The Saturday debate: are public elections the only ones political parties should fight?

Here’s your starter for ten in our Saturday slot where we throw up an idea or thought for debate:

Why should a political party restrict itself to fighting public elections? Why not also take part in the myriad of other elections that exist, including those for directors of companies?

Instead of complaining from the sidelines about how a council behaves, we fight elections to change its decisions and methods. The same logic could apply to companies, hospital trusts, housing bodies and may more, all of which – like the bodies we fight elections for – have significant power over communities and individuals.

Trying to change the directors of a newspaper group would certainly make a change from complaining about the activities of the titles…

Agree? Disagree? The comments thread awaits you…

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • Certainly. Community politics was about “helping people take power and use it within their communities”. At the time Councils were a major way of doing that as the controlled housing, public transport, schools etc. Now they have very little.

    I did give some thought to how to campaign for elections to hospital foundation trusts – but “our” candidate got elected top of the list without it!

  • Agree with guido.

    I would have added the word “batshit crazy” as well though.

  • Hmmmm… I’d go for a cautious ‘probably not’.

    I think it is not a bad thing if local political organisations are on top of local community issues – and a certain involvement is a good idea.

    There are two reasons why I see serious issues with drawing a line, though.

    The first is that various aspects of community life which are currently non-political become politicised. This would not be a good thing in many cases, I think.

    The second issue is party unity, and the unity of a party’s message.
    As I see it, the LibDems in particular already have a problem with making the disparate things LibDems say locally square up with what they are trying to present as a coherent national party line. This probably wasn’t a big issue until fairly recently – but, as far as I can tell, it is now.
    The idea of local parties fighting all sorts of local causes along political lines sounds like a nightmare in this respect. You’d always be able just to dig around a little and find that in some corner of the country somebody had backed a cause that simply doesn’t square up with whatever the party as a whole is trying to do….
    I am not advising overly centralised control freakery, but this strikes me as asking for too much trouble!

  • Grammar Police 17th Jul '10 - 5:33pm

    @ Maria et al – you assume that such things are not already politicised. This would at least bring the underlying political issues out into the open. Guido – but it’s not just corporations is it? It’s NHS trusts; safer neighbourhoods panels; foundation hospitals; local school governing bodies (and soon academies) etc. Locally, there is an individual, a religious minister, who’s got his fingers in lots of pies – the chamber of commerce, policing partnerships, planning bodies, the LDF consulation body etc. He sneers at “politicians” – who he feels represent their parties above their constituents/their area; and yet he has never been elected, never put forward a platform for his views etc. And yet he’s as “political” as those he sneers at.

    As for the (well-rehearsed) line on “Lib Dems saying different things to different people”. I’ve yet to ever find anyone who can give me an example of this, except for in a purely managerial sense – eg X Town Lib Dems want fortnightly bin collections; Y Town Lib Dems oppose them. IMO It’s just a handy thing that political opponents trot out when they want to justify why they think 2 party politics is the be-all and end-all. I don’t see how the criticism is linked to organised involvement in other bodies.

  • Guido gives us his big picture but I’m afraid it’s the change at the top of some newspaper groups that would really transform political considerations in this country.

  • paul barker 18th Jul '10 - 1:40pm

    Thers acase where the organisation choose to get involved in Party Politics, the obvious example being Unions that affliate to Labour. LD candidates could stand on a program including disafilliation.

  • Patrick Smith 22nd Jul '10 - 8:51pm

    It is important that the people who seek to represent others on public bodies are public spirited and have human integrity and cannot be tainted by corruption.In many Countries sadly this is not the case.

    Human probity is more important than party political membership as different political parties have different community values and some have none.If that were not the case we would not have a pluralist liberal state and instead have what was imposed on liberty in many Eastern European States by Stalin in 1945.

    I believe that the Liberal Democrats contain legions of local people of moral fibre and integrity capable of the best community leadership wins on behalf of local people so would support election nominees for public bodies e.g. NHS Trusts.

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