How not to motivate your exhausted, defeated candidates…

Let’s be honest, every single person who stood for the Liberal Democrats at the last election is a superstar. It would have been all to easy for people to decide to sit this one out because it was unlikely that we were ever going to make much in the way of progress outside our held seats. As it turned out, despite all the effort that wonderful teams on the ground put in, our parliamentary ranks were much depleted.

Yes, we will fight back, but we are all still really feeling it. Ed’s poignant piece On Being Beaten outlined the far-reaching effects of a bruising electoral defeat. At this time the Liberal Democrat family needs to be pulling together and looking after each other.

Sadly, looking after each other is something we haven’t been so good at in the past. We’ve tended to leave people who have put everything into their campaigns to lick their own wounds when they’ve lost, without showing enough appreciation and gratitude.

I thought we’d done better this time. Our peers, who were also campaign superstars, campaigning up and down the country, spent the weekend after the election phoning and thanking every candidate. I know how much that meant to my two.

It really looked like we had learned something. Another good thing about this election was that there were no inappropriate campaign emails to devastated members, candidates and activists. That is, until yesterday.

After every election, candidates are always asked to give feedback on the campaign and local parties are asked to give a report on their candidates. So far, so routine. Except yesterday’s “invitation” to participate was written in a most unappealing and demotivating manner, threatening people that if they didn’t complete the process (with one deadline being next Monday), they’d be dumped from the approved list. Here’s an excerpt:

All candidates must complete the review or they will not be returned to the approved candidate list and will be unable to stand as a Liberal Democrat candidate again without attending an assessment day and starting from scratch.

And, later on…

These reviews will go live on Survey Monkey in a few days time and everyone involved must complete the review by July 18th.  Then the responses will be collated by the Candidates Office and each Regional Candidates Committee will look at the results and decide whether each candidate should be returned to the approved list.  We expect to complete the review for most candidates well before the end of 2015.

Can I stress again, that completing this review is not optional.  If you fail to complete and return the review survey you will automatically be removed from the approved candidates list. It is also essential that we receive input from at least two of the three local party nominees, so that a balanced review can be carried out.

It’s all a bit threatening, isn’t it? These people have just done us a big favour, stepping up and representing us in the toughest election we’ve faced in 35 years and they get told if they don’t complete the first part of this review within one week, they’ll be junked.

At no point did the word “Please” appear to  even soften the blow.

This should have started with a “Thank you so much…we know we didn’t get the result we wanted but we will fight back and we know that our performance was not down to the hard work and effort of you and your teams.”

As one candidate replied:

… not only was I a heavily defeated candidate at the election, I was also agent for 3 other candidates and during the 2010-2015 Parliament I both delivered RO training and was an RO for a selection to help with that process too.  I also helped find licensed candidates in the final months running up to the election for other regions.  I did all of that as a volunteer.  Not only did this email disrespect me, but, far more importantly, it disrespected every single one of the 631 candidates that stood for the Liberal Democrats in 2015.  They deserved better.

It’s worth pointing out that the Scottish candidates team insisted on a gentler approach to Scottish candidates. I have asked English Candidates’ Chair Richard Brett for a comment and will let you know if I receive one from him.

I don’t believe for one moment that anyone went out to try and anger and demotivate our candidates, but that is the effect. I hope that this does not drive people away. Action is required to limit some of the damage that has been caused.  If it is not forthcoming, some may decide that we need them more than they need us.

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

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  • Peter Andrews 19th May '15 - 4:43pm

    Utterly ridiculous, do they not realise candidates are doing the Party a favour by standing not the Party doing them a favour by letting them stand when all but a handful of seats are unlikely to be winnable.

    An apology email should be sent and a much nicer request to please fill in the surveys if they could possibly find the time .

  • David Pollard 19th May '15 - 4:49pm

    Caron insist on a reply to your question.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 19th May '15 - 4:54pm

    To be fair, I only asked Richard this morning. I’d initially emailed what I thought was his email address last night, but wanted to check I’d got the right person before launching into details. He confirmed it was this morning and I emailed him back with details shortly afterwards.

    He may not have had the time yet to respond to me fully.

  • Bothering with a review process in paper seats, which lets face it was the majority last time, is pointless. In 2010 one of our local councillors who wanted to progress and stand in a winnable seat was flabbergasted at receiving a negative review for his paper campaign. He had done the party a favour. He quite rightly spent his time in target seats (winning both) rather than wasting his time in a no-hoper. Then got a slap in the face. He refused to do the same thing again this time.

    Also why now – the big questions are not what happened in the hundreds of unwinnable seats but what went wrong in the centre and how do we rebuild. I’d scrap the entire process and focus on things that are important.

  • Perhaps this kind of thing is something to ask the leadership candidates about; it’s the latest in a series of missteps.

  • I am afraid this is par for the course. A very heavy handed approach by people who, one can only assume, have absolutely no idea what being a parliamentary candidate is like. It is often justified by the assumption that parliamentary candidates benefit from the experience and the training they get access to and so therefore candidates should do what they are told. There is also an implicit assumption that the party is doing the candidates a favour, rather than the other way round, which is absolutely the case in the overwhelming majority of constituencies.
    Of course there are many benefits, but being a parliamentary candidate is often a very lonely existence. It can be stressful, especially from the perspective of knowing how to manage one’s time, especially during the “short” election campaign. Many candidates will, I’m sure, be questioning whether their commitment over the last weeks, months and years was worthwhile, rather than worrying about filling this questionnaire. What makes it worse is that the process, which could provide valuable feedback to candidates keen to learn, is useless. After the last election, I was told that one of my strengths was my links with local media and one of the areas where I could improve was – yes – my links with local media.
    For this to be a serious and worthwhile exercise, the candidates office et al need to do more than collect feedback, tick boxes, and copy and paste any comments back to the candidates.

  • paul barker 19th May '15 - 5:11pm

    I am a bit touchy about these things but if I had got that mail my immiediate response would have been to resign from their list & send them a very rude reply. Whoever approved that should get the boot, if payed or retraining, if a volounteer.
    As others have said, our big problem was the national message & our willingness to believe the polls, our own included.

  • Ruth Bright 19th May '15 - 5:14pm

    Yup I got the telling off e-mail before the election that my status would be suspended for sitting out two General Elections. One of those I “sat out” because of maternity leave. I asked for my candidate status to be labelled as “on maternity leave” when my son was six months old but the person I spoke to from the Candidates’ Office had no idea what I was talking about when I checked this recently. As for my local party – it was eight years before anyone knocked on the door to see if the baby and I were OK!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • The candidates office works VERY hard all year round. Instead of hating on administrative staff look at the context of the WHOLE email. Nobody is disputing the hard work that all the amazing candidates put in….

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 19th May '15 - 5:23pm

    Anon101: I can post the whole email if you would like. I’m afraid this one has no saving graces whatsoever. It was a mistake and not the fault of admin staff who just sent it out.

  • Elizabeth Jewkes 19th May '15 - 5:26pm

    I received a similar email in 2010 and raised the issue at a GE review meeting. That email was one of the reasons I decided not to re-stand in 2015. I was persuaded by Region to stand and was appalled to receive this nasty little email yesterday. How about we organise a boycott of the survey? They can’t sack all surely? We need to get our comms right. Bullying and threatening candidates is not the way to go. This morning, I emailed Sal Brinton to complain and am awaiting her response.

  • Eddie Sammon 19th May '15 - 5:30pm

    Don’t you mean May 18th? If it is July 18th I don’t see a big problem with it.

    I know it’s nothing to do with me, but it might be a bit confusing to those watching. As you say though, it could have been more polite.

    Thanks to all the candidates, even at least one commenting on here. You deserve real rewards.

  • Eddie Sammon 19th May '15 - 5:34pm

    Sorry! One deadline being next Monday. I see. Got confused. My bad. Yes, that is a bit soon and harsh.

  • Nigel Quinton 19th May '15 - 5:37pm

    Hmm. I had not read the email until I saw Caron’s piece here, I had just parked it in a folder for future reference. Just as well, as if I had read it cold I think I would have been joining the flood of indignation aimed at poor Arfan and his entirely overworked team in the Candidates Office. The point is, it is not just PPCs who have worked their socks off, everyone has. Maybe what we all need most of all is an anti-indignation pill!

    That said, I agree with the comment above that there is no point conducting detailed reviews in any but the target seats. My campaign was rubbish, I was doing as I was told and helping out in the target seat(s) next door. In both cases we came third, but I would still hold that the policy was right in the circumstances.

    What we should be reviewing is how those circumstances came about. How was it that after five years in government our electoral prospects were so bad that the only sensible course of action was to focus on held seats plus a handful of ‘winnable’ seats? How was it that in almost every other constituency our activist base had been allowed to dwindle to almost nada? How was it that we refused to recognise the bleedin’ obvious and elect a new leader in mid parliament rather than endure five years of electoral disaster before being forced to act. Even now I do wonder if Nick had not resigned that some would be calling for him to remain as leader. But I am becoming indignant – where are those pills…?

  • I used to work in the candidates office, and whilst this email isn’t exactly tactful it is honest about the process and how it works. The candidates office is currently only staffed by 1 admin person 2.5 days a week so it’s certainly not their fault. Similarly all the Candidates Chairs are volunteers doing all this in their spare time and they’re probably equally knackered after the election. So really it’s just one hard working part of the party having a go at another for an – admittedly badly worded – email, so we should probably all calm down a bit.

    I can be as guilty as anyone of flying off the handle at things like this but I always try to calm myself down and remember that we’re all in this together.

    Also, this time around paper candidates are completely exempt – as has been explained in a subsequent email – so it is worth checking if you even have to take part at all. Ultimately this is the process that has been in place for years and is simply being enacted, if you don’t like it lobby the English Candidates Committee or stand for a position, or if you’re really not happy then try and change the process by how it’s decided completely. We’re a democratic party after all.

    …Or we could just all agree it was poorly worded and move on?

  • Kevin McNamara 19th May '15 - 5:48pm

    Carl Q, what is a paper candidate? I wasn’t standing in a winnable seat, am I a paper candidate?

  • Richard Marbrow 19th May '15 - 5:56pm

    Carl – I don’t think this is people just ‘having a go’. It is people letting a group of candidates who just received a really dispiriting email that it isn’t just them that feel demotivated and that a number of us are not happy about it.

    There have been a number of responses to that email sent directly in – mine certainly did not have a go at the member of staff and very clearly said that the Chair of ECC should reflect. As far as I am aware, none of those complaints have yet received any sort of response and this article is the next step.

    There is a review process to be done, there is no real clarity as to who needs to go through that process ( we could all self define as paper candidates) but this is not the right way of doing it. You are right that candidates office is understaffed and has been badly treated by the Federal/English Party as a whole but 2,5 days per week is a good sight more than the people receiving the email get paid for!

    No-one is “hating on” the staff but equally that email should never have gone out. Is it not right that that is pointed out?

  • @Kevin McNamara asked a good question. In this context, what is a paper candidate? I doubt there were many who literally did nothing. I was appointed in January, put out a constituency-wide, unaddressed Freepost, attended hustings, did some local media. I assume I am a paper candidate, but I am not sure tbh. And what about someone who was selected a year ago, maybe did more than I did, but was in an utterly unwindable seat; is that a paper candidacy in this instance? There was no clarity in the follow-up email explaining who was excused from the process.

  • Ok, as chair of the PCA, and a member of ECC on whose behalf this email went out, as well as a GE and local agent, AND a deposit-losing 2015 candidate myself, let me attempt to put the other side of this.
    I do think ECC values candidates. Everyone on ECC is a volunteer, apart from the 1/2 person who is all that is left of paid staff to support candidates (the full time person left in Feb and recruitment put on hold because just not manageable during a GE campaign). No intention to upset anyone, although I can see in hindsight that the tone of the email was not great. But there is a reason why people need to fill in the review: because we don’t want hopeless people representing the party. I have already asked about parachuted and paper candidates, and been assured that they will get a light touch review, as it wouldn’t be fair to judge them on the same basis as candidates who had been in place for a while.
    But what you need to understand also is that there are a large number of people on the approved list who didn’t stand, and who didn’t stand last time. Sometimes this is because they couldn’t (job, health etc) but sometimes it’s because they wouldn’t (one newly approved candidate, for example, said they only wanted to apply for winnable seats!). If too long elapses between approval and standing, and if you have no history of activity as a candidate, are you really still ok to remain on the list? Will you know what you are doing? If you repeatedly refused to stand at election after election, should you remain on the list? RCCs spent hours and hours and hours chasing candidates to stand for some of our less promsing seats. Many candidates never even phoned or emailed back, or responded to a single plea from the party. Are they all suitable to remain on the list? How do we know unless we have some sort of review process? What is the point of the party having a long list of approved candidates if a significant portion of it consists of people who have no intention of ever standing again? It gives us a completely false picture of how many candidates we need to get approved to fill all the seats. It also creats a large amount of unnecessary administration.

    I wasn’t part of the party process at previous GE, although I was a candidate in 2005 and 2010., so I can’t answer for what happened in Ruth’s case. Staff have changed since then, more than once. But I am sure that now everyone would happily accept that there was a legitimate reason why she did not want to stand and she would not be penalised in any way for it and would remain on the list.
    It really isn’t that the party doesn’t value candidates. Honest. Lots of other things may have gone and will go wrong, but please don’t think the email was worded like that out of contempt. It absolutely wasn’t. Incompetence, exhaustion, empathy failure maybe. But not contempt.

  • John Vincent 19th May '15 - 6:11pm

    Yes, I parked that e-mail and didn’t take it in until re-reading. It reminds me of some of the HR departments I’ve encountered in the past. Process becomes all. People become the barrier to the completion of a process in the minds of those tasked. Our leadership has to grasp this problem and stop it. All it takes is a little sensitivity. Most candidates are happy to help with a review if only they are asked as fellow human beings. Just say something about the positive benefits of an honest review. Offer some positive and supportive feedback.

  • Zack Polanski 19th May '15 - 6:27pm

    Liberal Democrats, especially, don’t seem to like being told what to do.

    Who knew?

  • Yeah, ‘paper candidate’ is broadly accepted to mean somebody whose role in the election begins and ends with signing nomination papers. I doubt there were any candidates who didn’t attend a single hustings or reply to a single email. If the candidates office meant non target candidates they could have said that. I’ve still yet to hear anybody tell me whether I was a ‘paper candidate’ or not and thus how threatened I should feel by the initial email. If anybody knows, do let me know.

  • Quite honestly, after the complete failure of HQ to perceive let alone understand how the public felt for four long years, can we be surprised that this sort of thing happens. They just do not seem to understand the recipient or how others will perceive the message, where or whoever that is. Wholesale changes are required including sensitivity training. I suspect there has been a wee climate of bullying going on. We know what is required, best or needed, the rest of you just fall into line, The style and tone of this missive suggest the pattern is continuing. Sometimes this starts at the top and trickles down. Let us hope the new leader deals firmly with this, professional efficiency is one thing people management is another..

  • May I suggest that any official communication from Party HQ be attributed, in the communication itself, to the responsible official authorising it, so that there’s a particular name associated with it (not that of a low-level staff member or volunteer) who can be called to answer for the contents?

  • I hope people read what Prue said carefully.

    The point about people refusing to stand seems quite important. If you do not know how many people are really available to stand, then it is hard to plan.

    Those who still feel the phrasing was wrong, what alternative would be better which still achieves the goal of knowing how many to recruit for a coming election?

  • Ruth Bright 19th May '15 - 7:49pm

    Thanks Prue – the problem is that with the issue I raised the party has no formal rules/protections.

  • it is wearying how the party admin continues, amazingly, stubbornly, to carry on as though nothing should change and seeks to blame anything/everything when it gets caught out.

    Prue, please define what you think you mean when you say ‘we don’t want hopeless people’ in your message above, in reference to people who had the bottle to stand for the party this year.

    Are hopeless people those who do not fill in rudely phrased forms?

  • Theakes – absolutely, and if the necesary changes are resisted, compulsory training in dignity at work and customer services – though how it should have come to this!

  • Tony Dawson 19th May '15 - 8:17pm

    Might not this discussion be better held in a members only forum?

    But now the genie is out of the bottle, I find Pru Bray’s comments beyond any kind of credulity. Why is it at all important at this time to review candidates, possibly 100 at the absolute maximum, whose performance could have made the slightest difference at all to the Lib Dems’ 2015 electoral rout? Pru talks about ‘candidates’ as if they are some kind of soap powder to be shipped around the country to fill gaps. This is no part of any Liberal philosophy or any part of any genuine Lib Dem strategy worth considering for one moment. Candidates who simply want to be MPs and have no genuine connection with specific constituencies and their communities are more than likely to be basically narcissists.

    Someone somewhere in our Party decided that it was worth throwing away hundreds of deposits this election to maintain the illusion, at least with themselves and a handful of mates, that we were still a serious national party with pretensions of particpating in government. No one qualified and independent took this seriously but, for those involved, this pretence was apparently important enough to pour thousands of pounds down the plug hole and tie up otherwise useful people. So two or three hundred good men and women true had to be recruited to sublimate their egos and put their names forward to appear on ballot papers in places where they had zero connection and even less hope of success. The idea that anyone should even attempt to ‘rate’ such people right now is ludicrous however politiely they put their enquiries. Given that even excellent candidates such as Steve Webb and Vince Cable were thrown out as a consequence of the ineptitude of the Coalition performance over five years, what is the point of making any attempt whatsoever to assess candidates of lesser genius?

  • Tony Greaves 19th May '15 - 8:20pm

    What no-one has yet pointed out is that the body that is responsible for candidate in England is the English Party. So why is anyone surprised when they send out such a bureaucratic and offensive letter? The English Party is a useless – no not useless, positively harmful – part of our party structure that needs to be done away with.

    One excuse that appears a few times above is that the people in charge of candidates are very busy. Well, yes, a lot of people in the party have been very busy of late. That is no excuse for unacceptable behaviour towards large numbers of party activists. But you don’t write a letter in these terms because you are too busy. Being polite and supportive takes no more time than being off-hand, bureaucratic and insulting. It’s a matter of the mind-processes of the person who wrote the letter.

    On the other hand, it may be part of the general disregard for activists – indeed contempt in some cases – that has crept into too much of the upper nomenclatura in the party in recent years.

    Tony Greaves

  • Jackie Pearcey 19th May '15 - 8:44pm

    The problem is, Prue that this email went out to people who stepped up to the plate and stood, not those who stood aside this time so as not to blot their records.

  • Keith House 19th May '15 - 9:24pm

    All of this yet again demonstrates the need for a fundamental review of the entire party’s organisation and the culling of needless tiers . South Central voted for a cull of the English Party a couple of years back. The whole debacle of candidates for this election in England is a case-study of process over objective, despite the efforts of lots of good people.

  • Lorraine Johnson 19th May '15 - 10:44pm

    I must admit this email really worried me as It said not only did I need to respond but also my agent, campaign manager & chairman. I wrote back to say I didn’t have a campaign manager & my agents contract finished on Friday & he is now abroad in holiday & to ask where was the link as since they’d worried me I’d like to know the scope of the questionnaire, I got a reply back saying the link would be emailed I could nominate anyone who was closely involved & they could wait for my agent to get back, No offer to pay him though. Really fed up now & instead of concentrating on contacting all the new members & organising a welcome event & thankyou event for everyone who helped in my campaign I’m wondering should I bother 🙁

  • Robin McGhee 19th May '15 - 11:14pm

    I was actually inclined to not be too critical of the tone of the email given how difficult it is to communicate with candidates, as Prue says above. While I now think I was being rather too generous, this is something to bear in mind.

    On the other hand I don’t see why the party needs to get candidates to reply to something at this stage with such immense urgency. And why should responding to a survey be the reason they get thrown off the list- can’t there just be a policy of non-communication meaning automatic resignation, or something. Anyway, this could continue for many moons…

  • Theo Butt Philip Theo Butt Philip 19th May '15 - 11:42pm

    I do not see how the issue of people who are on the approved list but did not stand is relevant to this email. I cannot imagine people who didn’t stand are being asked to fill in a survey about their campaign or that the chair of their (non-existent) local party will, or that their (non-existent) agent will or that they will be asked to nominate someone involved in their (non-existent) campaign to fill in a survey about them. If there are lots of people who are on the list but don’t want to stand, that is a separate issue wholly unrelated to how those of us who did stand are treated.

  • I wasn’t a candidate. I’m ‘just’ a member and activist, so I have no particular axe to grind.
    This email is rude, officious and insensitive. It gives the impression that the party thinks candidates are children.
    Look at the size of this thread, and the amount of energy it has taken up. All of this could have been avoided with a bit of basic courtesy. How depressing that we are even having to have this discussion!
    Nigel Quinton – I’ll do a deal with you. I’ll take your indignation pill. But only if you spike the coffee at ECC with a courtesy and sensitivity pill first!

  • Gareth Epps 20th May '15 - 7:34am

    I am not, and have never been a member of the Parliamentary Candidates’ Association. The comments by its chair explain why; it is an entirely peripheral, irrelevant organisation.

  • OK, what do I mean by hopeless people? People who cause major embarrassment to the party by their actions. There are one or two every election or cause major problems in other ways. There isn’t a set of rules for judging them because each case is different,. We also need to clear out of the lists of candidates people who do not want to be candidates.
    As for why we need to do this now, it is because next year we have London Assembly and devolved parliamentary elections and PCC elections, and the candidates for those have to be put in place as soon as possible. We need to weed out any problematic candidates as quickly as possible – the review is already having to be conducted in parallel with the setting up of the early part of the selection process.
    I understand why people are upset. To those of you on the rantier side of this thread, have you never made a mistake yourselves? The RCCs on ECC have half-killed themselves AS VOLUNTEERS getting candidates in the past 2 years. It’s a thankless task. Literally. Cut them some slack, for goodness sake. Or try being one yourselves?

  • I guess we are all feeling pretty bruised, and people at the offices in London are likely to be feeling that particularly acutely. I am wondering whether this rather tactless email makes sense as part of people in London feeling bruised, and our reactions show our bruises.

    We do need to think about the future — to remind ourselves that this is a setback and not the end — but possibly also to allow ourselves to get it wrong at this stage.

  • George Crozier 20th May '15 - 9:37am

    Wording of the letter could no doubt have been better but I would like to speak up in favour of the principle of (light touch) reviews of even paper candidacies after elections, as well as the process of candidate – local party compacts to ensure realistic expectations on both sides. From memory it allows candidates to comment on local parties too, if they feel unsupported or otherwise badly treated.

    Also huge thanks to regional candidates chairs (especially Brian Orrell in London) AND all who stood for all their work ensuring everyone in the country got an opportunity to vote Liberal Democrat (even if enthusiasm for taking up this opportunity was not as great as we might have wished).

  • Ah come on guys its not that bad, its just a bit officious. I stood in completely forlorn hope of a seat this election and got this letter too. As Mark Wright said above I laughed at it, filed it and will get round to it at some point.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 20th May '15 - 10:18am

    @Prue Bray: Thank you for all you have done for this election. I spent four years as Scotland’s Campaigns and Candidates Convener so I know exactly how intense a job it is. My goal was always to support my candidates in whatever way I could. Of course there were issues which needed to be addressed in a fair and professional manner from time to time. I was keen to promote a team ethos and to try and ensure that the candidates felt that we in the Scottish Party had their backs.

    You recognise yourself that the email was poorly worded. My friendly advice would be that ECC should put out a genuine, heartfelt apology for its tone and the sooner the better. The longer this goes on the more problems it will cause and quick action will earn ECC respect. Everyone makes mistakes. It’s the manner in which we deal with them that matters.

  • I was just about to start the processes of applying for approval so I can stand as a paper candidate in the Welsh Assembly elections and help our local regional candidate get elected. This makes me wonder whether I should bother putting myself out. I probably still will, but it’s not inspiring. I’ll certainly be interested to hear if they start de-approving paper candidates for not putting in enough effort…

  • John Skipworth 20th May '15 - 11:52am

    As both a candidate and an assessor I see the importance of a review process following the General Election. My understanding is that the review will be led by Regional Candidates Chairs in England and by the state parties.

    I am somewhat surprised that the email has caused such a furore, I have received thanks for flying the Liberal Democrat flag from various sources; from our President Sal Brinton’,a peer, my region and an 80 year old local resident!

    Yes, my deposit was lost but the local votes gained will contribute to our ‘Short’ money receipst and there is a base to build on for the future.

  • James Sandbach 20th May '15 - 12:05pm

    I don’t object in principle and candidate evaluation is necessary but I think this communication kicking of the candidate review process went out way too soon post-election, and should have waited at least until June, with all messages to candidates in the remainder of May being ones of support, thanks, commiseration and signposting to mentoring sources for dealing with post election blues and life re-adjustments etc. It’s also soon because because election and expenses returns from agents and candidates, other winding-up business, candidates reporting back to their local execs, compliance issues, thank-you parties etc haven’t even been completed yet. I don’t understand the rush when the whole process can be comfortably completed by the end of the year. In the meantime candidates should be offered opportunities for support, offloading, debriefing etc through sympathetic channels.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 20th May '15 - 12:17pm

    @paulL: I suspect lessons will be learned from this but in any event there is a separate candidates’ process in Wales.

  • PaulL: Go for it. Candidate Approval & Selection is a state matter not a federal one and the Welsh Party will not be de-approving anyone….. [in a personal capacity]

  • I parked the first e-mail, but then received another saying that paper candidates were exempt. So I assume I am not required to do any feedback; in any case from my own point of view there is very little to say on the organisation.
    One factor often forgotten is the small number of activists; this year I was a paper candidate for GE and organising my own local campaign and overseeing others; in 2010 I was an active GE candidate and simultaneously organising and doing (door, knocking, publishing all the leaflets and letters etc.) an intense local campaign for one of our local councillors; it was extremely tough.
    However, there is a need to review our party bureaucracy, such as PCA and English Party and more encouragement needed to local parties. For example, what is wrong with a local party of say 20 members, if 6 of them are very active ? Instead of discouraging them they should be allowed a voting rep at conference and given any year round help they need ? That rule about 30 members should be got rid of.
    It may not be a positive thing to say now, but I agree with Nigel Quinton about the inability of too many in the party to make a fuss mid-term about the mistaken way our leader was presenting us. I tried it in our region and was prevented from even getting it debated.

  • I am wondering if the 13,000 new members would want to read this on the LDV website? I suppose it is worth pointing out that email and social media in general are prone to misunderstandings and unintentional offensiveness. In this particular case a mistake was made in an email. To infer from that along that the whole structure of the party has to change is going a bit far, although there may be other reasons why this needs to happen.

  • david thorpe 20th May '15 - 3:22pm

    I could not, as a PPC, be more furious about this. Threatening me with exlusion from somehting at the whim of someone called Richard Breet, of whom I have never heard.

    I have passed the email to the pastoral care officer.

  • Sadie Smith 20th May '15 - 4:14pm

    Please talk to Regional officers.

  • I didn’t stand this tim because it would have created difficulties with my employer. I also felt that my time was best spent campaigning directly for others (as my local party recommended), and indirectly with Team 2015. I did stand last year as a paper Council candidate, and intend standing for next year’s GLA.

    So, with that limited but hopefully useful insight, I would suggest that any correspondence sent to tired, possibly demoralised, and certainly overwhelmed candidates must first and foremost express the party’s profound thanks to them for standing up as a Liberal Democrat, and for all of the hard-work that they will most likely have done, either for their own, or others’ campaigns.

    Anything that follows should be a polite, if firm, request for them to respond with information deemed necessary to help with analysis and future campaigning; I would suggest that if suitable expressed, that much of a nudge should be sufficient enough an imperative to ensure a high response.

  • Jane Mactaggart 20th May '15 - 4:40pm

    Tony Greaves is absolutely right about the general malevolence and inefficiency of the English Party! Our excellent candidate in OXWAB is away on a thoroughly well earned rest and holiday with her family, and won’t be back in time for the deadline. If the Candidates Committee or anyone else starts telling us we can’t have her again,, because she missed some artificial deadline, they will have a revolution on their hands!

  • Most people on here seem to be taking a reasonable view that a mistake has happened. I think there has already been an apology.
    Those of you who are very exercised about it: maybe there is more to it for you. Is this like a last straw for you?
    If there are any individual cases of bad treatment by the party, let me know (DM me on twitter or msg me on fb?)

    But the party absolutely has to review candidates after an election and because of the pressures of other elections coming, has to do it immediately. THose people who stood in no hope seats while doing other stuff will not get the same level of review. But everyone who made an effort to help the party will have that recognised.

  • Ruth Bright 21st May '15 - 9:31am

    Prue – I suspect the “more to it” is money trouble. Being a PPC is a bit like an unpaid internship. If you have family money to fall back on you can cope but otherwise it is very difficult indeed. There must be many PPCs out there (to be fair in other parties too) who are picking up the financial pieces. As a PPC you need to be respected even put on a bit of a pedestal it is hard to admit you simply can’t afford the financial risk of standing again.

  • Tony Greaves 21st May '15 - 2:48pm

    It’s all about candidates being a top-down issue and not a local democratic issue. If a candidate was useless it’s up to the local party to get shut (or just not ask again). A few years ago when I got a bit involved in the English Party in a naïve belief I might be able to make a few desirable changes, I got on the English candidates’ committee. What a no-hope body full of bureaucrats and bureaucracy, and what a huge amount of time and energy the candidates approval and selection processes take up, all to no avail. Lots of nice diligent people but they are wasting their time, and the time of a lot of other people too.


  • A lot of sense (and some less than sense) being spoken from different angles here. I was a candidate twice , in 2001 and 2005, and had very close family involved at a senior level in the Candidates’ process. I myself was an Assessor before I went through the approval process myself.

    Whether we are volunteering as candidates or “bureaucrats” we still deserve some respect, and writing something in too peremptory a manner is not good. However, I know full well, that contrary to John Vincent’s claim, quite a few are not prepared to help with reviews. As for Tony Greaves’s “if there’s a problem get shot” approach, that’s all very well, but could land up as very embarrassing with people accused of bullying, discrimination and all sorts of unpleasant things, often quite correctly. The idea of doing it with input from detached professionals (“bureaucrats” does nothing but send a derogatory message to someone trying to do a useful job for the party) is that it lends independence and additional credibility and equity to the process.

    Yes, I know obsession with “process” can be tiresome, and sometimes means looking at less important issues, many people have made decisions about the process needed, and it can be highly frustrating not being able to complete on a task- and be held to account for it by the responsible body – because many of those involved have not responded. That of course could be both candidates and local party officers. No excuse for heavy handedness, but as Prue says, don’t be too hard on the good servants of the party! Particularly now – they are also feeling the pain of the beating we have just received!

  • Caron, Ian, thank you both. I’ll give it some though…

  • Richard Underhill 23rd May '15 - 3:52pm

    We should think about the future. We already have the possibility that Zac Goldsmith will resign his seat and cause a parliamentary by-election if the Tory government decides to expand Heathrow. If there is a by-election we must win it.

    We should remember the recent past. John Major’s majority of 21 MPs fell to zero during a five year parliament because of by-elections.

    We therefore need an efficient candidate approval process.

    I would like to congratulate the Maidstone local party on the party they gave for their hard-working candidate Jasper Gerard on 9 May 2015 when many employees and volunteers were also exhausted.

  • I am about to add to the 13,000 new members, but before I do I must just make a comment. The common thread of this debate here is the amazing passion shining through from almost everyone. This is what distinguishes the party from the rest – we truly CARE about what we do and believe in. Don’t forget this now in the bad times and start to squabble too much. Analysis is one thing but incrimination quite another. With Labour split and in a shambles we can be in a unique position to benefit from a very unpopular govt in the next few years if we get the story right. We have thousands of great people in the party willing to try again. The darkest moment is just before the dawn. Keep the faith.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 24th May '15 - 6:48pm

    Alex, your comment has really made me smile. Thanks so much for that and welcome to our slightly mad and very passionate world.

  • Richard Underhill 24th May '15 - 10:00pm

    I attended Stephen Lloyd’s “Thank You Party” on 24 May at the Afton hotel in Eastbourne.

    There was one gay Irishman celebrating the referendum result.

    Two bar staff moved to throw him out, but he was not on alcohol, it was a mixture of adrenalin and politics.

    One word from me and they left him alone.

    I did not know I had such influence.

    Stephen Lloyd had a lot of people to thank, which took about two hours.

    I tried to count the assmbled masses, but they kept moving about.
    Maybe 100 or so,
    Maybe less than the 120 they get on an action day.

    It is said that “Everybody in Eastbourne know someone who has been helped by Stephen Lloyd”.

    Even I do although I do not live there.

    My memory is of a child wearing headphones, approaching school age.
    His father helps on action days. They know who they are.

    It seems to help that they control the council, again, making three gains.

    Fund raising had been done in the town, in donations of £10 – £100.

    Ambitious candidates may be considering whether Eastbourne is available.

    Stephen says he needs a short break.
    He is helping staff to find jobs before he looks for one himself.
    Then he will decide.

    My impression is that they want Stephen Lloyd again, in bold, with double underlining.

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