Go on then, dare you…


A quarter of Londoners would like to be a councillor, despite many not knowing what the job entails or who runs their council, according to a poll.

About Andrew Brown

I live in Lewisham, South East London, and spent 9 years as a Labour councillor in the borough between 1997 and 2006.
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14 Responses to Go on then, dare you…

  1. Max says:

    “…but over half wrongly believed local councillors must represent a political party”

    Wrongly? Technically maybe but that’s quite true in reality.
    I wonder what is the rate of electoral success of independent candidates?

  2. ross says:

    odd wording from reuters as well, implying many of the people who would like to be a councilor wrongly believed that councilors must represent a political party

    i think indepdent councilors make up about 10% of the overall councilor total for england & wales (20,000 ish?) , a few decades ago it was at least double this

    barnsley is a good example where they flourish, having 24 indepedent held seats as of may elections this year (however i think they have now registered as a party in themselves!)


  3. Andrew Brown says:

    Looks about right, according to the LGA’s Independent Councillors website they’ve got 2,000 members, and the Local Democracy website says there are over 21,000 councillors in England and Wales.

    But what’s independent? Are members of the Socialist Party, or the BNP?

  4. Max says:

    I know that you’re a member of a major party but even members of smaller parties are nevertheless members of a party, no matter how small. An independent is one that does it alone.
    And my point was not about how many got elected but how many independent candidates became independent Councillors against the number of party candidates that became Councillors.
    My point is that an individual has it quite hard against each party machine that at election time works in a methodical way to get people out and voting for them, and that includes the small parties if they are targeting a specific ward.
    Unless one has a party political background they don’t even know what they’re up against.

  5. Andrew Brown says:

    Only asked because the Independent Councillors on the LGA it seems do include what they call minority parties.

    I’d agree with you about how difficult it is for those who don’t have any sort of organisation behind them and I’d be surprised if there are too many of them.

  6. ross says:

    i don’t know any numbers for that, but i’d hazard a guess that the success rate for independent councilors overall is probably not that much less than for combined party candidates overall, purely because of the number of parties contesting each seat means the number of party candidates standing to party candidates actually winning a seat will by quite high, plus the fact it’s rare for more than one independent to contest any one council seat

    agree with your point though

  7. Max says:

    Yes, but the comparison must be made between candidates that are actually trying to get elected, not those that are there just to help keep the party on the ballot paper even if the party is effectively not campaigning in that ward because it’s not a marginal seat and they haven’t got manpower to waist there.
    Let’s be real, over any bunch of then candidates to choose from only two have normally a legitimate hope to be elected, everybody else is cannon fodder and often the independent candidate is the only one that doesn’t know it.

  8. ross says:

    well the statistics can’t be played with any which way really

    if you say the comparison must be made between candidates that are actually trying to get elected (and know that they have a realistic chance of doing so), then this should surely apply to both party & independent candidates, and i think it’s doing a disservice to most independent candidates to suggest that they don’t know the score when the decide to enter a race

    a lot of independent candidates stand for similar reasons as you suggest party candidates do, i.e. to help publicise a specific cause or single issue campaign, and the publicity and exposure that their campaign gets through standing is the main objective in itself, not actually the (unrealistic) goal of winning the seat, i’m sure most of those involved in these kind of campaigns have no delusions about the outcomes of such contests

    for example if you contested a seat in a ward in lewisham on a ‘save ladywell pool’ ticket, what would you expect to get out of such a campaign? I doubt you’d expect to win the seat but the publicity and platform that you’d get out of the campaign would be pretty valuable, so to suggest that others in similar situations to your hypothetical one are deluded about the outcomes does these kind of people a big disservice

  9. Max says:

    Well, that’s another kind of candidate, a campaigner that uses elections to make a point and it can be a very good initiative and indeed the best thing to do given the right conditions, but this is not always the case.
    As you may remember at last elections I was against such initiative and in fact there wasn’t an official Ladywell Pool campaign candidate. I thought that the specific situation of Lewisham in 2005 there was a better strategy and I think that what we chose, i.e. to back anybody but Bullock paid off as 11 marginal seats within walking distance of the pool were lost by Labour and tht delivered us a hung Council that is in my opinion the only desirable Council composition for an Executive Mayoral system.

    But here we were speaking of people that would want to get onto the Council as independents to do the humble work of the Councillor. This is the picture that this initiative is painting and I’m afraid it’s unrealistic.
    To say that you can just run for Council because of the “why don’t you become a Councillor” campaign and you have the same chances of the party incumbent or the up and coming party opposition is frankly cuckooland.

  10. Andrew Brown says:

    As one of the loosing 11, I’d say that your message certainly played better closer to the centre of Lewisham than further away. Or that was the feeling we got from our canvassing.

    (But then again I remember a particularly intense conversation with one woman who told us she wouldn’t be voting for us because we’d not created the new school! So I think that people found all sorts of different reasons to kick us out.)

    As for your broader point about the relative chances of independents to party affiliates I’m with you Max. So, I’d suggest that anyone of that 1 in 4 that wants to become a councillor find the political party that they most closely identify with, join up and go through their vetting process.

  11. ross says:

    “But here we were speaking of people that would want to get onto the Council as independents to do the humble work of the Councillor”

    i didn’t realise that – i thought we were speaking of independent candidates standing for council seats. i’m not sure if it’s as easy as you think to seperate into two distinct groups the independent candidates who only want to do the ‘humble work of the councillor’ and those who think otherwise

    but as i said above i agree with the point you’re making about the unrealistic chances of just anyone standing and actually winning a seat, but i reckon all those that do stand realise this as well, so as i said, i think you need to credit them with more savvy than that

    on a somewhat related matter i wonder how much relation there is between blears’s white paper on ‘community empowerment’ and the poor state of the labour party finances at the moment

  12. Lone Ranger says:

    Well Lewisham did have an independent councillor from 2002 to 2006 standing on one issue the provision of a new secondary school in the north of the borough.

    By coincidence one of the first decisions of the elected mayor was to demolish school buildings in that councillor’s ward.

    Is there anything to stop a councillor getting elected on the back of a political party and then going independent and through their work in the ward showing they are worthy of re-election?

  13. Max says:

    Yes, Helen was brave and she did a great job, I know of mainstream parties trying to woo her in as she was so good.
    She also had an orgainisation, a party actually, with her the only elected representative but some very politically astute and dedicated people supporting her. A small but very effective group.
    She was expression of a campaign and she made a difference and in 2002 she surely made the right choice.
    She also found it to be much harder work than she was happy with, even because she has children too, she didn’t shy away from the work but she also chose not to re-candidate.

  14. Andrew Brown says:

    As you say Max, I know that Helen did find being a councillor difficult both because of the impact on family life and because she didn’t have a group of fellow councillors with whom she could turn to for mutual support.

    It’s exhausting enough when you can share the burdens with colleagues, but being a lone voice must be very hard indeed.

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