Selecting a Prospective Parliamentary Candidate is a major opportunity for both Local Parties and Approved Candidates to build a great head of steam going into the next General Election campaign.
Open selections have now re-started and you can go ahead when you are ready, providing that you have the agreement of your Regional Candidates' Chair and that a Returning Officer is available. However, there are a number of steps to complete before the selection can begin, which you can read about below.
In March 2016 the Federal Conference voted to support the introduction of a measures to help drive greater diversity and representation among our pool of selected candidates. In January 2020 English Council agreed further changes to the selection rules. These encourage local parties to work on improving overall membership diversity, so that we get greater diversity among applicants for approval as candidates, and ultimately a more diverse pool of candidates and – hopefully – MPs.
Before a selection can begin
All local parties are required to provide documented evidence to their region or state Candidates’ Chair (as relevant) to show they are making sustained efforts to improve the diversity of their membership, before being granted permission to start their Westminster selection process.
In seats which will shortlist (target seats and others which are likely to attract numerous applicants) the local party executive must consider whether they want an all-disabled shortlist of candidates, or to reserve a place on the shortlist for a disabled candidate.
When a Returning Officer has been appointed (see below), the local party must notify several organisations including the Young Liberals, the Campaign for Gender Balance, the Racial Diversity Campaign and the Lib Dem Disability Association that selection is about to begin, to encourage applications from a diverse group of candidates.
The selection cannot be advertised until all these steps have been taken.
What else can we do to start the ball rolling?
If you are a target seat, or expect to attract a lot of applicants, you will need a Shortlisting Committee. (Other seats do not have to shortlist, and all applicants who meet the selection criteria go forward to campaign for selection.) Every seat will need a Constituency Profile to send to applicants, and a draft Candidate Compact. All these can be worked on before a Returning Officer is appointed.
It’s a good idea to start thinking about who from the local party could make up the Shortlisting Committee. This panel (normally around 5 members) draws up the minimum selection criteria, checks all applications received, interviews applicants and sets any other appropriate tests before drawing up the shortlist of candidates who can campaign for selection. Special training is needed, which can be delivered by an experienced Returning Officer (even if they live within the local party area) To set this up, do get in touch with your Regional Candidates’ Chair or the Candidates' team.
A constituency profile is always included in the application pack, which gives a description of the local area, an outline of previous Lib Dem activity, and a rounded idea of the prospects in the seat and what the local party's expectations may be for success. An attractive (and realistic) profile can help to draw in a greater number of applications. Example profiles from Aldershot, Exeter and Wythenshawe are available from the links provided.
Compacts have been introduced to allow local parties and candidates to set expectations, agree goals and outline the workload to be undertaken by both. Every seat will have different aims, needs and opportunities, but for an idea of the content which you could include and for draft templates then please take a look at this page which explains the Compact in greater detail.
Returning Officers are the crucial link that make open selections possible. They are in overall charge of the selection process and ensure it is carried out fairly and according to the rules. Your local party executive must ask your Regional Candidates' Chair to appoint one before your selection can formally get under way. The RO must be impartial, and so cannot be a person from within the local party, or with any particular interest in the area. However, if you can encourage a member of your local party to take RO training it will help in sharing resources with neighbouring organisations and increase the overall speed of selections.
Worried about how boundary changes may affect all of this?
If more than 20% of the membership moves out of the constituency as a result of a boundary change, a re-selection will have to occur. If not, the original selection remains valid. This need not deter you from moving ahead with a selection.