Over at Liberal Review I’ve got an article on how we (Liberal Democrats) elect the leaders of our council groups. In brief:
Even where there is real choice and disagreement – and where the result determines who heads up a council, one of the most important political jobs there is – party members do not get a say.
From what I know of the rules in other parties too, the idea that a council group leader is elected only by their fellow councillors is pretty common. Yet (particularly in the Liberal Democrats), the people who end up running councils are the public office holders with some of the most power and greatest ability to have an impact on the outside world. I’ve taken part in elections of the whole local party’s membership to decide who will get to vote at the party’s conferences – but when I was a council group leader myself (in Haringey), party members were not part of the process. As I say in the piece, I have some doubts about whether this is right.
To pick up on a couple of the comments on the discussion over on Liberal Review – I don’t think the rules need be as complicated as they are for our Parliamentary candidate selection (to be a group leader you’d need to already be a councillor and so already gone through an approval and selection process anyway) and I don’t see cost as being a big issue – local parties should be writing to their members at least once a year anyway (I hope!), so any ballot could be part of an existing mailing.
Anyway – read the piece for yourself and tell me what you think!