Steve V has a nice post up
on how the LPoC might "open up" its leadership selection process. He's expanding on earlier columns by Silver
where such "radical" proposals as an open primary for the national leadership, or at least for choosing candidates at the riding level, are discussed.
All these authors argue, essentially: what does the LPoC have to lose?
Well, while all these people at least acknowledge the possibility of a "take-over" of the party by hostile ideological interests, nobody spends much time over it. Therefore it might be worth noting that in 1998 the Progressive Conservative national leadership race was indeed targeted by interlopers, who were able to exert a measurable effect upon the outcome.
Two things happened that year. Firstly, the PCs opened up their own leadership selection process: $10 and anyone could join the party and cast a ballot for leader. Secondly, David Orchard
decided that he
was going to become a Tory and run in that leadership race.
A couple months in advance of the October vote, emails started going around a number of leftish mailing lists suggesting that people prank the PCs by signing up and backing Orchard. The point was to throw sand in the gears of the PC machine: if no candidate received 50 per cent plus one of the vote, the whole race would go to an expensive second round, to be held weeks later. Its hard to tell with these things, but I suspect several hundreds
of people joined up for just this purpose. Several thousands
promised to, and since the price to get involved was just two fivers and a walk to your local highschool (I don't think e-voting had been invented yet), I suspect many followed through. I certainly did.
So here is the October 1998 vote result.
Joe Clark missed the victory mark (but read though the link--this is in points
not absolute votes) by less than two percent. Hey presto, an attempt to "open" a major Canadian political party had been successfully hijacked.
But was the attempt a failure
Hard to say, really. Orchard himself was sincere enough. He brought a new crowd into the party with him, and some of those stuck around at least up to its final dissolution. Orchard himself fought for the PCs existence right to the last stand. As for the pranksters? Well, in my own case I continued to read the PC Lit that I was sent quite dutifully. I might have voted for them one day, as I had voted for the Clark PCs in his first go-round as leader.
Anyway, before going towards anything as unknown as an open primary, the LPoC might want to look at this old PC model. Perhaps set the party membership price a little higher to scare off mischief-makers. Also, the concept of counting "points" over raw votes might be useful. As far as I can tell, it is meant to insure that ridings with very few party members can still influence the final decision, and so people in those areas have a reason to join up in the first place. I remember someone (Jeff Jedras
I think) telling me that if the LPoC went with a strictly 1 Member 1 vote system, none of the leadership candidates would bother to campaign outside of Toronto.