Council by-elections: it’s time again for the headline which readers don’t like

One thing many readers don’t seem to like it when I headline negative news about the Liberal Democrats not putting up candidates in council by-elections.

But putting up candidates is a key part of being a political party, indeed the key distinguishing feature of being a political party and not a pressure group. It is also a necessary minimum when it comes to building up stronger, more durable party foundations on which we can construct future success.

What’s more, I’m sceptical that we really try as hard as we could to maximise the number of candidates we stand.

When was the last time, for example, you saw a message such as, “I’m really sorry, but there’s only two active members in my local party and so can’t cope with getting the nomination signatures for our by-election next month; it would be great if anyone come over on Saturday and do some door-knocking to help us out”? Or a message such as, “Anyone who works in the town can stand for the council too, so we’re sending this message to our neighbouring local parties in case you have any members who live in your patch but work in ours”?

So whilst individual circumstances involving a tiny number of over-worked volunteers are deserving of sympathy not hostility, especially when the local party has no councillors and the council is poor at publicising forthcoming by-elections more widely, it’s also the case that collectively we really shouldn’t be happy with or accept as inevitable weeks such as this one:

  • Number of council by-elections: 2
  • Number of Liberal Democrat candidates: 0

These by-election results round-ups cover principal authority by-elections. See my post The danger in celebrating parish and town council wins for your own party for the reasons to avoid straying too often into covering town, parish or community council by-elections.

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