Could Rachel Johnson stand as a Lib Dem candidate?

First of all, Rachel Johnson, writer and journalist, welcome to the Liberal Democrats. Every media outlet is telling us that she has joined and some are even suggesting that she will be a candidate for the Liberal Democrats in this coming general election. The Guardian is feverishly speculating:

Johnson’s decision to join the Lib Dems is expected to infuriate her brother Boris, who has had a relatively marginal role in the post-Brexit negotiations so far.

She could not be reached for comment, while a spokesman for the Lib Dems declined to confirm her membership, citing data protection rules.

With just nine MPs, the Lib Dems have campaigned consistently against Brexit. Party rules insist candidates must have been members for at least a year. But if Johnson decides to stand, one option is the party not standing against her.

Of course, candidates are  a state party responsibility and the length of time you have to be a member is different across the different state parties.  The reports don’t say when she joined, so it is perfectly possible that she would be eligible in Scotland, for example.

Getting approved is another barrier, but not an insurmountable one. There was at least one candidate approval day last weekend, for example – and once you are approved you can stand anywhere in the country.

It’s also more than possible that the party might waive some of the rules if she were licensed for one election to contest a specific seat.

That would be a more likely option than the Guardian’s suggestion that the party wouldn’t stand against her if she stood somewhere.

I’d say it is most likely that this is all just speculation, but you never know. If I end up with egg on my face, so be it.

It is great to see that we are appealing to so many people, though, with our membership at over 100,000 for the first time in two decades.

Now we just need to mobilise them for our best general election campaign ever. There are so many ways to get involved – delivering leaflets, phoning voters, doorstep canvassing, sorting out the election freeposts, donating money. If you want to know the options available to you, have a look here. Also, if you are in the Newbies Facebook group, (now over 6000 strong), there is information that is really useful if you haven’t been involved in an election before. You can access it from the pinned post.



* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • Why is she more attractive to the electorate than any other individua or party memberl. I can’t believe anyone will vote for her just because she had a nutty brother. Most people will have never heard of her.

  • Rachel is very welcome in the party, and I’m sure she thought carefully about making such a public declaration (if she did go public of course). However, I’d be very wary about her getting fast-tracked into candidate status. I’m sure she’s very capable, but it’s only going to look like she’s getting there based on her family name, and being part of “the establishment” with a sense of entitlement. We’ve seen how annoyed people are that Zac Goldsmith thinks he can swan in and out of the Tory party and being an MP, and this would be a bit too similar from another well connected, wealthy person with an Eton-equivalent and Oxbridge background.

    It would come with great publicity, but it’s going to look like a gimmick, and I fear it undermines our message that our policies are for everyone, and not just the metropolitan elite.

  • I agree with the sentiments expressed. Great to welcome Rachel into the party if true, but don’t think she should be allowed to be a candidate just because of her name. If she works for the party and goes through the correct processes, she would be a great addition to our MPs in the future.

  • “It’s also more than possible that the party might waive some of the rules”.

    Why ? We are not a plaything for the London Toffs, and I for one am not the least bit dazzled..

  • “Welcome” – really Caron. REALLY?

    This is who you just welcomed and are semi-endorsing as a putative candidate

    Welcome indeed

    “I don’t believe for a second there is a ‘rape culture’ on campus”
    23 Oct 2016

    ” According to the Royal College of Surgeons, the overweight and smokers (let’s call them fattipuffs for short) are becoming ‘soft targets’ for savings.”
    24th April 2016

    “MPs are considering a Private Member’s (no pun intended) Bill to allow folk to ‘become’ whatever gender they feel like, ie men who feel like women can insist that they use Ladies’ bathrooms, or serve their sentence for rape in a women’s prison if they so desire.

    This absolute farrago of fashionable fruitcakery must stop……

    In our anxiety not to offend the misgendered minority, we are allowing misleading language and bullying groupthink to take root and flourish in public life.”
    12th March 2017

    “But a woman is partly responsible for the reactions (welcome or unwelcome) she gets from men if her appearance (whether this is deliberate or not) either solicits their attention, or is a direct grab for it.”
    13th Sept 2015.

  • Stand her in Uxbridge and South Ruislip – no chance of winning but maximum embarrassment for Boris and by extension the Tories!

  • nvelope2003 27th Apr '17 - 9:16pm

    Why not if it helps ? I did not notice our big lead in the polls. Maybe it evaporated while I blinked. For a supposedly radical party the Liberal Democrats are so stuffy and out of touch. Get real.

  • David Blake 27th Apr '17 - 9:22pm

    I’ve been impressed with her appearances on the TV programme The Pledge, where she has clearly shown that she has a good brain and more common sense than her brother Boris. From what I’ve seen she’d be an asset to the party in Parliament, but should probably wait a little while. Maybe she’d be a good candidate for a by-elections in the next Parliament.

  • Well, if you’re reading Rachel (and if not, why not), welcome to the Lib Dems!

    I’m sure other candidates that are immediately suitable for public office will have been given a little push through the system. She’s articulate, has a public persona and would be another voice for us in the media. However I’d imagine there are a lot of journos now going through all Rachel’s past writings, trying to find some juicy titbits with which to beat her (us) with.

  • Ian – well that was the first couple of pages on a train journey home. Whilst there may well be liberally minded Mail columnists – I was sceptical.

    What is worrying reading the above is the total blindness to someone with a bit of celebrity. No-one even stopping to ask whether she holds liberal views before saying she’d make a great MP.

  • @Hywel: Where exactly did I endorse her as a candidate? I simply asked whether the speculation was feasible and suggested that it was unlikely.

    And while I disagree with the views that you quote, I disagree with quite a lot of views in the party.

    Welcoming someone to the party who has just joined to make common cause with us on the issue of the day is polite.

  • Graham Evans 27th Apr '17 - 11:08pm

    @ hywel Perhaps it’s about time the left and centre left had a few more members who are willing to challenge in forthright terms the groupthink which does indeed beset much of the political left.

  • If Stephen Williams wins the West of England Metro Mayor position then there will be a third “West Country” seat in Bristol West. However, will the electorate welcome someone “parachuting” in from London?

  • David Pocock 27th Apr '17 - 11:49pm

    Well I’m liberal. I think anyone on a campus is safer there than the national average. Furthermore there is the privilege of earning a degree and avoiding minimum wages. I don’t believe there is a rape culture in campuses or in Europe to be honest. We are all fortunate to live in the 21 century not the 12 th.

    We are liberals, we should be tolerant of decent and not get into ideological thought bubbles. Look what it has done to labour.

    I will welcome Rachel and anyone who wants to defect and fight brexit.

  • We, surely, are long past April 1st….

  • Lorenzo Cherin 28th Apr '17 - 12:34am

    I am supportive of Caron on this. She knows she and I have had our disagreements, and we both recognise the party is broad and those are nothing personal!

    She is correct that we can believe in things as individuals in a Liberal Democratic party that is right !

    Rachel Johnson , like her other family members, and please do not , forget Stanley, speaks off the top of her head in a familiar and friendly way even when sounding negative, she seems almost positive.

    I for one am glad we have one of that rather idiosyncratic family .

    Welcome , Rachel !

  • “It’s also more than possible that the party might waive some of the rules if she were licensed for one election to contest a specific seat.”
    Then what is the point of having rules? I’m sure many of the good people who have joined since the Brexit vote would love to be a candidate but have accepted the rules with good grace. What message do we send to them if we make an exception for a London journalist with a famous Tory brother?
    If Rachel is joining us because she is truly committed to our values, great. If she just wants to be an MP and sees us as a stepping stone, not great. Either way, there should be no question of waiving any rules. If that happens I think there will be serious disquiet in the party.

  • David Evans 28th Apr '17 - 1:35am

    Of course Caron, you were not endorsing her and Hywel should know better. No you just produced an article entitled “Could Rachel Johnson stand as a Liberal Democrat candidate,” in the run up to a general election, and you consider “it is perfectly possible that she would be eligible in Scotland.” In addition you opine “Getting approved is another barrier, but not an insurmountable one,” and “It’s also more than possible that the party might waive some of the rules if she were licensed for one election to contest a specific seat.”

    So no confusion there then.

  • I don’t even know where to begin with that Caron. I’m just incredibly disappointed in you.

  • david.spafford 28th Apr '17 - 8:40am

    Three siblings in parliament, one must be a Lib Dem. As always our problem will be getting recognition, Rachel will bring a high profile. If she is willing to stand for the party there are seat who have lost there PPC and are looking for a candidate, were the proses will need to be shortened irrespective who is to stand, Rachel Should be offered one of these.

  • Andy Coleby 28th Apr '17 - 8:52am

    Good news about Rachel as any publicity is good publicity fof the Liberal Democrats as DisMay is hogging the headlines with her bland mush.
    Hopefully Boris will soon make an announcement: he is going to join the circus – he would make a fantastic clown.

  • Andy Coleby 28th Apr ’17 – 8:52am…………..Good news about Rachel as any publicity is good publicity fof the Liberal Democrats as DisMay is hogging the headlines with her bland mush……….

    Hardly! Any such announcement would be, rightly, derided as a ‘stunt’… As for ‘any’ publicity; we have had far too much negative attention recently; even talking about ‘amending the rules to allow another Johnson self-publicist media space would be a mistake….

  • Matt (Bristol) 28th Apr '17 - 11:19am

    It’s great that she’s joined, as a high-profile media cheer-leader, but if Rachel Johnson (or the Bristol-educated Bob Marshall-Andrews) really wants to be our candidate for MP for Bath, she should get down to this region in the next week and campaign for Stephen Williams for Metro-Mayor.

    And I dare say Yeovil LibDems would welcome some help with the council elections I think they have there.

    LibDems across this area are dead busy right now, and that work could really help build momentum for the general election.

    Loads of people are joining us — but they are putting in the hard yards persuading people on the doorstep, not just on twitter.

  • Sue Sutherland 28th Apr '17 - 1:37pm

    I watched Rachel Johnson talking about Brexit and didn’t doubt her sincere emotion about the EU, however I was glad that the party had commented that candidates have to have been a member for a year before they can become a PPC. It showed us sticking to our principles rather than falling over backwards that someone famous and grand wanted to be a member. I imagine that neither she nor our party knows what she thinks about any of our other important policies and I can imagine Parliamentary party meetings becoming rather difficult over questions of social justice, for example. I’m very sorry if I malign her but hope we can avoid being bounced into making the wrong decision.

  • Andy Coleby 28th Apr '17 - 1:42pm

    In response to my posting.
    I sometimes get the feeling that a number of contributors are closet Tories.
    If people were more positive it would be a real bonus to the LibDems.
    We need all the publicity we can get faced with appallingly biased Tory newspapers who peddle lies and worship a Tory leader who is utterly colourless and is a puppet on Lynton Crosby’s strings.

  • nvelope2003 28th Apr '17 - 3:20pm

    It seems a bit churlish to make a big issue of how long she has been an actual member of the party. Some of the party members seem to be able to become candidates then back out when it no longer suits them even though money had been spent on publicising them. This will make the party look absurd and already has.
    There should certainly be an in depth interview with her to find out her real views and intentions and if she cannot satisfy the committee or whoever is responsible then she should be asked to wait until a suitable opportunity arises. In case anyone has not noticed there is a General Election on 8th June so waiting a year for a suitable person would be a bit silly. It seems to me that those who post on here regard the party as some sort of social club where arguments about archaic points of procedure go on for hours and honest people walk away shaking their heads in dismay. No wonder there are only 9 MPs and nothing is going to change any time soon.

  • Just a few other matters: few Liberal Democrat candidates have the media following or reporting their local or our national campaigns to any extent; the BBC [especially] finds ways to limit LD air-time unless there is a scandal of some sort; it’s hard to get our policies heard as we don’t have our own newspaper outlet. So we must take every opportunity to raise our profile.
    Because of these and other issues, our candidates and supporters must work harder than several other parties. Having over 100,000 members gives us a great chance to be heard more if we keep our message clear and simple. I support having more high-profile candidates who have a clear and simple message which helps to get us heard in the right ways.

  • Ruth Bright 28th Apr '17 - 4:17pm

    David Becket – is it not possible for us to natter about celebs/chew gum and deliver FOCUS at the same time? Perhaps we need an LDV “swearbox” where the Ward whingers (I plead guilty) and Daisy defenders (also, guilty as charged) stop our yacking and do something useful as penance. Last time I was a miserable old bat to another party member I sent The Manchester Gorton campaign £25 to assuage my guilt. It works a treat!

  • @Andy, I’m not sure you can call people closet Tories because they are wary about parachuting a wealthy, well connected sibling of two Tory MPs into a prominent role in the party. The bigger concern is whether she too is a Tory at heart, but is sufficiently against Brexit to punish them with a high profile publicity stunt?

    And yes, this move would get a lot of attention, and probably a lot more attention than our actual policies on Brexit, never mind anything else. The LibDems should be a broad church, and so no member ought to parrot the party line at all times, and yet we would be extremely vulnerable should she, quite innocently, have a public opinion that contradicts one of our core values.

    Unless we are absolutely desperate for candidates (and it would look desperate), I suggest we welcome her to the party and enjoy the publicity that comes with it, and hope she does a few interviews where she says nice things about us, and effectively communicates some of our policies that she’s most interested in. If she’s still interested after this election, I’m sure there’s a role for her. She has considerable understanding of the media, and is an effective communicator, and that’s a huge chunk of modern politics. However, it’s not the whole story, and I think the public are crying out for a different sort of MP.

  • Katharine Pindar 28th Apr '17 - 7:07pm

    No, Andy Coleby, we don’t need ‘all the publicity we can get’, only the right publicity, and in my opinion if there were a fast-track process to make a newcomer a candidate because people may have heard of her and be interested in the association with her brother the publicity would be all wrong. Thank goodness the party rule is for her to wait a year, during which time we can see if she upholds the party values and principles and is willing to work for us. I was horrified to read it mooted that she or her cheer-leaders might have thought of her taking on Yeovil, that former seat of our great warrior, Paddy Ashdown, and his distinguished successor David Laws who did so much for us in the Coalition government.

  • “There should certainly be an in depth interview with her to find out her real views and intentions”

    Under party rules, membership requires acceptance by the enrolling body – in theory in England the local party should decide this though it usually happens by default. Her views quoted above have been passed to Tim Gordon to raise when this happens (if it hasn’t already).

  • I must admit it is the very first time that my opinion could be construed as that of a Tory (closet, or otherwise)…
    Sadly, for some, a difference of opinion MUST be motivated by outside ‘dark forces’….As was shown between 2010 and 2015, the ‘broad church’ can become rather ‘narrow’..

  • I might fancy standing on June 8th. Member for over a year (over 35 actually). Not gone through the approval process. Perhaps the requirement is not insurmountable …


  • Too risky; the temptation of a little more media coverage (most of which arising from her defection we have already had) just isn’t worth it. Her own description of her decision on Marr as being a single-election “protest vote” and general ignorance of the LibDem campaign themes confirmed the good sense of our internal rules on candidate selection.

  • Jayne Mansfield 30th Apr '17 - 10:46am

    Having been informed on here that Tim Farron was appearing on the Andrew Marr show, I have just watched it.

    If what we learned from Rachel Johnson’s comments on the show are anything to go by , she has done the party no favours by taking up membership. The idea that she might be fast-tracked is quite unbelievable.

    Some privileged people with right wing views oppose Brexit. We already know that.

  • Neil Sandison 30th Apr '17 - 1:43pm

    I am sure we will put her to good use in Kensington and Chelsea where she lives but it is the responsibility of her region and local party what role she should play we must be careful of not being dragged into the cult of personalty and up hold our constitution to ensure all members get fair and equal treatment .

  • @ Neil Sandison. “I am sure we will put her to good use in Kensington and Chelsea”

    Is poor old Fulham below the salt ?

  • Jayne Mansfield 30th Apr '17 - 3:06pm

    @ Steve Way,
    If you watched the Marr show this morning, Owen Jones asked asked Rachel Jonson the direct question.

    ‘Why don’t you stand in Uxbridge?.


    ‘There was a very, very good candidate in Uxbridge who had a stonking majority when he was re-elected in 2015’.

    I thought that there was something very Freudian about that answer, given that Owen was clearly meaning standing as a Liberal Democrat candidate.

  • Richard Underhill 30th Apr '17 - 7:17pm

    Neil: She was the editor of The Lady, a magazine which has a bridge column.
    All her family are pre-European’s, as we found out when Labour MP Alan Johnson asked a question in the Commons. Boris was unusually shy.

  • Richard Underhill 30th Apr '17 - 7:39pm

    Typo, sorry. Pro-European

  • Ruth Bright 30th Apr '17 - 8:37pm

    Purely from her Sunday political television appearances today I thought she was largely mainstream Lib Dem but with a better turn of phrase! Tim Farron said on Andrew Marr that she is a “blessing” which was rather sweet. Bit of a cheek mentioning her for Mayor when we already have Caroline thank you very much.

  • Jayne Mansfield 1st May '17 - 12:47pm

    In a party that professes to believe in equality of opportunity, would Rachel Johnson have been involved in discussions on the waiving of rules that would prevent her from being fast-tracked as a candidate ‘in the West Country’, if she wasn’t the sister of two tory MPs, one of them Boris Johnson?

    I have always enjoyed Rachel Johnson’s sparky appearances on TV, but I am afraid that in my opinion, Rachel displays an incredible sense of entitlement if she believes that it is correct for rules to be waived so that she has another platform for her views.

    Aren’t there any excellent potential candidates for winnable seats who have already proved their belief in Liberal Democrat values through argument and the effort that is needed to advance them?

    It seems to me , that when push comes to shove, the party is as guilty of cant as any other party.

  • She has described her joining the LibDems as “for now” and her voting LibDem this time as a “one-election” “protest vote”. When asked on Marr she admitted ignorance of our policies other than on Brexit. We would be mad to allow her a prominent role in promoting our party to the electorate given that her allegiance is by her own confession so obviously temporary.

  • Peter Watson 1st May '17 - 4:13pm

    @Ian “She has described her joining the LibDems as “for now” and her voting LibDem this time as a “one-election” “protest vote”. When asked on Marr she admitted ignorance of our policies other than on Brexit.”
    Unfortunately, that makes her sound perfectly qualified to represent the Lib Dems in the forthcoming General Election. 🙁

  • Just discovered that the Viscountess Downe (for that is she) is married to the 12th Viscount Downe……… to which 12 successive Viscounts my family has paid dues and rent to as Lords of the Manor on the family farm on the North Yorkshire Moors since 1709. Touch of forlock, grateful thanks.

    PS. Great Great Granddad (a good Methodist and a Radical) walked fifty miles to York in 1840 to demand the vote and to protest at the imprisonment of the Chartist Leader Feargus O’Connor in York Castle…… took another 27 years to get said vote though.

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