The final candidate totals for this May’s local elections are now collated and the confirmed story is the one I trailed in the last Lib Dem Newswire of Liberal Democrat candidate numbers up significantly on four years ago.
That’s the good news. The news also comes with a caveat and a warning.
The caveat is that the numbers may be up, but they are still a good way short of the Conservative and Labour numbers:
The warning? Well, there certainly has been an upward trend in candidate numbers over both 2017 and 2018. However, even allowing for the fact that you don’t want your candidate numbers to get to more than 100% of the number of vacancies*, it’s been a much smaller recovery than that in the party’s overall membership numbers. Party membership has hit an all-time high. Candidate numbers haven’t, nor are they that close.
It is reasonable to expect it to take some time for an increase in members to work its way through to stronger local party organisations that are better able to make good use of the increased numbers and then in turn are better placed to run more candidates. And the party has done well to retain a phenomenally high proportion of its post-2015 election new members as they’ve come up for the first year of renewal, the point at which usually large numbers drop out.
Even so, there’s a warning here. There’s much more work to do to turn our record party membership numbers into a network of party organisations of record strength.
* Unless the year is 2012, the council is Elmbridge and the party is the Monster Raving Loony Party.