When we debate party policy, strategy or election tactics, questions about what might attract or put off voters often - and rightly - come up. But there’s one sure-fire, 100% guaranteed, rock-solid way of repelling voters from us, and it’s one we use far too often. It’s not having a Liberal Democrat on the ballot paper. Zero votes for the party guaranteed.
Both Labour and the Conservatives, for example, get very close now to having a full slate of candidates in local elections. Despite improvements in recent years, we are still lagging a long way behind, and not yet back to where we used to be. So we know we can do better - because we have.
Even in wards where multiple seats are up for election and where we stand someone but not a full slate it is still a problem - as we’re still forcing people to vote for someone other than us.
With the important exception of STV elections in Scotland, of course, where the way the voting system works means standing ‘too many’ candidates harms our election chances in a way that doesn’t happen under first past the post. So in Scotland, it’s at least one candidate in each ward that’s the equivalent of the full slates we should be aiming for elsewhere.
Of the council seats coming up in May, we fought 63% of them in England and Wales last time out, and we had at least one candidate in 73% of Scottish wards. Those numbers are on the up - but still short of where we want to be. Remember - every single voter gets a ballot paper, showing them whether we are standing or not.
Standing candidates isn’t only about credibility and relevance. It’s also the way to get more people into the habit of regularly voting for the Liberal Democrats - a crucial step in building the sort of larger core vote for the party that will help us succeed more often.
And you never quite know when putting up more candidates, or failing to do so, will turn out to be rather more important than you thought at that election.
That after all is just what happened in North Shropshire. Back in spring 2021, the local party successfully put great effort into increasing its number of candidates. Then when an unexpected Parliamentary by-election took place, that boost in our local credibility - and the improved bar chart it provided - was vital for Helen Morgan’s campaign. A clear cut case of us making our own luck.
Where our candidate numbers have increased in the last few years, it’s notable that this has happened across the board - from weaker local parties through to the strongest. So whatever your local situation, if you have elections coming up this May, let’s all do our best to make it a record-breaking one for the number of candidates.
There’s a great video from Daisy Cooper about how to find candidates here and there is also Lighthouse training that shows you how to make use of its data to find more candidates (scroll down to ‘managing candidates & selections’). ALDC also has an approval and selection toolkit to help.
Or if this has inspired you personally, you can find our more about standing here.
Good luck with your candidate numbers and let’s make this May a record-breaking one for the party.