The Western Lines

February 20, 2010

Let Liberal Party members elect the Leader

Filed under: liberals,menzies house — ralphbuttigieg @ 11:14 am
A few days ago I had my first article published in Menzies House. Here it is.
Lets face it the Liberal Party is completely hopeless at electing its leaders. Its ridiculous that we are in our first term of opposition but are up to leader number three. There’s nothing new about this of course, how many leaders did we go through last time until John Howard was elected leader? Remember it was his second go and he only got there because he was last man standing. The State situation is no better, NSW Liberals have been playing musical chairs for 15 years. 
Under the current system we are constantly subject to leadership speculation. If the polls are bad the leader has to go, if they improve they can stay. Its a complete distraction from what we should be about – attacking the Labor Party. Also the leader is supposed to have the support of the Party members, but why should they? They had no part in their election. The end result is we spend a long time in opposition until we fluke someone who is electable and hopefully that person is a John Howard not some loser.
To me the solution is obvious, for the Liberal Party of Australia to adopt a system similar to what the UK Conservative Party has ie: to let the party members not just the parliamentarians elect the leader.
If the Conservatives have a leadership vacancy the parliamentarians chose two candidates , that way whoever becomes the leader will have the general support of their colleagues. Then those two have to go and sell themselves to the ordinary mug members. After a suitable time a ballot is held and who ever wins becomes the leader. That person remains the leader until he or she resigns or there is a spill. Importantly, unlike the Australian Democrats who had a similar system, they don’t allow the party members to petition a spill. A spill can only be brought on by the parliamentarians. We want more stability not less. The person being spilled against can not stand for the forthcoming ballot.
The benefits are many. A united party. A leader who has the support of the members, the end of leadership speculation and perhaps most importantly, I believe it would rejuvenate the party. The ordinary members, the poor mugs who pays their 90 bucks, would have a direct say on who they want for the next Premier or Prime Minister. 
Of course there are some negatives. There would be increased administrative costs. However democracy always has a price and besides internet voting would minimize those costs. Also what will we do with Queensland’s National Liberal Party? Are they Liberals or Nationals? That’s something that needs to be sorted out but would be irrelevant at the State level anyway. Properly the strongest opposition will come from various politicians who hope to use the current system to further their ambition, but there are some who would like to see such a change because the idea was first brought to my attention by Christopher Pyne MP.
So how about it? Lets have some grass roots democracy!

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