Monday, 27 July 2009

Totnes leads the way - in the political process

Attach the word "first" to a news item about Totnes and many of us will be thinking about some environmental development or alternative lifestyle such is the reputation of this town in Devon's South Hams. However this is something very different - it's all about politics believe it or not!

Actually the 'Totnes' constituency is a bit of a misnomer. In reality it is a small country town and I can't understand why the name 'South Hams' or 'South Devon' isn't now employed, the other constituencies in Devon with the exception of Plymouth, Exeter and Torbay don't use a town name so in truth 'Totnes' in this context is a bit of an anomaly. But I digress ...

A quick bit of recent history. It will be recalled that sitting Tory MP Anthony Steen got into some hot water with his expenses and notably his reaction when this information got tossed into the public domain via the pages of 'The Daily Telegraph'. Like may another MP who has been subjected to embarrassing revelations he has stated he will stand down at the next general election. Therefore a new prospective Conservative candidate has to be found. This is where it gets interesting: the local constituency party has now got a short list of three - two women and one man as it so happens - and it has been decreed that ALL the electors in the constituency will get the option to make a choice as to which of the three should get the nomination regardless of their political allegiance. This is really groundbreaking stuff.

There was a public meeting over this past weekend at which all three prospects could be quizzed. By all accounts it wasn't just the diehard Tory activists who attended and the meeting was judged to have been quite successful. Those interested in this exercise have to return their voting forms by this Thursday I believe.

So some thoughts on all this. In principle creating a system that permits better public participation in the political process has to be welcomed I would have thought. The Western Morning News had thumbnail photos and very brief background information on all three candidates but what I would want if I lived in South Devon would be some really hard detail as to what they believed in, an example of this would be their attitude to a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty. I'm not clear from the media as to whether those who couldn't attend this one husting have been provided with decent information on the threesome so that they can make a really informed choice, this would have been of great interest. I have stated before that I don't have any natural allegiance to any one party but that I am more interested in the nature of the person who could be my MP. As there are about 69,000 voters in the 'Totnes' constituency it hasn't been a cheap process for the Tories but at least it's useful business for the Post Office!

The result should be known by the end of the week and it will be particularly fascinating to find out the percentage of those eligible who have returned their voting slips.

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