Thursday, January 29, 2009

Copeland Lib/Dems attacked by their own side

Copeland Liberal Democrats have come under fire from their own colleagues for failing to put up a candidate in the recent Kells & Sandwith by-election.

The Association of Liberal Democrat Councillors (ALDC) has this article on their website referring to Kells & Sandwith which notes that there was no Liberal candidate and is extremely unhappy about the fact. They even suggest the possibility that local liberal parties which consistently fail to put up candidates in elections should be suspended.

This can be a very difficult decision for all parties, not just the Liberals. In my opinion any party which wants to be taken seriously should make great efforts to give the electorate a choice by offering a candidate in every election if you possibly can, at least for parliamentary, county, borough, and district elections. (I have an open mind about parish councils - some are genuinely apolitical.)

But it can take a huge effort. I am very proud of the fact that as a constituency party chairman I never failed to ensure there was a full slate of Conservative candidates in every ward of my constituency at district level and above. But I have to admit that it took some doing. And the harder you are trying to find candidates, the more you have to watch what you are doing.

To be fair to Copeland Liberal Democrats, who are rather thin on the ground, if the hardline policy of suspending a local party which consistently fails to fight every ward were adopted, it would probably make it impossible to run a Liberal Democrat organisation in the constituency at all. This is not a party political point - the same would be true of Conservative and Labour branches in some areas.

If political parties want to get more candidates put up - which IMHO in the interests of democracy they should - they will do better to offer carrots rather than sticks.

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