Coalition pledge for state-funded primaries dropped
A very senior Cabinet minister has told me that the Coalition has now scrapped its radical plans to pay for primary elections to choose party candidates in 200 safe seats.
The full Coalition Agreement last May said: "We will fund 200 all-postal primaries over this Parliament, targetted at seats which have not changed hands for many years."
The money would have been allocated to parties which now have seats in Parliament, according to their shares of the vote in May 2010.
So the state would have paid for primaries very similar to those held by the Conservatives in Totnes and Gosport before the election, each of which cost the Tories around £40,000.
The primary plans have now been dropped on cost grounds. But there are also political motives. Some Coalition figures fear that MPs chosen through the primary process, such as Sarah Wollaston in Totnes, may have too much personal independence from the party whips.