Party to seek more candidates from the business community – whether they are members or not

17th July, 2012 10:05 am

At Labour’s first annual business reception – which we told you about yesterday – the party will unveil a plan to gain more councillors and MPs from the business community, through the future candidates programme. So far the programme has been mainly aimed at getting more working class and other under-represented groups into elected office – but that has now been expanded. According to the party:

“A special stream of the party’s Future Candidates Programme will be launched for applicants with business backgrounds. This will involve matching applicants with a mentor who is a senior Labour representative, for example an MP.

This will complement the representatives of business already in Labour’s ranks in Parliament and elsewhere. Every member of Labour’s shadow Business, Innovation and Skills team in the House of Commons has worked in business or run their own firm.

Potential applicants do not need to be Labour Party members to apply, but they should share Labour values and be willing to join if selected to take part in the programme. “

Whilst Labour does lack business experience in the PLP, that last sentence might be a cause of concern for some members. Joining a party to become a candidate isn’t necessarily the best way to get the best MPs and councillors…

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  • Chilbaldi

    I’m all for by-passing the need for future candidates to show their faces and become branch secretaries etc for a few years before seeking selection, but how does that square with our current candidate selection methods?

    • PeterBarnard

      I can’t speak for the MP selection process, Chilbaldi, but for councillors, applicants who want to be placed on the “panel” should be a member for at least twelve months at the time that the selection process begins. The twelve-month requirement may be waived “in exceptional circumstances,” eg someone who appears to be a good candidate, with the approval of the Regional Director.

      Appendix 4 of the Rule Book (available via MembersNet) refers.

      • Having said that, Peter, you and I have both been round the block enough times to know that some pretty rum things go on when it comes to selections.

        • PeterBarnard

          I’m 23 hours late on my reply, Mike ( …”round the block … selections … “).

          I have possibly been “around the block” just 1/10 of the times that you have (I only joined the Labour Party in December, 2004). The selection process for the old, ie what was Chester City, candidates was a joke. The LGC – which was supposed to organise things – did diddly-squat in making members aware. It wasn’t surprising – there were enormous conflicts of interest between councillors also being LGC post-holders, and also CLP post-holders …

          My first real involvement was the selection process for the Cheshire West & Chester elections in May, 2011 when I was asked to take charge in August, 2010. I can put my hand on my heart and say that things were done “properly.”

          We’ll be starting the selection process for the CW & C May, 2015 elections next year ; that will also, as far as I am able,  be “done properly.” All-out elections every four years are much better as far as candidate selection is concerned.
          When it comes to elections/selections, it appears to be (I can only speak for Chester) that the CLP is a very poor relation. I can assure you that I have done my best to establish the CLP as an equal partner, but by Golly! it’s almost impossible with an incumbent MP and an incumbent Labour majority on the district council.

      • Having said that, Peter, you and I have both been round the block enough times to know that some pretty rum things go on when it comes to selections.

  • Guest

    I fear that a candidate with real experience of creating jobs, running a business or indeed anything outside the public sector and trade union movement, will simply be unable to get through a selection hustings.

    People’s view of ”Real world experience’ is far too narrow.  ‘Ordinary people’ make ‘ordinary MPs’.  To be an extradordinary MP, you need to be an extraordinary person who has really achieved something significant.  I belive we are doomed to a Parliament full of hacks, cronies and underachievers.

    • Where does this idea that running a business makes someone a good MP come from, though? It’s important to have people in parliament with experience of various backgrounds, sure, but there’s no particular overlap in skills needed to run a business and be an MP. Archie Norman was a very successful chief exec and chairman of a major business, but made no particular impression at all as an MP. Jeremy Hunt set up and ran Hotcourses, a reasonably successful business, but has made a mess of being a minister. Caroline Spelman co-owns a (lobbying) business but is looking like one of the most likely of the current Cabinet to be reshuffled out. 

      • Guest

        I do believe you could say the same about any job.  Being an MP is unique, so different skills are required.  But MPs talk a lot about creating jobs – wouldn’t it be good if we had a few MPs who had themselves actually created some?  MPs talk a lot about trading with other countries.  Wouldn’t it be good if we had more MPs who had actually traded goods?  MPs talk about growing the economy.  Wouldn’t it be good if we had

        Business is a vital part of our economy – and so if we are to be seen as competent enough to run the economy, we should have people who understand key elements of it.

        We have 300 Labour MPs.  I’d be very interested to know how many Labour MPs have ever run a business…

        • treborc

          Well as I said if your running a business in the business community and are successful the only way you would go into Politics would be if you carried on with two jobs.  My old MP who retired in 2005 was a Barrister in London in a very large firm, he was a partner, he would only become an MP if he was allowed to carry on.

          Then you have conflict of interest, and which job takes priority, the problem is at the moment we have MP’s who are in the main lawyers and Accountants all experts at seeing nothing hearing nothing.

          We had the biggest banking crises, we had the biggest housing crises we let in the biggest amount of immigrants, we have a Libor scandal, we had labour spending money like no  tomorrow on failed IT, ID cards cost us £800 million for nothing.

          So maybe we need to look for people who are labour first have an interest in people and less in making scandals.

        • 6.8% is the answer to that, Guest, compared with 31% on the LD benches and 29% on the Tories’, so we’re lagging quite badly. Also in terms of financial people, who despite Fred Goodwin and Bob Diamond giving them all a bad name are still extremely important to our economy and are needed on the Labour benches to some extent (Rachel Reeves being an excellent example of what I mean here), we also lag the Lib Dems ( )

          I too am weary of the argument that business people are automatically far better politicians than any other career, but we need a slightly better cross-section of occupations in the PLP than we have at the moment and in particular, having some been-there-done-that job-creators is vital if we are able to credibly claim to both represent the country and run the economy.  If you browse the Smith numbers the picture get is roughly this: Labour are mostly public & voluntary sector or trade union, with a smattering of ex-manual workers and non-econ professionals (lawyers, journalists and, increasingly, career-politicos), while the Tories are heavily private sector and professional, as you’d expect, although with a significant number of ex-forces too (an imbalance LFF are now working to address on the Labour benches). The Lib Dems are actually perhaps the most-balanced bunch in a respect, with a good spread across public, private and volunary. I want Labour to be a One Nation party, which ideally would mean a PLP that’s somewhere between where it is now and where the Lib Dems are in terms of occupation, plus some ex-forces.

  • treborc

    Bod Diamond then as new labour MP sound about right well he ‘s free.
    Bang goes more working class then.

    • Chilbaldi

      Lots of working class people work in business, many working class people run businesses.

      • treborc

        I would have thought Labour has enough failed business people in the party already, why would anyone who is a success give it up to be an MP that is the question.

        • John Dore

          “why would anyone who is a success give it up to be an MP that is the question”, ……because the cared about society; because they want to help people; because they are decent people; because they see the potential of humanity; because they want to make a difference.

          You’re so immersed in your own miserable existence you can’t see the wood from the tree’s. Don’t the Green Party have a forum you can troll on?

  • Encouraging diverse membership is important but the lure of office shouldn’t be the incentive to join. I also think we as a party and politics in general has much more of a problem with science than it does business. Once the lords is elected (which I support) it’s difficult to see how scientists will get in to decision making at all if we don’t do something about this.

  • JC

    “but they should share Labour values and be willing to join if selected to take part in the programme.”
    Is this Scientology or the Labour Party?

  • The Party should be congratulated for reaching out for new
    talent, not just within the “business community” and we have seen
    examples of this such as our appeal to Armed Forces Personnel and by using the
    Future Candidates Programme we are attracting some good new members.

    However we must be careful in that we don’t just fast track for the sake of
    fast tracking, there does need to be evidence of applicants willing to do the
    hard graft such as knock on doors, engage with the electorate and deliver
    leaflets. There should be no going back either to fixed selections to favour “the special stream”. Members should have the final say.

    The Party rightly expects Councillors to be in the heart of their communities,
    requiring them to sign contracts to carry out a minimum amount of campaigning
    work – there are many examples of Councillors not getting through their
    interview panels due to not campaigning/working in the community and it’s about
    time we expect the same of our national representatives too and the very least we can expect from any “special stream”.

  • carolekins

    Let’s have a good range of candidates, including people with business experience, but why waive the rules (as explained by Peter Barnard, below)which at least mean that candidates know something about the Labour Party and have shown some sort of commitment.  I find people like Digby Jones cringingly embarassing, with his enthusiastic slagging-off of the Labour Party and Gordon Brown.

  • Alan Giles

    It’s certainly not a bad idea to have MPs who have real personal experience of business or industry, to get away from the current narrow Barrister/Media/Oxbridge PPE coterie at present, BUT I don’t think it should be the case that they don’t have to be party members until or if they are selected. It doesn’t show a great deal of conviction on their part, does it?

    I was a party member, though no longer, and I wouldn’t expect (or want) to be given special treatment if I were a young man/woman in a hurry, having resigned my membership. I did so for reasons which I have mentioned before, but had I never been a member, I most certainly wouldn’t expect to take preference over somebody who was.

    Somebody else makes mention of Digby Jones, who was happy enough to be (apparently) supporting the party, only to have a volte-face a little later (an early case of Freudism disease), I suspect that if you have non-committed non-members who see eventually joining the party as a passport to a new career you will get many more Digbys. Fairewtaher friends, in other words (not unlike dear Lord Sainsbury who stopped giving money to the party after it left office and went into opposition).

  • John Dore

    This is a great initiative, so long as the best candidate wins at the end of the day, be they from the public sector, a union or business. I’m not one for discrimination. 

  • I think the main problem is that because party membership has become such a minority sport, there are few outside the usual categories to choose from.

    Also, and this is being realistic – an MP’s pay, for living in London, is 65 grand. Not bad, but wouldn’t a successful businessman be expected, therefore, to take a pay cut?

  • I think the main problem is that because party membership has become such a minority sport, there are few outside the usual categories to choose from.

    Also, and this is being realistic – an MP’s pay, for living in London, is 65 grand. Not bad, but wouldn’t a successful businessman be expected, therefore, to take a pay cut?

  • The future candidates programme has always had that condition. Non-story.


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