6 things I learned from being an unlikely candidate

Sometimes being a candidate just happens

When I went to my first ever Scottish Spring Conference this year, I had few expectations. I expected to debate, to meet up with Lib Dem friends, and to listen to some interesting talks. I didn’t quite expect to find myself on the ballot paper this May. Sometimes living next door to seat with no current Lib Dem candidate is enough.

I was told that in the recent by-election we had come 5th, behind UKIP. This time only 4 parties were running. “Oh good,” I said, “I’ll move us up a place.”

All Candidates give a speech at the count

This was also my first time attending a count. Confession time: Because I’ve only seen counts on TV, I genuinely thought only the winners spoke after the result. Not even I am optimistic enough to prepare a speech just in case, so after the result I found myself addressing a room of people not knowing quite what to say. I think this pleased the returning officer at least, who had begged for brevity before we mounted the stage.

You get a lot of emails

Say goodbye to your inbox. Most emails from constituents were generic mass-emails from campaign groups, asking about fox hunting and TTIP and the like. I did get a personal email from a former UKIP council candidate, asking to meet in the pub for a chat! I didn’t have time for the pub, but believe I got his vote with a phone call, as no other candidate had responded to him.

A £500 deposit is money well lost

What did a £500 lost deposit get for us?
Four articles in the local paper, including one on page 3 published on polling day.
Two interviews with the local radio station.
An interview for Radio 4’s PM.
An invitation to all the hustings in the area.
Hundreds of emails from voters inviting a reply.
Access to the consistency count to see where our votes are.
Most importantly all this means more votes for the Lib Dems on our regional list.

Spoilt ballots are hilarious

The most fun I had at the count was the spoilt ballot desk. Amongst the phallic depictions were votes for “batman”, lengthy novellas explaining why it’s pointless to vote, and one would-be voter explained that we were all “lieing ****s.” Spelling was not a strong point amongst the spoilt papers.

The spoilt papers were a window into how some voters now feel about Labour in Scotland. Swear words, aggressive scoring out the word ‘Labour’ and the logo, tearing the ballot paper so as the remove the Labour candidate from it… All of them had large Xs in the SNP box.

It’ll spur you on

I thoroughly enjoyed my time as a candidate. I’m pleased to say we doubled the number of votes we got in the by-election, and I’ve currently lost my voice from cheering too much when I heard the news about Willie Rennie winning North East Fife.

Whilst I was semi-reluctant to run for the Scottish parliament, now that’s it over I’m left hungry for the next election. Scottish Council elections are next year, and I hope next time I’ll be running as a candidate with a speech prepared.

* Bryn Jones is a member of the Dunfermline Lib Dems, and stood as a candidate in the Cowdenbeath constituency in 2016.

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • If the spoilt papers were a window into the how some feel about Labour in Scotland what was the window for people into how they viewed the Lib Dems in Scotland – oh yes putting you behind the Greens in the new Parliament. Stop the sly digging at Labour its silly.

  • Silvio,

    At the count I attended (PCC) it was notable that the Lib Dems secured a very high proportion of 2nd preferences, suggesting that – although we have a long way to go – the idea that we are ‘persona non grata’ to a huge swathe of the electorate is incorrect.

  • SILVIO, I think the fact that a lot of spoilt ballots displayed aggression to one particular party, and then voted for another particular party is noteworthy.

    Interesting that you take this as a dig at Labour. It was more a comment on what I see as an unpleasant, undemocratic side of some SNP members. Not content to simply not vote for Labour, they actively remove them from the ballot.

    Scottish politics does not seem to be in a happy place right now. Unless you’re Willie Rennie.

  • Really interesting post and well done for standing!

  • Jane Ann Liston 12th May '16 - 12:01pm

    As the equally unlikely candidate for Mid Fife & Glenrothes and also on the Mid Scotland & Fife list, I can confirm Bryn’s remark about e-mails. The starting-pistol, so to speak, was fired appropriately enough by about 40 identical e-mails asking for my views on shooting (most of the campaigns consisted of identical messages). I also received: nearly 400 messages urging me to ‘Vote for Bob’, i.e. support Scottish wildlife, 57 on TTIP/CETA, 13 about trees, 6 about active travel (i.e. walking & cycling), 46 on fox-hunting, 8 on being an arthritis champion, 10 asking what I knew about deaf children, 51 on putting human rights at the centre of the election (music to the ears of a LibDem), 11 urging me to ‘choose local democracy’ (ditto), 63 from two different cancer campaigns, 27 enjoining me to ‘get loud for MS’, 17 supporting the NSPCC (which I thought covered England, Wales & NI, not Scotland which is surely Children First’s bailiwick), 29 requesting I do ‘more’ for Scotland’s animals, 6 concerned with preventing stroke, 15 demanding to know how I would prevent/crack down on tax-dodging and 10 concerned about the NHS, all of which I answered. I happily signed up to the CAMRA pledge to support pubs and real ale, after 3 e-mails, then discovered that we were advised not to! Apologies to the handful of other e-mails, mostly ones which arrived in the last few days before the election, which I was unable to answer. The moral is that even a ‘paper’ candidate has to do quite a bit of work.

  • Great story and good luck in the future.
    On a purely technical note, can a partly mutilated ballot paper be grounds for rejection? Something I have never experienced before.
    As the voter(s) had (1) appeared not to have identified themselves and (2) clearly shown their voting intentions, the ballot paper could then be rejected if (say) the ballot paper number on the rear of the paper was removed, given the Labour candidate in Cowdenbeath was in the middle of the ballot, the number removal would be likely.
    Answers on a psotcard!

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