article and the Primaries’ social media posts.
Whatever happens, we are all going to have to get behind tactical voting to rid ourselves of this pernicious, corrupt government. Please also sign up at stopthetories.vote. We support the work of the great team there to ensure that we get that much-needed change!