The newly launched Get Elected research firm says that,
If you’re a candidate using Get Elected, you get the support you need when and how you need it. With our bank of political researchers, varying not just in geography, but expertise and political affliation, you’ll get the researcher that best suits your needs – and one you can trust. As we work for candidates across all political groups, we are confident in being able to find someone suitable for your campaign.
Candidates are used to making use of their own resources, that of volunteers and those of their party. So is there a gap for a commercial service offering to sell such services? The idea of having research as and when you want it could have appeal to some, though with money playing a much smaller role in British politics than in American politics, it’s not so obvious if enough people will have the funds and willingness to pay for such external services.
I mention America because this style of campaign organisation – buying in key services from external, non-party suppliers – is very much a feature of politics there, although in Britain the range of services brought in is typically much narrower and more technical (e.g. paying for printing but not for research). Other similar Western democracies, such as Canada, Australia and New Zealand, fall much more into the British than the American pattern.
I asked Get Elected’s founder, James Knight about this and he said:
Interesting you mention this importing of American style politics – it’s true an inspiration when starting this was seeing the nature of US politics first hand, in the 2004 and 2008 presidential elections.
More generally, I started this project for a number of reasons:
1) For the candidates – I wanted to ensure that all candidates, even those outside the Party inner circles, or without much party financial backing, would be able to draw upon research services for their campaign. In addition, it seems to me that PPCs can sometimes float around in a lonely no-man’s land between the various levels of the Party hierarchy, and would therefore welcome this kind of individual relationship with a researcher.
2) For the researchers – In particular at present, with cut-backs across many political sectors, there are now experienced and qualified researchers working on a more flexible basis or part-time, which I wanted to try and make the best of.
3) More generally – this type of service seems to better match the needs of PPCs than the static 9-5 support they may previously have used. Campaigns are now about reacting with speed to developments and at all times being on top of a rapidly changing political environment. I decided that being able to draw on research and support if and when needed was not only more cost-efficient but would actually provide a better service to candidates (and in turn voters).
In order to deal with the issue that research can be a very partisan activity, the firm is intending to have teams of Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrat researchers, so candidates can use a team who are sympathetic to their aims and understand their ways of working. James Knight is heading up the Conservative team and Stewart Munn is heading up the Labour team. No news as yet on who will head up the Lib Dem team. Again, to quote James Knight:
For the Lib Dem side of things, we are actively seeking a Head of our Lib Dem Research team, but at present do have Lib Dem researchers involved. As a whole Get Elected is an apolitical organisation, but the individual teams are made up of Party members to ensure the candidate knows they are working with someone on their side.
My first reaction to news of this service was sceptical, but with good research people it may carve out a niche for itself. And certainly, it is good to see people experimenting with different ways of doing politics and supporting political candidates.