Picking the winner

The Selection of Parliamentary Candidates, by Michael Rush. Nelson Political Science Library 63s.

This book was originally a thesis for a PhD and has the vices and virtues one would expect from this. It has obviously been carefully researched and no doubt the facts can be accepted as authentic. It will probably be useful to students as a work of reference. But for the general reader it must be frankly admitted that it is boring to a degree.

This is the fault of the subject not of the author. Even the most avid follower of current politics (assuming such people even exist) will hardly find their blood pressure rising as they learn how the main parties come to select their candidates for parliamentary elections. How much does it matter if the Tories choose their candidates in pairs, man and wife being both suitable, very much like Noah arranging his passengers for the Ark? In practice, all this sort of thing makes little or no difference at all to the working of the political set-up.

The author is terribly concerned (as indeed are many others) with the fact that in the very many “safe” scats, the process of selection by the local party caucus is tantamount to selection of the MP. So it is. And so what? The author fails to worry about the real problem, which is why the seat is safe in the first place. And the answer to that, clearly, is that the voters can be relied upon to elect a certain breed of capitalist candidate, normally Tory or Labour (a Liberal safe seat is no doubt these days a contradiction in terms). If that situation altered, if the voters decided to do some of their own political thinking, then the apparent power of the local caucus to send its man to Westminster would be rudely shattered. And the author’s main worry would be a thing of the past.

Lewis Hopkin