Friday, January 19, 2007

Standing for Election Must Never Be the the Preserve of the Rich or Politically-Obsessed

ConservativeHome has put a question to David Cameron's weekly Webcameron spot on the cost of being a candidate. See HERE. A Lister Vicky Ford makes the valid point on her BLOG that
Yes, being a candidate in a general election carries a high financial cost.
Every candidate would be better off focusing on a "proper job". But please
remember the experience as a candidate is one that can not be measured in money

She's right in the obvious sense that being a candidate is a huge privilege and very rewarding (and I'm talking from a personal view rather than financially). However, we are now in danger of reaching a point where we're pricing people out of standing. We have got to find a way of avoiding a situation where being a candidate is either the preserve of the rich or political obsessives.

The trouble is that whenever any has-been or wannabe candidate starts talking about this issue it invites the response: "no one made you do it", which of course is true. But until you do it you have no idea of what it will cost you. I'm certainly not inviting anyone to pull an onion out of their pocket in sympathy, but if we don't talk about this issue openly it will continue to be ignored by those at the top of the political parties - and it's the same in all parties.

The Conservative Women2Win organisation is setting up bursaries for those candidates who happen to have the letters F and E in front of the word MALE. The LibDems have a Diversity Fund to help women and ethnic candidates. What all parties should have is a bursary scheme to help those candidates whose circumstances are perhaps not as financially rewarding as others. No system will ever be perfect, but if we are serious about attracting candidates from all walks of life and regions of the country, it's something we Conservatives would do well to consider.


Anonymous said...

Interesting. Would you care to elaborate on how you'll afford it? Obviously, I appreciate you may wish to keep such details private.

Anonymous said...

I do not know what the average age of a candidate is but it must be of an age where other people in life make other risky and financially demanding decisions to change their life/job etc. Sometimes the latter get sponsorship, sometimes they do not so there is nothing special about prospective candidates. Indeed I would have thought a far bigger hurdle is not the cost but actually getting accepted. That is a selection issue which I am not sure the A list was designed to solve but indeed may well have exascerbated. I still think there are far too many people in politics with little experience of anything else. Perhaps
we should be focussing a bit more on
people with more experience, may I say someone like yourself?

Anonymous said...

Obvious really if I wanted to stand for a political party - which I don't - I could not afford the time, or the money in direct costs. But what is the solution - no one wants to dole out money to candidates from the taxpayer.

Anonymous said...

By the way - strongly approve of Jack Russel ownership Mr.Dale - it should be compulsory as a means of reducing social disorder.

Anonymous said...

Iain, for the politically inexperienced amongst us, can you do an update explaining what the huge costs to the candidates are? Or is it a case of lost earnings rather than actual shelling out of cash?

Anonymous said...

Ed -its both. Associations dont have money. Those that do won't spend it.

If there are to be any bursaries they have to be for those who need them - and not provided on the basis of what sex you are or any other criteria like that.

Anonymous said...

So it costs a lot to be a candidate and to widen the spectrum of applicants some form of subsidy would be advisable.

Fine, no problem with that - just so long as it's the parties (through their member's subscriptions) that cough up the cash. It's the temptation to require non-members to pay - in the form of subsidising party organisations through public funding - that sticks in most people's craw.

But the cost of candidacy and electioneering will never fall while the necessary(?) money is forthcoming - no matter what the source. Worse, well-funded campaigns tend to concentrate more on the sort of party advertising and canvassing that actually reduces contact between the electors and the elected.

I recommend that parties and their candidates be restricted to their party's resources. Necessity being the mother of invention, it could get them to rethink their campaigns into more cost-effective strategies.

Might get rid of those God-awful Party Political Broadcasts, too. Thank heavens for the remote control, dunno what I'd do without it.

Anonymous said...

The answer is campaign limits on expenditure. I don't buy this nonsense about needing hods of cash to reach the electorate. You must reach plenty of electors using this blog and that's free.

If parties want to spend their money supporting candidates fine. But don't expect the taxpayer to foot the bill. Politicians cost us enough all ready.

PS: I think you'll find that the Labour Party had its origins in a desire to get working men (it was only men in them days) into Parlimanet. So this is nothing new is it?

Anonymous said...

Ian you are making good point here and I believe it is at the heart of the problems we have with disengagement. You are right it is exactly obsessive, or more likely the privileged on a well known career path or the wealthy.

I see the problem all to well and in affect it removes the tax payer from the process. Quite what the answer is , is a bit more tricky. It isn’t the money so much as the time taken from an ongoing career...ho ho (in my case)

Anon puts it very well , the A list has made it worse and the language all these people speak to each other is increasingly opaque.

I feel rather guilty but seeing Nic Boles as the epitome of the difficulty I have written extensively against his candidature for the mayoral race. In fact I now see he is no worse than the rest.. I must say the Conservative Party are especially poor in this regard as the Union route is still surprisingly alive in the Labour Party

Anonymous said...

find a way of avoiding a situation where being a candidate is either the preserve of the rich or political obsessives.

BTW We have long since passed that point and silly Vicky`s nonsense about rewards other than money tells you al, you need to know about what she knows about the margins and risks in private sector living .


( Although I haven`t what she said in full , it can only get better from this pitiful start)

Curly said...

This is possibly one of the most sensible posts I have read this week, a couple of methods that would help make cadidacy more affordable to those on lower incomes are:

a) Limiting election expenditure
b) Removing A-lists and central control over local parties, thus allowing a few more local business people or councillors to stand.

Man in a Shed said...

The problem may be that too much is expected of candidates themselves.

We need to work out how to create less career politicians and entice more talented people to serving some of their career in politics.

Snafu said...

Since when have Conservative MPs been "from all walks of life"!?! Far too many appear to be Oxbridge educated lawyers!

Anonymous said...

Iain is right and this is not party related, becoming a MP is an expensive business and if you actually manage to make it to westminster the financial rewards are hardly large ( yes we all know about the odd scoundrel who abuses the system but the overwhelming majority of MPs are hard working and honest ). It is difficult for many ordinary folk to be able to have the financial resources to become an MP ( though it was ever thus, one of the purposes of the Labour Representative Committee, the forerunner of the Labour Party, was to provide a wage for those who got elected under its banner ). Coming up with a good solution is likely to prove rather difficult.

Anonymous said...

What constitutes a 'lower income'? I'm in London and single but can barely afford to eat but if I were in the NE my salary on paper would be 'high'.

Are we taking a salary minus a cut if the person has children, mortgage???

We talking those on £20K or less, £30K or less, £40K or less, £100K or less

Anonymous said...

I find myself strangely conflicted. I represent the Old Politics classic candidate profile - just 50, moderately well-launched on life, increasingly feeling it's time to put something back and even willing to accept the financial hardship of an MPs salary (yeah, I earn well, sue me - I left school at 16 and have worked hard to get where I am).

However, quite apart from the expense of actually standing, the question comes - why would one actually want to become lobby fodder in Parliament? At my age, that's all I'd ever be.

Face it, it's a terrible job. Horrible people, desperately bad hours, appalling reputation - right down there with journalists, lawyers and estate agents - I know the reality is sometimes different, but the perception is that politicians are a strange and unusual breed who add little to the common weal. Certainly, many of those in Government would not even get an interview for a job with me. Add to that dreadful job security and it's looking enormously unattractive.

There are thousands of reasons for this lack of regard for politicians and many of the jibes are probably unjustified. I put a lot of it down to the death of the big idea and the disappearance of passion from politics. Just once, I'd like to see a politician, of any stripe, actually saying what he or she thinks with passion, enthusiasm and knowledge. Just once.

I'd also like to see politicans talking to someone other than the 200,000 or whatever the number is of swing voters who control the marginal seats.

In an ideal world, mind you, I'd also like to see the media, if they want to be players, rather than observers, somehow taking on some accountability, which should be the downside of being a player, if that makes sense.

Disconnected? Me? From politics qua politics, no, not at all. From the appallingly averaged, focus-grouped, on-message and boring politicians, yes, definitely.

David Lindsay said...

But you and yours would object to trade unions giving financial assistance to, say, plumbers to become MPs.

You'd seem to think that it was somehow corrupt, and you'd ridicule the individuals in question as somehow less qualified than, say, David Cameron or George Osborne, neither of whom (like David Miliband or David Lammy, for that matter) has ever done a day's work in his life.

I'm sorry, but I don't understand.