Alongside the preparations for an early general election this year covered in Liberal Democrat Newswire #82 the Liberal Democrats have been putting in place Parliamentary candidates at super-quick speed in the party’s best prospects.
In choosing the best prospects, there has been a heavy focus on last time’s election results, but also the welcome first signs of the pivot which is necessary for the party’s long term strength.
This speedy candidate selection process has been along the lines of the party’s usual processes for Parliamentary by-elections (which also usually require very prompt selection). Other arrangements are being lined up for the remaining Parliamentary constituencies.
The party’s recent decisions on improving diversity are being kept to during this process, which has also seen unusually close coordination between the federal party and the English Liberal Democrats over candidate selection. This has often been a cause of friction in the past and is an issue the governance review will propose solutions to at the forthcoming autumn conference.
The processes’s rapidity will also doubtless add weight to future debates over the speed with which the Parliamentary candidate selection process moves during normal Parliaments.
The last few days have shown just how much more quickly things can be done – but it comes at a cost.
In particular, the selections have shown overwhelming support for incumbents (be they MPs, ex-MPs or 2015 candidates) where they have gone for reselection. This reinforces the point I’ve often made in the past. The more limited a selection campaign, in terms of length and freedom to campaign, the better incumbents do.
Even with the speed, what has been a little disappointing is the relative paucity of people going for selection for the practice. Skills such as doing a brilliant hustings speech are neither trivial nor bestowed by birth. They take practice and they benefit from experience. Which is why going to a no-hope selection for an election that might not happen is smart. Whoever you are, you can use it to learn and be better next time. As with unwinnable council by-elections the reduction in pressure makes it all the better a learning opportunity.
Likewise with candidates for an election that might not happen: the smart candidates and the smart local parties will make full use of these special selections to build up the local party strength so that even if there is no early election, the process has brought benefits.
If there is no early election, a more normal set of selection processes will be run later in the Parliament.
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