Designing a New Libertarian Party

As far as I know, there have been two explicitly Libertarian parties formed in the UK in recent history. The first one was the Independent Libertarian Party, formed by Antoine Clarke and Paul Marks in 1998, and since disbanded. I know very little about the history of this organisation, and nothing about why it no longer exists. My experience was with the Libertarian Party (often wrongly described as the Libertarian Party UK, or LPUK for short). That party was founded with high hopes in September 2007 but never got properly organised and was taken over in a coup mounted by former members of the National Co-ordinating Committee (NCC) last year. Although the Party still exists as a registered entity, the membership list and bank account are not under the control of the legitimate NCC and has failed to put up any candidates in this year’s local elections. The gang that hijacked the Libertarian Party run a website and take people’s money – your guess is as good as mine as to what that money is used for.

Since some of us do actually want an effective Libertarian Party to exist in this country, there’s been some discussion recently about starting up a Mark 3 version – hopefully learning from the mistakes of the past with the benefit of recent experience. This initiative is being headed up by Gavin Webb, the only councillor the Libertarian Party ever had – if you’d like to register your interest in a new party, please visit his website (no obligation). There’s also discussion going on at Libertarian Home as to what shape it should take.

What follows are my thoughts on what a new Libertarian Party (whatever name we adopt for it) should be trying to achieve, and how it should be organised.

I’d better tell you a bit about myself first, so you can decide for yourself how well-qualified I am to pontificate on this subject:

My name is Stuart Heal and I live in Manchester. I joined the Libertarian Party as soon as it started recruiting members, early in 2008 (Membership Number 12). This was my first experience of being a member of a political party. I co-wrote the weapons policy and became the Regional Co-ordinator in the North West (only because no-one else wanted the job). A couple of weekends in 2009, I travelled to Wisbech in East Anglia to help deliver leaflets as part of our first election campaign, when Andrew Hunt stood for the local council. The following year, in 2010 I stood in the local elections in Manchester. I was due to stand again the following year, but changed my mind, partly due to being too busy to take time off from my job and partly due to the lack of support for local candidates from the NCC.

The Mission

The objective of a functioning libertarian party should be to promote the ideals of small government and personal and economic freedom, and to make sure that libertarian-minded people are elected to positions of power.

Note the last part of that statement: “make sure that libertarian-minded people are elected to positions of power”. Some fools maintain that libertarians seeking power is a contradiction. The reality is that governments exist and will continue to do so as long as homo sapiens exists – possibly humanity may evolve beyond the need and desire for governments one day, but that day may not dawn for a million years. In the here and now, we have governments and will continue to do so – so they should be staffed by people who understand the legitimate limits of government power and who mean to increase the freedom of the individual at any opportunity. Opting out of the political system just means handing power over to people who don’t think like us.

Organisation

One of the reasons the Mark 2 Libertarian Party (hereinafter referred to as LPUK) failed is that it didn’t have an effective organisation – by that I mean an organisation suited to a small political party, and one that ensured adequate oversight and internal communication. It also failed to utilise our greatest resource – individual members.

The organisation of the new party (hereinafter referred to as the Party) has to be suited to our likely size (likely to be in the low hundreds for the first few years) and geographical spread (all over Great Britain and possibly beyond). So it needs to be as simple as possible, and every member has to be able to do something useful, even if they’re the only libertarian in their neighbourhood.

I envisage three levels of organisation – national, local and individual.

National Organisation

There needs to be a governing committee of some kind. The bare minimum would consist of the Party Leader, Chairman (possibly combining those jobs?), a Treasurer, a Membership Secretary and a Communications Director. Call it five bods in total – a large enough group to have a sensible division of labour and small enough to make it easy to make decisions quickly. All officers should be democratically elected by the membership at the Annual General Meeting, and their job will be to do the day to day admin work, establish the organisation, approve and support candidates, administer the website (including a members’ forum), produce and distribute a members’ newsletter, make propaganda/campaign material available to members, put together a Party manifesto and approve the formation of local branches. They would also have the power to suspend or expel members under certain circumstances.

Some will mistakenly describe the list of powers and responsibilities described above as authoritarian or unlibertarian – it isn’t. A political party is a voluntary organisation – if you’re not happy with the way it’s run you’re free to stand for election to the governing committee, to resign from the Party or not to join it in the first place. And to have a chance to achieve anything, the Party also has to have an organisation, enforceable rules and discipline.

Most importantly, proper attention has to be paid to the internal workings of the national committee itself, in order to avoid the mistakes of last time, so I’m going to go into more detail about this:

Trust no-one

It shouldn’t be necessary to tell Libertarians no to trust leaders, but for some reason most of us who were in LPUK let our guards down in this respect – and ended up having the party stolen from us. The new Party should be organised on the assumption that even the most respected people are going to make mistakes or go off the rails from time to time – and that’s not counting outright criminality. So we need safeguards. I have four ideas about this:

  1. I think that anyone who is elected to the governing committee should be required to sign a legal contract agreeing to them to comply with the Party constitution and to hand over any records, access to bank accounts etc to their successors on leaving office.
  2. No-one should have sole access to either the financial records and bank accounts or to the membership records. There should be a Treasurer and Deputy Treasurer, and a Membership Secretary and Deputy Membership Secretary (or whatever titles are agreed on). That’s the best protection I can think of against a repetition of what happened last year, when the coup plotters managed to monopolise control of both the financial records and membership list.
  3. I don’t believe that any money should be released from the Party bank accounts unless the expenditure is approved by a majority of the committee.
  4. I believe the committee should have regular face-to-face meetings – at least once every couple of months – it’s hard to gauge someone’s character when your main means of communication is by email.

Local Organisation

In most areas, for the first few years, I would expect local organisation to be non-existent, but developing organically as geographical membership clusters emerge. The way I see local organisations emerging would go something like this: a member wants to get in touch with others in his area, so puts a message on the online forum and/or the newsletter asking people to contact him to arrange informal pub meetups. When there are enough members in a defined area that comes under the same local authority (ie at least 10 members in a particular town or city) they can apply to the central committee to set up a local Branch. This would have it’s own local committee running it, it’s own budget, authorisation to produce it’s own leaflets using Party templates but covering local issues, the ability to select their own candidates for local elections and write their own local manifestos, contact the media as official Party representatives etc. This is going to be a vital development, because the Party will never make any headway in national politics until it has a good track record at the local level. The national committee should do whatever it can to support local branches once they’re formed, including providing leaflet templates, instructions on how to mount a local campaign and stand for election, support on the Party website with contact details, and financial support within reason. I absolutely believe that LPUK would have had more local candidates if more support from the centre had been forthcoming.

The Individual

LPUK had such a small membership (never more than a few hundred) that there must have been people who were literally the only members in their county. You might think that with no organisation in the area, there’d be nothing an individual member can do – but I don’t believe a small party can afford to waste a single potential activist, and libertarians are supposed to believe in the potential of the individual. So I see part of the national committee’s job as being to support these isolated members and give them something to do. Not long before last year’s coup, during the run up to the local elections, I developed an idea for an ongoing series of leaflets called “The Libertarian”, which I tried to get the NCC interested in. The idea was to produce a monthly two-page bulletin in a populist style that could be downloaded as a PDF file from the party website by any party member or supporter who wanted to print a few off and distribute them in his area. Each issue would have covered two or three national news stories, but from a libertarian perspective, and including contact details for the party. I’d already designed and distributed a local version of this the previous year, as a warm-up leaflet for my aborted second local election campaign in Manchester. The advantage of this is that it would cost the Party nothing in money – just a day or two’s work for whoever edits the monthly bulletin. Contributions to it could even be solicited via the Party members’ forum (assuming we have one, which I think we should). So any individual member can print (say) 100 copies off once a month and deliver them round his area. If a 100 members do that, that’s 10,000 leaflets delivered nationwide per month – the publicity equivalent to an election campaign without any money being spent by the Party. It seems to me that this could be particularly useful to people wanting to set up libertarian societies in universities, or members of more general political societies who want to promote a libertarian point of view – thus hopefully lining up the next generation of Party members.

So that’s my idea for what the Party organisation should look like – it needs fleshing out of course, preferably by people with more experience of running political organisations than me. Getting the organisation right this time is vitally important in my view. But once it’s set up, what sort of strategy should the new organisation adopt? How is it to achieve its goals?

Electoral Strategy

When LPUK was set up, there was a lot of grandiose talk about putting up multiple candidates for Parliament – one fool on the forum even said we’d form a government in 15-20 years. There was very little discussion about local politics. We were trying to run before we’d even learned to walk.

Start Small, Think Big

Let’s say you wanted to become a millionaire – you dream of being the owner of a big concern, sitting in your office in a skyscraper full of loyal employees all doing your bidding, getting on the phone and making million pound deals, inspecting your factories and warehouses.

But you haven’t got any money – you’re struggling to pay your rent, utilities and council tax.

So what do you do?

Do you max out all your credit cards and gamble all your money on one big, extremely dodgy deal that will either net you your first million or wipe you out completely?

Do you give up and resign yourself to a life of poverty?

Or do you concentrate on what you can do? Do you use your decrepit second-hand computer in your spare room to set up a little micro-business which will only bring in £10-£20 a week at first? That £10-£20 a week may not be much, but it’s money you wouldn’t have had otherwise, it’s money you can put to one side to build up a stake for when you feel ready to try something more ambitious – and in the meantime you’re building up experience and a reputation. Starting off small, you’re at least making some kind of progress and giving yourself a chance – and maybe one day you will be that millionaire.

Politics works the same way. New political parties don’t just sweep into power – that takes a lot of money, and even more importantly, name recognition. In my opinion putting up Parliamentary candidates is totally futile, except under exceptional circumstances – no LPUK Parliamentary candidate ever got as much as 1% of the vote, whereas Andrew Hunt got nearly 8% in our first local election campaign. It seems to me quite clear that the main effort should be at the local level – people are much more willing to give minority parties a chance in local elections, especially if the candidates focus on local issues – this is why UKIP, the Green Party and even those losers in the BNP have local councillors. And the idea of us ever having an MP before we have a strong local presence is so ludicrous it’s hardly worth thinking about.

Apart from the near impossibility of getting anyone elected to Parliament in the near future (say the next 20 years) there are excellent reasons for Libertarians to try to get elected to their local councils. Councils very often have more of an effect on people’s daily lives than the national government. It’s your local council that will steal your house using a Compulsory Purchase Order and knock it down to make way for a supermarket. It’s your local council that will deny you planning permission to improve your house – or if they do grant permission, they will then use the improvements to reclassify your house in a higher Council Tax band. And if you can’t afford to pay your Council Tax – or even if you’re just a few weeks late paying – it’s your local council that will take you to court and send the bailiffs to your door (and I can tell you from personal experience that a visit from the bailiffs is no fun at all). People who find local politics boring aren’t paying enough attention to what goes on in their neighbourhood – you should do, it’s where you live. I bet if you bought a copy of your local paper tomorrow and read right through it, you could find at least one local issue that can be attacked from a libertarian angle.

Local election campaigns can also be quite cheap to run. I only spent about £90 on mine, not counting petrol and shoe leather. To stand for Parliament you have to pay a deposit of £500 just to get on the ballot. Even better, some local councils – away from the urban centres – are under-staffed. Andrew Withers walked into his parish council seat uncontested last year, and didn’t have to spend a penny on campaigning. A friend of mine who lives in a smallish town once joked that if I moved to his town we could take over the local council between us.

So local politics is cheap to get into and important enough to bother with. It can also be a stepping stone to bigger things. Let’s say we do get some councillors elected in the next few years. One of them serves a term or two as a councillor and gets a reputation among the voters for being good at his job – as he’s popular with the people in his ward, he might decide to have a go at standing for Parliament, and the Party might think it’s worthwhile supporting him. Who knows what could happen? But we won’t get anywhere without having some “form” at local level first. All politics is local politics.

Other campaigning activities

There’s no reason we can’t attach ourselves to any political demonstrations that support causes that we’re in sympathy with – No2ID, any campaigns against future gun bans, drug legalisation etc. In those circumstances we should do what groups like the Socialist Workers Party do – print up our own banners, leaflets etc. It doesn’t have to be expensive, it’s cheap publicity and can attract new members.

When there’s a demonstration that we’re opposed to, we can also stand on the sidelines and hand out leaflets giving our point of view to members of the general public. In those situations, a slightly lower profile and a good pair of running shoes might be advisable, but I personally do get sick of seeing the same old gangs of socialists demonstrating for the same old discredited causes with no-one opposing them.

Joint memberships

I’m coming towards the end of this article, you’ll be glad to know, but there’s one last area I want to mention. LPUK had a policy against members also being members of other political parties. This was a policy I supported at the time, but in the last few months I’ve had second thoughts and I believe the new Party should allow joint memberships. The reason LPUK didn’t allow joint memberships was that this was thought to create a conflict of interest – if someone’s a member of (say) LPUK and the Lib Dems, who should he campaign for at election time? It seemed to me at the time that you should just commit to one party – but this forced people to make a choice, and we definitely lost members because of this policy. Apart from anything else, it was practically unenforceable. One guy stood as a local candidate for UKIP and the election was over before we found out and expelled him. To his credit, he accepted his expulsion with good grace. His reason for standing as a UKIP candidate and not an LPUK candidate was that they had an organisation in the area to support him – I can understand this, having stood as a candidate myself. I think the benefits of allowing joint memberships outweigh any potential drawbacks, and include the following:

The potential to have a larger membership base. We know there are libertarians in UKIP, the Liberal Democrats and the Conservative Party. By excluding them, we’d be depriving ourselves of potentially useful members.

In a lot of areas there will be no Party organisation – we just won’t have enough members. So if isolated members want to join a larger party in order to have some kind of influence over the local political scene, I see no reason to stop them, especially if the candidate they’re supporting is libertarianish anyway.

Gaining experience. LPUK had a lot of members with no previous political experience – probably the majority. The new Party will probably have the same problem. By joining more established parties, members can potentially learn a lot about how to run campaigns properly. And a guy who spends time leafleting for (say) UKIP in one election might develop the self-confidence to stand as a Party candidate next time, who knows?

Influencing other parties. If we’re ever to change the political landscape of this country in a more libertarian direction – and I think we can – we need to influence members of more established parties and try to get them to adopt more liberal ideas. So joining these parties, going to meetings, talking to members and maybe circulating leaflets seems to me to be worthwhile.

Reality check: Associating with people who have different political opinions can have the beneficial effect of forcing us to double check our own beliefs to make sure they’re still in line with common sense. There’s a danger that probably all radical political parties face – when activists are only associating with other activists of the same stripe, they can lose their common sense to theory. I’ve been in libertarian meetups where people have argued for or against a particular policy idea based not on whether it’s morally correct, or practical, but on how “libertarian” or “unlibertarian” they think it is. One ex-leader of LPUK even commented in a blog post that it would be “unlibertarian” to intervene in a mugging unless the victim asked you for help! That’s how far off the rails theory can take you – so yes, I think associating with people who aren’t quite on the same wavelength as you can help you stay anchored to reality, as well as honing the debating skills.

Can we succeed?

I think we can. The present might look fairly bleak and statist, but there’s no reason for the future to go on in the same vein. It’s important to remember that what we now call libertarianism would have been called liberalism in the 19th Century – and the Classical Liberals did OK. The 20th Century was dominated by statist ideologies, especially the twin evils of socialism and racism. It’s time for the pendulum to swing back, and I think current social and technological trends are pulling society in a more individualist direction – the rise of the internet has meant that not only can people promote their political views more easily, and network more easily, it’s also made it possible for practically anyone to have a go at setting up a business from home – look at people who make a living through eBay for instance. That’s going to give rise to a more entrepreneurial small-business culture than has existed in the past – just the type of people who are our most natural constituency. It’s also made it easier to raise money for charity, lend money to small entrepreneurs (or get a loan if you need one), do research etc. I think the 21st Century will be dominated by individualist philosophies just as much as the 20th was dominated by collectivist ideas. We can be part of that.

Can we ever form a government. Maybe, I don’t know. Not in the short term, but longer term, who can say? Do we need to? If we can take control of some councils and show how to apply libertarian ideas to improve our communities, if we can influence other parties by sharing members with them – will we even need to get into Parliament? Not necessarily, as long as people with the right ideas are getting elected, whatever flag they fly under. If a future Prime Minister stands up in Parliament and introduces a raft of legislation including the abolition of Income Tax, re-legalisation of pistols and concealed carry, the scrapping of most of the red tape that gets in the way of small businesses functioning, re-introduction of trial by jury in all criminal cases – he’s getting a round of applause from me even if he’s a member of the Labour Party!

We can win. Victory means getting the government off our backs, whether we’re actually in government or not. As long as we’ve got a clear idea what we want, as long as we’re willing to put the work in, and as long as we’re properly organised, we can do it.

So those are my thoughts on how a new libertarian party should be organised and how it should operate. It’s not a complete blueprint, just an outline – better-qualified people than me would need to flesh it out. But I think it’s workable.

Of course there are other options…

 

  26 comments for “Designing a New Libertarian Party

  1. Lucian
    May 10, 2012 at 12:24 pm

    Why start with a national party? How about a few local parties and then, after they get support, go national afterwards? I would leaflet and support a candidate in my local area, but I’m not interested in funding a group of five people who want to sit around doing basically nothing except “approving” my local candidate and trying to control my local area. Sorry, but the obsession with starting at the national level just sounds like power-hungry posturing. Please, let’s create a few local bases and go from there.

    • Richard Carey
      May 10, 2012 at 6:47 pm

      “the obsession with starting at the national level just sounds like power-hungry posturing”

      What obsession? And as for ‘power-hungry’, do you not think it would occur to the average ‘power-hungry’ person to choose one of the major parties?

      As for taking action locally, that’s all good, and if you read above you will see the focus is very much on local action, but there’s no reason to go so far into localism that you turn your back on the outside world. Stuart, above (correct me if I’m wrong) is writing in Manchester. I am in London. Should we ignore one another? Should I tell him to keep his opinions to himself? Is it not possible that we, in London, can benefit from working together with libertarians around the country, and vice versa? And if so, i.e. if there is no greater benefit in isolation, then why not have some kind of structure to communicate and to work together, to facilitate whatever each local group or particular individual is seeking to achieve?

      • Lucian
        May 11, 2012 at 5:30 pm

        It would be great to have a supportive structure providing ideas and downloadable resources to candidates and locally-based groups. But a group that wants to “approve” candidates, “approve” local branches, and have “enforceable” rules including the “power” to expel people? No thanks.

        • Richard Carey
          May 11, 2012 at 6:24 pm

          I think if anyone has an obsession here, it’s you. It’s really not that difficult to grasp why any club has rules. People join a voluntary association because they agree with the purpose of the association. If they join and then act against the purpose of the association, the rest of the association has every right to dis-associate from that person. In order for it to be a clear and equitable process if such regrettable matters arise, the rules of association are clearly stated at the outset.

          This would be no different at a local level than at a national level.

        • Right-Wing Hippy
          May 11, 2012 at 7:37 pm

          I’d also like to see central resources for people to tap into and candidates who are as independent as possible. But you’ve got to be kidding if you think it should be a free for all, it’s an purposeful organisation not a public toilet.

    • Stuart Heal
      May 10, 2012 at 9:13 pm

      “Power hungry posturing?” The only power I’m after at the moment is economic, ie getting myself off the dole. Since there’s no way I’m going to be on the governing committee, I won’t be getting any kind of power that way. In any case, I thought I made it clear that the “powers” of each administrative level would only be what’s needed to do their jobs. The primary job of the national committee would be to support the efforts of local organisations and individuals – something the LPUK was extremely bad at.

      Trying to establish completely independent local parties just means that nothing’s likely to get done, because the experience and expertise isn’t available. There could be a potential local candidate in (say) Sheffield who’s really good at talking to people but can’t design a leaflet to save his life. Meanwhile there’s a bloke who’s good at putting leaflets together in (say) Cardiff who’s never going to stand for election because he’s not got the right kind of personality. Put those two people in touch with each other, add a few extra bods to help deliver leaflets, get some funding in from Head Office and you’ve potentially got an election-winning team. But it’s not going to happen unless there’s an organisation capable of putting them in touch with each other and providing the support they need.

      • Lucian
        May 11, 2012 at 5:45 pm

        Local parties don’t have to be “completely independent.” They could mutually cooperate. There is no need for a national party telling local people what to do. Excessive centralisation is the problem with the other parties; why replicate that? Libertarians should be trying to pull down the central state by building local power centres.

        • Stuart Heal
          May 11, 2012 at 6:13 pm

          What’s this “excessive centralisation” you’re talking about? The national committee writes the national manifesto and administers national level resources like the website and newsletter, and provides as much help and support as possible to local activists, who are encouraged to run their own campaigns. What’s centralising about that? Most of the action would be at local level – something like the way the Liberal Party operates but with a smaller national committee and more encouragement for individual members.

          • Lucian
            May 12, 2012 at 8:41 pm

            Maybe I misunderstood your article? You talked about wanting to “approve” candidates and local branches, which I took to mean withold access to resources unless the candidates/branches had been centrally approved. Why not just put up the leaflets and let anyone download them who wants to run on a libertarian platform? I just don’t see the value added in a centralised approval process that tries to select candidates. Is ‘too many libertarian candidates’ really a problem right now?

          • Stuart Heal
            May 13, 2012 at 12:33 am

            Would you expect any responsible organisation to let a local group use its name (let alone supply them with financial backing) unless the constitution and activities of the sub-group were in line with the main organisation’s principles?

            Would you expect any responsible Nominations Officer to unconditionally sign the nomination form of a candidate without any checks into his/her suitability? Some really strange people put themselves forward for elected office – one of our more experienced members once told me about a time a major political party almost had a convicted murderer as a candidate.

          • Richard Carey
            May 13, 2012 at 1:20 am

            Tony Blair? Oh no, he hasn’t been convicted.

          • Lucian
            May 13, 2012 at 2:48 pm

            Would you expect me to donate to a central party so someone I don’t know can purport to tell me and my local group that our candidate is or isn’t acceptable, and decide whether my money will come back to my area or go somewhere else? Did you notice how Tory membership dropped when they ended local selection?

            I don’t need a middle-man. My money goes to the candidates I choose, and nowhere else. I wish you luck with your efforts though.

          • Stuart Heal
            May 14, 2012 at 12:13 am

            It clearly states in my post that local branches should have their own budgets and the ability to select their own candidates.

            Feel free to argue against anything I say, but I’d rather you didn’t argue agains things I don’t say.

  2. Lucian
    May 10, 2012 at 12:35 pm

    Here’s a good article about how libertarians can have local impact without getting elected, and how successfully raising profile through local efforts can actually smooth the way for local election success. http://www.lp.org/blogs/mary-ruwart/how-to-overcome-the-wasted-vote-syndrome I think this is a better model for UK libertarian efforts.

    • Stuart Heal
      May 10, 2012 at 9:15 pm

      That’s a very good article, and completely in line with what I’ve been saying.

  3. Right-Wing Hippy
    May 10, 2012 at 7:58 pm

    I fully agree that demanding exclusive membership of an LP 3.0* is pointless, “bringing libertarianism into disrepute” ought to be the standard for excluding people, one could argue that on a case-by-case basis.

    * First I’ve heard of the Independent Libertarian Party.

    • Lucian
      May 11, 2012 at 5:49 pm

      Could someone explain to me why all British political parties are so obsessed with expelling people? I was hoping that libertarians would be immune, but it seems not.

      • Richard Carey
        May 11, 2012 at 6:33 pm

        Why would a libertarian party not seek to expel someone who hated libertarianism? Or to put it the other way round, why would libertarians choose to associate themselves in a party with people who oppose everything they hold dear?

        You’re confusing libertarianism with something else, I don’t know what. Being a libertarian does not involve taking a vow of abstinence with regard to judgement, and there’s no point setting up anything if any old idiot or crook can come in and destroy it.

        • Lucian
          May 12, 2012 at 8:27 pm

          Why would a person who hated libertarianism join in the first place? I’m genuinely curious.

          • Richard Carey
            May 13, 2012 at 12:12 am

            If you want me to invent hypothetical situations, I suppose I could do that for you.

            What’s your problem, though? If your local party doesn’t get approval from the inescapably dictatorial central committee, you’ll merely arrive back to where you want to be anyway – i.e. locally independent.

            Your worst fear thus comes to nothing – being kicked out of a party which you wouldn’t want to be a member of anyway.

            If, on the other hand the central committee is made up of genuine libertarians, and they only require of you and your local party that you uphold the basic general principles of libertarianism, as stated in the party’s constitution, and do not seek to expel members for no good reason, but rather work to co-ordinate between the various local chapters and are beholden to these same principles and to the members of the party, then what have you lost?

          • Richard Carey
            May 13, 2012 at 1:18 am

            And finally, please bear in mind that if a party does get off the ground, the founding members are very likely to include a number of people who saw the disaster of LPUK from the inside, and they will be exceedingly careful to ensure that the same thing could not be permitted to happen again, i.e. that the leadership will be accountable and its activities transparent.

          • Lucian
            May 13, 2012 at 2:52 pm

            Accountability and transparency would be a nice change. How about having project budgets so people could decide what to donate to? Eg, I might donate to website work or leaflet production, but not to pass-along funding for people I don’t know. Others might choose a different mix.

          • Stuart Heal
            May 14, 2012 at 12:20 am

            Ad-hoc funding was one of the reasons we didn’t have more local candidates. We can’t expect people to stand as Party candidates if there’s no assurance of support from the centre, including financial support. Apart from being demoralising, it’s a waste of precious time. Take my own campaign in 2010: I wasn’t certain of getting on the ballot at first, so I waited till we’d put the paperwork through before I sent an email appeal out to all members and supporters in the North West. Fortunately for me, two people (out of several dozen I’d emailed) donated enough money to pay for the leaflets. Then with the funding secured I had to order the leaflets – so call that about a week wasted out of the four week campaign period. Much better if a candidate knows the Party will back him financially as soon as the forms are submitted, so he can order his leaflets straight away. So the Party needs a secure budget so it can tell potential candidates in advance how much support will be available from the centre. Otherwise it hardly deserves to call itself a political party.

  4. Right-Wing Hippy
    May 13, 2012 at 4:56 pm

    Lucian said:

    “Would you expect me to donate to a central party so someone I don’t know can purport to tell me and my local group that our candidate is or isn’t acceptable, and decide whether my money will come back to my area or go somewhere else? Did you notice how Tory membership dropped when they ended local selection?

    I don’t need a middle-man. My money goes to the candidates I choose, and nowhere else. I wish you luck with your efforts though.”

    The way I see it, there’s no necessary conflict here. Those who want a central infrastructure and general campaigning unit can have one and pay for it. Candidates for election don’t have to be centrally funded, but they do perhaps need some basic vetting (that’s not the same as candidate selection!). If they are centrally funded then you centralise the decision as to where to campaign, what to spend, and inevitably what sort of platform to run on, which is a decision better left to the local candidates/supporters. We could fund and support election campaigns directly, and those who only want that – who are only interested in a “platform for independents” – can spend their time and money there and frankly ignore the central party. These objectives are compatible, there’s no need for a full politburo.

    For my part, I wouldn’t want to bother with elections for some time, but others would be free to take a different view and we wouldn’t have to argue over which has priority.

    If I were Lucian then, I would just watch the party website for news on opportunies to directly support candidates.

    • Lucian
      May 16, 2012 at 10:32 am

      Highlighting and helping local ‘candidates in waiting’ might be a very useful service for a central website/group. I wouldn’t want future candidates to face the uncertainty and delay that Stuart described. Ideally, a candidate-in-waiting would begin making a name for himself/herself (and finding local support) by getting involved in local issues, as described in the article I posted in an earlier post in this thread. The prospective candidate could keep the website updated with his efforts, and those prospectives who were more active/successful would probably get more pre-election support.

      The central website would, in effect, create a ‘marketplace for candidates’ so that everyone could individually decide who to fund based on performance. This might bring out more prospective candidates, get libertarian ideas more exposure at non-election times, get candidates support before the campaign season begins, and perhaps ultimately turn into some local electoral success.

Comments are closed.