Vivé le Local Association

By ignoring the members it will embitter many who joined a party to be part of a larger conversation in politics, but feel they are often merely cogs in the machine that serves an undemocratic executive. When people are disenfranchised, they become disengaged. When they are disengaged, they will not back the main parties on the ballot.

The tell tale signs are beginning to develop. The categorical rejection of elected mayors was largely seen as an ‘anti-politician’ vote. It was not as simple as that: people are not revolting against politics per se, just its current cynical iteration of centralisation, homogeneity and spin. As the mainstream parties become more identikit through the selection stitch ups they will have to contend with radical dissident parties that give broad based power such as UKIP, Respect and the SNP more frequently.

Diversity at work. Four Oxford boys, two brothers, one woman, one Liverpudlian.
Diversity at work. Four Oxford boys, two brothers, one woman, and a Liverpudlian.

To counter the appearance of ivory towers, the executive branch of parties returns to the local associations and selections. In an attempt to appear more pluralistic and representative, central executives impose measures, such as All-Women Shortlists  (AWS) on the very local associations that could provide more diverse candidates. They then pepper email boxes to give the appearance of engagement. Seemingly the only lesson both parties learnt from Obama’s grassroots campaigns is email spamming to give the appearance of a conversation. They are missing the mark.

The parties have confused means and ends. In order to gain the appearance of diverse representation, they have hammered the thin end of the wedge with AWPs and alike. Instead of the top down approach, AWP should be part of an overall strategy to help local associations create a larger membership based on diverse group of individuals. As stated above, they can only really achieve this if they empower them. Local associations will then be able to offer genuinely representative candidates. This would strengthen the parties’ ability to fend of radicalism, counter accusations of cronyism and build a larger volunteer base.

Parties would and associations would benefit, but more importantly – it would improve the health of our democracy.

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