Wednesday, November 29, 2006
I work in Local Government as an officer, and am also politically active with the Liberal Democrats in my spare time. Unfortunately, these two things aren’t compatible, because there is an obvious conflict of interest when I work in a politically-run organisation, and also participate in politics outside of work. The thinking goes that I might fail to give impartial advice in work, either to scupper the opposition or help my side.
Obviously I wouldn’t do this, but I understand perfectly well the potential conflict. As it happens it actually helps both my job and my activism that I have an understanding of the other.
But sadly the conflict remains, and this leaves me with a dilemma. I have more or less reached the threshold at work above which I cannot legally rise without invoking the “conflict of interest” rule. So I can’t get promoted unless I stop being politically active. But I don’t want to stop. The alternative is to try and get work in another industry. But I have never really worked in anything but Local Government, and have had little luck in finding a suitable job elsewhere as yet.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not bemoaning my luck – I am paid well and I can continue in my current role without any problems. It’s just that I can’t go any further! Which is extremely frustrating, truth be told.
So tonight I have been studying ahead of an interview I have for an NHS job on Friday. I am not sure what the rules are there regarding political activity, but I am going to find out.
And in the meantime, if anyone has any jobs going, you know where I am!
I strongly share your dilemma. Until 2005 I was in the Cabinet Office, and so was unable to help during the General Election.
When I decided to run for Council this year, I left the Cabinet Office and came to work for a charity.
I have two suggestions:
1) Start looking for jobs outside Government, where they tolerate political activity. The Guardian on Wednesdays is full of "public sector jobs" including charities, other public sector bodies etc.
2) Don't ask them about political activity until AFTER they offer you the job. It'll only scare them off. When they offer you the job, and you do the negotiating bit, THAT is the time to ask whether they object to you running for Mayor of London!
In general I say go for it. Get out of Government. It does a liberal good not to be too close the Leviathan.
It's just a shame that I will have to leave the sector I love at some point.