How can we support candidates who can’t afford to stand for office?

With the #LibDemFightback still continuing after the announcement of our new Leader and by-elections happening almost every week across the country and the party making net gains, campaigners are now planning for next year’s local elections up and down the country. We may be under 5 years away from 2020, with a new vision and a path for the party to be decided, but what about candidates who want to stand for election but can’t  because they can’t afford to?

I write in response to last week’s article by Mark Argent regarding the financial exclusion of candidates. I thought about standing in the last election, but I didn’t feel it was the right time and I thought I didn’t have the finances I would need. There may be many prospective candidates wishing to stand for parliamentary seats, but feel they could not because they couldn’t afford to run a campaign for several months.

We as a party do need to look at the wider members within the party, especially the 17,000+ new members who could potentially be the next parliamentary candidate for their constituency. But what if they couldn’t financially contribute to the campaign? How should the party help them?

Some local parties may not have the resources, there are of course other ways: training local parties on crowd funding, building the presence before a General Election. If local parties don’t have the resources, then the party needs to look at setting up a fund for parliamentary candidates who need help to run their non-target campaign. I don’t feel we are excluding them, but we are not encouraging members on lower incomes to stand.

Candidates are motivated to stand for all sorts of reasons. Perhaps it’s because they don’t like what the current Councillor or MP is not doing for their ward or constituency, or they’re not happy with the Council Tax rise, or the fact that a library is closing and they and the local Lib Dems are fighting to keep it open. Their personal wealth, or lack of it, should not be a barrier to someone who would work hard for their area.

The same applies for General Elections. Standing up for Liberal Democrat values should not require deep pockets. I appreciate the comments Mark has made about access for funding. We need to have wider Access for Funding for candidates wishing to stand and we need to encourage them.

Now as the party rebuilds, this is the time for those voices to be heard and the party to decide what we can do for those candidates wanting to make a change for their constituents.

* Daniel Laycock is a Liberal Democrat member from Huntingdon and has been a council candidate.

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  • Ruth Bright 2nd Sep '15 - 3:22pm

    Very well said Daniel. I remember having an online discussion with Caron and others years ago about how we could do more to help colleagues with a timebank system. We all understand about piling in to help with leaflets and campaigning but perhaps we ( people like me who are approved candidates but not standing anywhere) could do more to offer other sorts of help to new candidates in our region. Perhaps taking a surgery so a PPC could escape to offer some quality time to their day job or to their family.

    As a PPC found that most members of the public were amazed when they found out I was not paid and that my press office consisted of the home phone in the hallway with my toddler doing a colouring book in the corner!

  • ” or they’re not happy with the Council Tax rise, or the fact that a library is closing” ??????? Is there not some sort of symbiotic connection there ? It’s make your mind up time for the reduce the size of the state faction in the Lib Dems IMHO.

    If you want services you’ve got to pay for them………..if you want a candidate you’ve got to pay for them. Politics shouldn’t be a rich man’s/woman’s plaything, nor should public services.

  • Daniel Laycock 2nd Sep '15 - 5:21pm

    Ruth I agree with you. There does need to some sort of system that helps candidates that can’t dig deep into their pockets so they could run a campaign that could help to increase our vote in their seat. Many people in the party have championed on this over the years, but in my eyes it hasn’t got fair. If members feel that we need to do more to have a ‘Access to Fund’ type system, then we we need to campaign on that, throughout the party. Without that kind of help financially then it won’t encourage members from poor background to stand.

    There could also be a stigma attached to it. Where members feel that they need to have money behind them to stand, but then again there might not be. As we are a diverse party then we need to be even more diverse and encourage, support, train and even help candidates that don’t have that experience and deep pockets to stand.

  • Ross Fifield 3rd Sep '15 - 8:53am

    There’s several ways to approach this task. An article I authored was posted last month on the necessity for increased resources and a wider mandate for the membership department.

    We might consider a bit of joined up work with the fundraising department and appeal to every member to sign up to £1 a month for a development fund. Such a scheme could even be expanded to non-members in any seat where a PPC is selected (and obviously working to support it).

    We could also consider organising regional fund-raising teams, supported and trained centrally, but operating to specific parameters on single-issue campaigns across the constituencies in their area.

    On of the the key things which strike me is that there’s obviously some interest in supporting candidates. It does beg the question how much help is actually being corralled in introducing systemic changes when the Party has such a heirarchal structure.

  • Mike Tuffrey 3rd Sep '15 - 11:06am

    Good points. That’s why in London we’ve launched an Access to Office fund, specifically for next year’s GLA elections. If it works well, I’m keen to take forward the approach.
    Read about it here:
    And better still, donate to it here:
    MT, London region chair

  • Jane Ann Liston 3rd Sep '15 - 1:30pm

    I heard a former parliamentary candidate saying that she had taken a sabbatical (I think unpaid) to be a full-time campaigning candidate. That is just not possible for many potential candidates and I hope it is not becoming expected as a matter of course.

  • Richard Underhill 4th Sep '15 - 6:40pm

    Jane Ann Liston 3rd Sep ’15 – 1:30pm The candidate for Maidstone was also full time, six or seven days a week, 12 hours a day, plus his wife and some time from other relatives, canvassing on doorsteps in county, euro and general, against a tory who deserved to lose.

  • SIMON BANKS 4th Sep '15 - 9:39pm

    Well, David, before you exult at the inconsistency, Daniel didn’t actually say LIBERAL DEMOCRAT candidates are motivated to stand by these things. In any case, for a party that believes in localism, what’s inconsistent in candidates in one local authority opposing unnecessarily high council tax rises while candidates in another oppose deep cuts and argue that a rise in council tax would be preferable? Some local authorities do cut deep in order to reduce council tax while others consider the level of spending to be an accurate measure of the quality of services, irrespective of inefficiencies or prestige projects.

    Leaving the snipers aside, one implication of a serious effort to raise membership so steeply is giving higher priority to reviving the party where it’s weak, especially where there is no reason to think there are deep-seated reasons why few people in that are are Liberals. It’s in the weak areas with low membership that the biggest gains can be made. Another is more use of social media and efforts to connect with other, non-party, campaigning organisations that share some of our values and priorities.

  • Daniel Laycock 5th Sep '15 - 5:30pm

    Mike, I was wondering if we could possibly speak in one form or another about your Access to Office fund as I would like to get your thoughts on this from London’s prospective and also on a national view. If you could email me and we can see how we communicate.

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