Author Archives: Simon Banks

The downside to a brilliant May 4th

The local elections produced brilliant results overall, considering we were defending seats won in a good year. But there is always a downside and we best progress when we consider the downside honestly and try to deal with it.

In five authorities – all in the North or North Midlands – we lost our sole or only two councillors: Bassetlaw, Bury, East Staffordshire, Sandwell (lost two) and Stockton on Tees. When one councillor is elected in such places, it’s usually a very hardworking community activist – though in one or two cases, the lone or two councillors may have been survivors of a once-sizeable group. We have broken through in Middlesbrough, but I couldn’t see any other cases where we went from none to one or more (though in Maldon, we’d gained our first in a by-election and then went up to five). So the outcome is: FEWER councils have Liberal Democrat councillors.

Posted in Op-eds | 20 Comments

A personal specification for a leader

With another leadership election looming, what do we need in a leader? What’s essential and what’s merely desirable? If we don’t think clearly about these things, we’re likely to make bad choices.

We don’t have a Person Specification for the job, but maybe we should at least think that way. What would it look like?

Unfortunately, it wouldn’t stay the same. At some times, the ability to inspire the activists or to gain the attention of the media is vital. At others, the activists are already inspired, and the media are listening, but keen to find weaknesses. Then judgment is crucial. So I’ve not divided the points into Essential and Desirable, as would be normal with other Person Specs. I’ve also not mentioned specific issues such as the climate emergency, though I think not choosing a leader strong on that would be unwise.

Posted in News and Op-eds | Tagged | 13 Comments

What is a movement?

In the discussion – and sales talk – around the party reform proposals, people often talk of creating a movement, sometimes equated to a supporter scheme. Sometimes, as in that video, it’s presented as an alternative to a political party. There is a danger of positive language being repeated till people stop asking what it means. So what is a movement and how’s it different from a political party?

“Movement” suggests moving – towards some shared goal. Parties can do that, but you can’t have a movement for not changing things much. Movements require mass participation.

Any party can call itself a movement. In France in 1945, some traditional parties were blamed for France’s unpreparedness for the war and others for collaborating. So a new party was called the “Mouvement Republican Populaire” – People’s Republican Movement. It was organised as a traditional party with mainly unclear goals.

Parties have a defined membership, organisation at local and national levels, a leader or leaders and some process for choosing people with particular responsibilities. Movements may or may not have these things.

Many movements campaign for something narrowly defined. Consider the 19th century movements for abolition of slavery in the UK and the US. The UK movement worked through traditional parties. The US movement founded its own parties (Free Soil, then Republican). Other genuine movements include the Feminist movement, the Green movement, CND and nationalist separatist movements. Some have formed parties, others not.

Posted in Op-eds | 3 Comments

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