Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Political Problem Page

I was speaking to a high profile political activist recently who told me of a problem and asked my advice. I found it quite difficult, so with their permisison I am sharing it with you for your thoughts.

This person - and I won't tell you the party because it doesn't matter - is a well known political activist and has been for many years. They have rotated through all of the jobs within the constituency organisation including standing for hopeless seats and trying their hardest to fight them well. Then at the Norwich North by-election the activist found themself in such opposition to the candidate that their party had chosen it sparked the question; does an activist have to be active for all candidates - knowing that they would let down their party if they didn't?

At first this person did some delivery rounds but without motivation. As time went on they ground to a halt doing nothing by half way through. They found themself being critical of the candidate, not just in private but also in public (though nothing in the press).

By the end, the activist was getting a really hard time from other party members for a failure to pull their weight in the campaign.

Is it right or fair to do that to an activist who won't campaign? Should this person have done more? When does a candidate put you off so much that it changes the way you see the party and your motivation?

So over to you ... does the candidate matter, was the activist right and what should their colleagues response have been to this?


Nich Starling said...

I think I know the person to whom you refer.

Anonymous said...

as a former party activist I would only campaign for people I had confidence in, and only deliver literature I was comfortable with.

But I wouldn't make a song and dance about it. If you don't want to work with someone you can always have "other commitments".

MisterB said...

Political activity in this country is (thank goodness) in all forms, at all times, at all levels, in all circumstances, entirely voluntary (and hopefully entirely selfless).

So I can't see any justification for criticising a party colleague who, for any reason, is inclined at some point to ease their efforts off.

A party colleague who actually deliberately undermines the party candidate is of course another matter.

MisterB said...

A quick further thought. I'm not sure what you mean by "in public (but nothing in the press)", but I don't think there can be much excuse - except in extremis - for any public criticism of your party's candidate during the campaign itself. There is plenty of time before and after to more usefully express your disquiet.

Anonymous said...

If they have been active to a point where it is the expectation that they will campaign, then understanding their choosing not to do so really depends on their reason for opposing the choice of their fellow party members. Their party is entitled to some sort of loyalty, not for personal spats to get in the way of its campaign.

Comrade said...

Much depends on whether the activist holds any office or position in the local party. If they do I don't think it is unreasonable to expect them to campaign - its about motivating others. If they don't hold office, as an earlier poster said activism is entirely voluntary - people might dip out of particular campaigns for all kinds of reasons. Years of work count far more than one campaign. All of the three parties have had lean spells in the past 20 years - the activist taking a break now might have been one of the few who kept things going during the really dark times.