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Last Updated: Monday, 25 February 2008, 00:44 GMT
MP in call for UK primary polls
A vote being placed in a ballot box
Mr Field said too many MPs are picked by "party caucus"
US-style primaries should be introduced in Britain to select Westminster candidates, an ex-minister has urged.

Labour MP Frank Field said a pilot scheme should be held in safe seats such as his Birkenhead constituency.

In a paper for the Policy Exchange, Mr Field said primaries would make MPs "accountable to the wider electorate through their selection as candidate".

He also called for elected police chiefs and housing association heads, as well as fixed-term parliaments.

Run-off

Mr Field's proposals take their inspiration from the US, where primaries decide who gets the major parties' nominations.

He said that one-third of UK constituencies are won by over 50% of the vote.

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Mr Field, a former welfare reform minister, argued that the result is a transfer of power from "the ballot box into the party caucus", with party activists rather than the public choosing who will represent such areas.

He called for British primaries to be run by the Electoral Commission, with everyone on the electoral register allowed to pick who will be each party's candidate at the general election.

Mr Field also called for a two-stage process so that only candidates with more than 50% of the vote can win their party's nomination, with a run-off held between the top two candidates in other cases.

In September, Boris Johnson won the battle to be Conservative candidate in next year's London mayoral race in a vote which was open to all Londoners.

Residents on the electoral roll who registered on a telephone hotline were eligible to take part in the ballot, described as an "open primary" contest.

SEE ALSO
Q&A: US primaries and caucuses
12 Feb 08 |  Americas
Londoners get say on Tory hopeful
12 Jun 06 |  UK Politics

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