It goes almost without saying that picking the right leader is the key to any political party’s success.
That is easier said than done. Whereas for decades parliamentary parties
were entrusted with choosing their party chief, it has since become
fashionable to widen the franchise.
Involve more people in the process, so the thinking goes, and you are
likely to end up picking the candidate with the widest national appeal.
But as the UK Labour party’s experience demonstrates, with its tens of
thousands of three pound ‘registered supporters’, things don’t always
work out that way. In the echo-chamber age of social media, parties can
all too easily end up with leaders who appeal to a small vocal minority
but have little wider appeal.
Unfazed by the unhappy British example, France’s Socialists are about to
undertake their second ‘open’ presidential primary. Although, as
Jocelyn Evans and Gilles Ivaldi explore, with a string of candidates –
including charismatic leftwinger Arnaud Montebourg – the risk is that
the electorate are left with the impression of a weak and divided
movement. It might well prove a case of ‘too many chefs’ spoiling the
The ongoing leadership turmoil in Spain’s Psoe – dubbed by commenters
the ‘war of the roses’ – may yet end in a party primary, with Andalucian
president Susana Díaz the current favourite.
Meanwhile, the starting whistle has been blown on the Dutch labour
party’s first ever open contest. As Bart van Bruggen explains, it looks
set to be a battle more about style than ideological difference.