Tuesday, 4 August 2009

Dr Wollaston gets the vote at Totnes

If you were to look back in this blog to just over a week ago, to Monday 27 July to be exact, you will see that I wrote about a very interesting political experiment that was being carried out in the Totnes constituency. Just to briefly recap: the sitting Tory MP Anthony Steen is stepping down at the next General Election, the local party had produced a short list of three as the next prospective candidate, and then they wrote to all the eligible voters with a freepost envelope to enable them, regardless of their political affiliation if any, to say which of these three would be their preferred choice to represent them should the Tory get in.

The results of this new exercise in democracy are now in. And the winner is ... Dr Sarah Wollaston, a Chagford GP. More about her career achievements can be found here from which it can be seen that she has done well in her profession.

One or two comments to make: firstly using the figure of an electorate of 69,000 for this constituency as being accurate means that there has been a response of about 24% which is truly remarkable. I think that the Tories reckoned anything over 15% would be very acceptable. So that leaves a nice little dilemma for David Cameron: does he repeat this quite expensive exercise in other constituencies - following the success at Totnes it seems difficult to deny others this American style democracy of 'open primaries'.

Dr Wollaston with 7914 votes got nearly as many as her two rivals combined (Sara Randall-Johnson 5495 and Nick Bye 3088). Both the two defeated contenders are currently in local politics - they are leader of East Devon District Council and Mayor of Torbay respectively. I think it is quite possible that the electorate prefer someone in a respected profession and in constant contact with a huge cross section of people rather than someone else who might seem to be somehow 'tainted' by the political process.

The fact that the previously political unknown Sarah Wollaston is now in the public eye should do her chances in the General Election no harm at all I would think.

CORRECTION: I'm not sure now where I got the information but it seems that the 69000 figure mentioned as the number of constituents for 'Totnes' should be 67000. This means the turnout was even higher than my calculator informed me - in fact nearer 25% than 24%.

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