NEW POLL: Is it time to end ‘politically restricted’ jobs?

by Stephen Tall on February 18, 2010

Blogging Labour MP Tom Harris has an interesting story today, revealing that Tina Stowell, the BBC’s head of corporate affairs “is not only a wannabe Tory candidate, but still has a live website proclaiming her love of all things Cameron.” But Tom doesn’t point this out in order to fulminate or demand her resignation:

And you know something? I don’t have a problem with this. I would much prefer to know the politics of someone I’m dealing with because at least you know where they’re coming from. She wants to become an MP? Good for her! I hope she gets a nomination and then is soundly beaten by her Labour opponent.

But there will be those, understandably, with some qualms about someone in such an important and influential position in the BBC maintaining such an ostentatiously public position on politics, particularly in the run-up to the general election when the output of the BBC and other broadcasters will come under intense scrutiny by all the parties.

The wider question this poses is an interesting one: should we abolish ‘politically restricted’ posts?

‘Politically restricted’ is the term used to describe certain roles in the civil service, local government, police and other public bodies in which the post-holder cannot become involved in any active political role either in or outside the workplace. Those who are covered by the term are banned from holding political office, canvassing, or speaking or writing in public in any way which might give the impression that they support a particular political party.

Those who argue in favour of ‘politically restricted’ posts make the basic point: how can someone who is a known supporter of party X gain the trust of those who are active in party Y? For example, how would a Lib Dem leader of a council be able to work with a chief executive who was known to be a Tory supporter?

But Tom’s contrary point is clear enough: he’d rather know if an individual supports party X, rather than that they kept it secret.

What do Lib Dem Voice readers think? Here’s our poll question: Do you think we should abolish ‘politically restricted’ posts and allow public officials to become openly active in support of political parties if they want to?

The choice is simple: yes or no. The poll appears in the right-hand column of the home-page.

Discuss …