Candidates banned from calling on party members in selection contest

Very odd news from the Merton and Wandsworth London Assembly constituency, where members will shortly be voting to select the Liberal Democrat candidate for next May’s London elections.

The candidates have been told that they are banned from calling on party members at home during the selection contest. They have also been given extremely tight restrictions on what else they can do – just one leaflet, one email and one phone conversation.

As regular readers will know, I’m a strong advocate for more campaigning to be allowed in internal party contests – and the party has made some significant progress on that in the last couple of years (with a big step forward agreed in Birmingham at the Lib Dem conference).

But for the Merton & Wandsworth selection, this set of rules is more restrictive than we’ve ever had in a London Assembly selection contest as far as I’m aware, even allowing for any smart candidate spotting the loophole and hunting out members at work rather than home. Since the first selection contests for 2000 more campaigning has always been permitted than can be the case in Merton and Wandsworth.

And for good reason too: campaigning by candidates is good for them and good for the party. Would-be candidates who are put through their paces end up better candidates as a result, and members end up more motivated to help someone who has taken time to win their support. That is good for candidates, good for members and good for the party.

No prizes for guessing what issue I will be taking up at the London Region conference next month…

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