Is there something rotten in the state of candidate approval?

Sadly, the only surprising thing about the revelations about Geeta Sidhu-Robb is that something like this hadn’t happened before.

You see, there’s something rotten with our candidate selection procedures.

In the party at large, there’s a perception that candidates go through a rigorous approvals process. They don’t.

People believe candidates are vetted. They aren’t.

People believe our processes are robust and make sure we get the best candidates. They aren’t.

The simple fact is, all you have to do to become a LibDem candidate is to complete a pretty basic application form, get two other people to say you’re basically fine and then pass a not very rigorous approval day.

It’s not a high bar. As long as you turn up, aren’t obviously problematic, you’ll pass with flying colours and make it into the list.

It also really helps if you’re a man, or over 35. We’ve all heard the stories.

Women often get dramatically different outcomes than men from our approval process based on massively gendered feedback.

We don’t even do our own pre-emptive vetting of potential candidates – the state parties are just about getting around to introducing social media vetting as part of the process – despite having had the option for years.

It really isn’t good enough. And it’s no surprise that someone like Geeta, with a chequered, but easily googleable background, made it through approval.
But how do we fix it? Well, here’s a few steps:

  1. State parties need to relinquish some control. The process is currently run slightly differently in each of the states and it’s often run with a lack of transparency and a general goal of not rocking the boat too much. The process should be being run by professional staff, with democratic oversight from the State and Federal party, not run by the states with administrative support from HQ as it is now.
  2. Retrain assessors. Our candidate assessors are all volunteers and we should be grateful for the time they devote. Unfortunately, some of them repeatedly treat female applicants differently and as a whole they aren’t trained for the role. That needs to change. Assessors need to pass proper training to do this – that includes diversity & inclusion training.
  3. Independent appeals. Right now the candidates chairs and assessors hear appeals against results of assessment days. This needs to be handled by an external body (we already have appeals bodies, so probably them) to ensure fairness to applicants.
  4. Candidates should have to complete training to stand in seats. Right now, all candidate training is optional. We should move to a progression system – where candidates are approved for tiers of seat and in order to stand for more winnable seats you should have to pass more training and tougher assessments. Getting onto the list shouldn’t be much harder than now. Getting to stand for a seat that we might win should be at least as hard as getting selected for a by-election. Candidates should also have to pass training in stuff they need to be good at – like leadership, fundraising and communication skills.
  5. Candidate vetting. Before candidates go to an assessment day a full social media audit and some comprehensive background googling should have happened. They should then be asked about what is discovered during the approvals process.

None of this is easy. Setting all of this up will take time, commitment and importantly, cost money.

But if we don’t start getting serious about this, we’ll keep on having candidates with a chequered past like Geeta slip through the process.

Worse, we could end up with some of them in Parliament.

* Adam Noble is a pseudonym for a member of the Party who has been an observer of our internal democracy for some years now. The pseudonym has been used with the approval of the Day Editor.

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53 Comments

  • Callum Robertson 14th Sep '20 - 6:12pm

    I like your thinking on point four.

    I sit on the English Candidates Committee and on my initiative, we have just redone the Police and Crime Commissioner test.

    It doesn’t assess skills to be a candidate but does bring in a higher threshold to stand in a target seat.

  • John Marriott 14th Sep '20 - 6:39pm

    Sorry to be a killjoy; but does it really matter who represents the Lib Dems or any other minority party for that matter in this election? Is it perhaps a case of ‘beggars can’t be choosers’?

  • @John, it does. I could list a number of positive reasons for putting the effort into picking the right candidates for the most lowly of elections, but we’ve just had very concrete evidence of the damage that can be done when candidates are picked carelessly

    It should be a minimum requirement that the candidate doesn’t bring the party into disrepute over something that should have been picked up on. It’s not (just) that the general public might think that those views are acceptable within the party, but more likely that people just think it’s a sign of general incompetence.

    This is a good article, and one I hope is taken seriously. I especially think that consideration should be given to ensuring that those who are making decisions receive the correct training, and possibly some kind of HR qualification. I don’t know much about that sort of thing, so I’m not sure if that is necessary, but it seems like a fairly basic requirement for at least someone involved in the process.

    And it should be us who are doing the trawls of social media and visible internet history early in the selection process, not once names have been released to hostile journalists.

  • What’s the evidence of gender bias? I’ve been a regional candidates chair and the data on candidates through the process that I’ve seen doesn’t support this at all.

    On Point 2 – the training of assessors could perhaps be improved, but they do undergo training, and are guided by an experienced facilitator. If some assessors are treating any group unfairly, this should be reported.

    Point 3 – if the appeal is heard by different people to the original set of assessors, why do you think they aren’t independent or cannot act fairly? I don’t think appeals are that common so perhaps a moot point. Most people who don’t get through the assessment get a blue and can reapply a year later.

  • There is such a thing as over-vetting a candidate.

    There is also something disturbing about phrases such as “chequered past”.

    The key question that should be asked is whether a person is a suitable candidate at the point in their life when they are putting themselves forward to be a candidate, not were they suitable when they were 21 etc.

    For that reason I don’t think that having shared their daft youthful opinions on social media, Jared O’Mara style should be a bar to being a candidate.

    Nor do I think a conviction should be a barrier although it depends on the circumstances.

    People can change their views and their characters. Someone with a difficult “past” could have changed completely and be an excellent politician.

  • The mayoral election is no where near as important as the assembly. Labour will squeeze us and there will be nothing we can do about it. Concentrate on the elections we can win.Fortunately we are so insignificant this cock-up will go unnoticed. Its a pity that some of our ex-MP talent like Luciana Berger have not been considered.

  • Carolyn Ramsbottom 14th Sep '20 - 8:00pm

    I don’t disagree with your points 1, 3 and 4 BUT as someone who first trained as an assessor in the early 1990s ( and have undergone further training since) I totally disagree that assessors are biased against any candidate, part of our training is in diversity and unconscious bias. Also I did a large number of approvals days last year and we did not rubber stamp “anyone who turned up” in fact we did not approve quite a number of applicants, included some who were given the lowest possible grade. I have also been a Regional Candidates Chair and, like Tad, the data I have seen does not support gender bias. Yes the approvals process could be improved (all processes can) but it is not as bad as you imply. You do not say what your experience of the approvals system is so it is hard to see where you are coming from.

  • Alex Macfie 14th Sep '20 - 8:33pm

    The idea that “we can’t win the election, so it doesn’t matter who our candidate is” is a dangerous falsehood. Never mind the possibility that we might actually win after all. It has an effect on the party’s image overall, so a dodgy mayoral candidate will affect our performance in the Assembly election.

  • Alex Macfie 14th Sep '20 - 8:40pm

    Its a pity that some of our ex-MP talent like Luciana Berger have not been considered.

    Perhaps she didn’t apply? Anyway we have an excellent ex-MEP candidate in Luisa Porritt.

  • Alex, I agree with your 2 posts. Brian Paddick & Caroline Pidgeon received quite a lot of publicity even though they stood no chance of winning.

  • It’s a pity the author of this excellent and comprehensive article sees fit to use a pseudonym. It should be a principle of democratic liberalism that open democracy demands personal accountability and transparency. It’s an even bigger pity that LDV has permitted this given the significance of the issue.

  • Tony Greaves 14th Sep '20 - 10:24pm

    I agree with David. At the very least we should be told enough about the person’s history and involvement to be able to make a judgement.

    As for the candidates’ approval system, the less said about it over the years the better.

  • “Sadly, the only surprising thing about the revelations about Geeta Sidhu-Robb is that something like this hadn’t happened before.”

    For “an observer of our internal democracy for some years now” it’s surprising they think this.

    Only as recently as the 2019 there were two candidates who had to be removed at short notice because of previously expressed views.

    Waheed Rafique – https://www.buzzfeed.com/alexwickham/lib-dems-candidate-antisemitism

    And Rob Flello – https://www.stokesentinel.co.uk/news/stoke-on-trent-news/cut-short-former-stoke-trent-3531744

    In both cases they were former candidates for other parties (like Geeta). In both cases their comments/views should have been readily discoverable.

    Rafique had been a council candidate before – and for the love of the almighty if someone joins us from UKIP there should be a pretty serious examination of what they have said before!

    But all these were former opposition party candidates – there should be an assumption that they have a track record of at the very least ‘hard to defend’ views and that should be subject to strong scrutiny at approval.

    In the Rob Flello case a party spokesperson said, “We do our best to screen candidates in our approval process.” In the Geeta Sidhu-Robb case a party spokesperson said, “The Internal Selection Committee examines all applicants, including questioning on past appearances in the media.”

    In the past the approval process for London Mayoral candidates followed the ‘enhanced’ by-election candidate process so had (supposedly a higher level of scrutiny). Maybe someone could confirm if that is still the case.

    The Thornhill report made a recommendation, “Review and revise procedures for approval of candidates, including how we review their social media history.” Given the comments about implementing that you would have expected some improvements to be made to the system for this approval.

  • Renata Jackson 15th Sep '20 - 12:51am

    I’m interested in the references to female candidates being treated differently and diversity and inclusion training. The author glibly says “It also really helps if you’re a man, or over 35. We’ve all heard the stories.” but gives no evidence whatsoever to support his claim on either count. 9% of LibDem candidates at the 2019 general election were BAME and 11% were LBGT+. Stonewall says that 5-7% of UK population is LGBT so there seems to be a material overrepresentation of LGBT candidates. 14% of the UK population at the 2011 was minority ethnic (including white non-British) but the minority ethnic percentage is higher among under 21s and lower among over 21s and a portion of the minority ethnic population would not be eligible to become an MP as not a British/Commonwealth/Irish citizen, so 9% does not seem particularly low.

    Geeta Sidhu-Robb is female. A number of LibDem candidates who have been the subject of adverse media stories in the past have also been female. A number of LibDem candidates who have been the subject of adverse media stories in the past have been from ethnic minorities.

    Personally, I would very much prefer that candidates be over 35. I would have thought after Swinson we would have learned our lesson about overvaluing youth. A rogue candidate is much more likely with someone who is younger.

    What strikes me about what the author has written is that he/she looks for more centralisation, more central party control (Scotland and Wales even more branch offices than they already are), training for assessors (who will train them? yes, party HQ). Should the primary say in candidate selection not lie withLibDem constituency parties?

    Would an enhanced candidate selection process be successful at weeding out people like Mark Oaten, Chris Huhne and David Laws whose activities brought the party into disrepute? I doubt it. The people who will be eliminated will be those who are less articulate, less educated, less the sort of people that populate LibDem HQ and the LibDem benches in the House of Lords.

    And of course, as has been observed by other commenters, all of this talk about enhancing process omits to mention what the candidate selection process is vetting for and the standards to be used in that vetting.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 15th Sep '20 - 1:53am

    i contribute here often and have for years, welcome, renata jackson, you are a breath of air!

    the author wants to train people to vet people ! And then train people to stand before those who have been trained to vet people.

    In my wifes country of origin, America, they just trust people as individuals to stand for election to secure a nomination, trust the electorate who vote for that party to choose the candidate, then trust the chosen candidate and back them!

    It is called democracy! And if anyone mentions money and its role there, a certain aoc started in her twenties, from, nothing, and got the nomination of her district!

    the selection should be this, google search, do you have a criminal record, fine, stand before your party area, they have several hustings where , yes, the members do the vetting with their voting!

  • Much of the problem here is that we accept defectors – people who have been politically active for another political party – far too willingly. We ought to be asking a lot more questions, and doing a lot more digging, about someone who has tried a political career in an opposing party and then decides to give us a go. At the least, their motives are likely to be more personal than political.

    Instead we seem to accept people jumping ship as if we are grateful or in the hope that they might bring a slice of voters with them.

    You only have to look at the last GE to see what a mixed blessing defectors are, and that is without any obvious embarassments from their prior political careers. Our history is littered with myriad defections that turned out badly (very many later defecting off again) and relatively few that have turned into genuine successes or assets.

  • Alex Macfie 15th Sep '20 - 7:59am

    Renata Jackson: Bringing Jo Swinson into this is irrelevant and grossly offensive She was 39 when she became leader, the same age as Charles Kennedy on his accession to the role. And she was hardly a “rogue candidate”; the failure of our 2019 election campaign had nothing to do with any skeletons in her closet (she had none, except for the ones that were invented by our enemies). As the Thornhill review notes, the seeds were sown for the 2019 debacle long before she became leader. Geeta Sidhu-Robb, meanwhile, has to be at least in her 40s, given that she stood as a Parliamentary candidate in 1997. Age has very little to do with suitability as candidate, as you yourself show when you cite three middle-aged men whose activities suggest their unsuitability as candidates. To that list I shall add another: former MP and London Mayor hopeful Lembit Öpik. I’m probably not the only party member who voted “Anyone But Lembit” in the candidate selection for the 2012 Mayoral election.

  • Alex Macfie 15th Sep '20 - 8:35am

    PS Luisa Porritt, now our candidate presumptive for London Mayor, and whose suitability for the role is not in doubt, is 33 years old.

  • I agree with Renata and Lorenzo. A baseline assessment/standard should be set with constituencies having the discretion to choose from an approved list. A system that produces a slate of party clones echoing what is perceived as the received wisdom of the times seems a poor fit with traditional liberal values like toleration etc.

    An inevitable consequence of this will be that “rogue” candidates may get selected from time to time but then equally, perfect fit Liberals may go “rogue” or worse.
    No-one has ever suggested that Jeremy Thorpe would have flunked a decent approval process.
    I know of an individual involved in a senior role in our approval process and undoubtedly skilled in HR who thought assessing a person for public office was virtually the same as selecting people for “a senior Executive role” and didn’t take kindly to having the obvious differences being pointed out.

  • “America, they just trust people as individuals to stand for election to secure a nomination, trust the electorate who vote for that party to choose the candidate, then trust the chosen candidate and back them!”

    I may be in something of a minority on this, but there may be some evidence, that, and this many only be a small number of cases, the American system sometimes doesn’t produce the greatest of elected representatives.

    Intense sarcasm aside – this is not about Geeta’s right to stand for election (she can still stand) it is about who the party chooses to put its flag on.

    @John Pugh “A baseline assessment/standard should be set with constituencies having the discretion to choose from an approved list.”

    It is pretty clear that this baseline standard isn’t being met.

  • John Bicknell 15th Sep '20 - 9:00am

    “Would an enhanced candidate selection process be successful at weeding out people like Mark Oaten, Chris Huhne and David Laws whose activities brought the party into disrepute? I doubt it”
    All of the above made a stupid mistake/error of judgement after their election as MPs. Your comment is irrelevant to the discussion, which is about how the selection process identifies and judges the past behaviour of candidates.

  • Julian Tisi 15th Sep '20 - 9:26am

    I agree with John Pugh. It’s predictable / easy to criticise the selection process following the situation we’ve just had with Geeta Sadhu-Robb but I don’t feel more centralisation / more training is the answer. I agree broadly with recommendation #5 in the original article but IMO this “comprehensive background googling” should be proportionate to the role, focused on target seats or high profile ones like London Mayor. Even with such checks there will be some things not easily discoverable that might come out later but this is a risk I feel we ought to take. The last thing we need frankly is a list of bland identikit candidates with no background or diversity from the centrally-approved model.

  • John Marriott 15th Sep '20 - 9:30am

    As my dear wife has just said; “There’s a fine line between being a Liberal and being stupid”. However the need to undertake due diligence can affect many organisations.

    Not long after I was first elected to a District Council it needed to replace its Chief Executive and I was invited to sit on the panel to select a successor. We employed, at considerable expense, a well known firm of management consultants to come up with a shortlist of three candidates, who were duly invited for interview. Two were clearly not that suitable as neither appeared to have had any local government experience, which counted for something in those days; but one, a then 48 year old, who had had previous experience in two other major authorities, was outstanding and with ‘qualifications’ to die for – Marlborough College, LSE and Harvard Business School. We offered him the job right away and he accepted.

    Well, what happened next you could not make up. One of our panel, a senior Tory Member and local GP, noticed that the successful candidate’s CV had said that he had entered Marlborough at the age of eleven. Now, as a parent of children at public school, my colleague knew that you don’t go to public school until you have passed the Common Entrance Exam at 13. So he called Marlborough. They had never heard of the gentleman. He then rang LSE and Harvard and got the same response. So the successful candidate was approached with the facts and immediately withdrew; but not before the Fraud Squad got on his tail.

    It turned out that the only ‘Qualification’ he actually did have was that he had been a Sergeant in the Catering Corps. Yet he had not only been able to pull the wool over the eyes of the consultants and TWO local authorities; but apparently had done a good job too! I don’t know, given their failure in the due diligence department, we ever asked the well known consultants for our money back.

    We ended up appointing one of the other two candidates, who, as I feared, turned out to be less than satisfactory. So, Lib Dems, don’t go beating yourselves up. Mistakes can be made anywhere. Just look at the present lot claiming to run the country!

  • Renata Jackson 15th Sep '20 - 9:48am

    @ John Bicknell: I’m shocked that you describe what Mark Oaten, Chris Huhne and David Laws did as stupid mistakes/errors of judgment. David Laws claimed more than £40,000 over a period of five years to which he was not entitled and was found guilty of six breaches of the (then lax) expenses rules. Chris Huhne pled guilty to perverting the course of justice. To be fair to Mark Oaten he is in a different category: not breaking the law but just highly embarrassing.

    @ Alex Macfie: I’m sorry that you found what I wrote “grossly offensive”. I have a rather higher threshold than you do for taking offence.

    It’s interesting that you bring up Lembit Opik – a perfect example of someone being gifted a LibDem seat (a precious commodity at the best of times) at the age of 32 without, frankly, much of a track record of achievement at anything except student politics and without any prior connection with the constituency. In fact, one thing about Lembit was that he had no real roots anywhere. He now works for the Iranian Press TV…

    The contrast with Charles Kennedy, whom you also mention is that he stood in a constituency where he had grown up and been educated until he went to university and in which his family had lived for generations. However, even with Charles Kennedy there were the problems later with his marriage and alcoholism. It may be that being first elected in 1983 rather than, say, 1992 was a curse rather than a blessing for him.

    Unlike you, I’m not going to comment on Luisa Porritt since I understand that neither positive nor negative comments about candidates are permitted on this site until the candidate selection process has completed.

  • @Renata Jackson: What’s offensive is your characterisationm of Jo as “rogue” and linking her elevation to leadership with the case of Geeta Sidhu-Robb. As far as I’m aware, Jo’s suitability as candidate has never been brought into question, and our failure in December 2019 wasn’t directly to do with any personal flaws or history of our then leader. So it’s apples & oranges. To scapegoat Jo (someone who has no convenient pulpit now that she’s left public life for the time being) for our failure is anyway to ignore the many other issues that were identified by the Thornhill Review.
    Charles Kennedy was still only 32 in 1992. Neither alcoholism nor marriage failure in and of themselves indicate unsuitability as a candidate. Charles was one of our more successful leaders. Lembit had a rather extreme mid-life crisis. Admittedly he was always a political lightweight, but I don’t think anyone could have predicted his falling off the rails from about the mid-2000s. You do not make a convincing case that youth is an issue when assessing candidate suitability.

  • No selection process is perfect and ‘rogues’ will get through; in high profile caes this will be embarassing to say the least..
    However, as has been said, this party has been only too eager to accept ‘defectors’, not just being unaware of their pasts but actually ignoring their pasts (Jennie Rigg’s resignation was deemed an acceptable price to pay for Phillip Lee)…In the case of Geeta Sidhu-Robb… was her bid to become a Conservative MP not known; if it was did no one ask the LibDem branch in that area about her (I can’t believe that the ‘drive through’ tactic passed unoticed)?
    Finally….In 2017, the Jared O’Mara ‘affair’ warranted 3 separate articles (one claiming it the worst offence in 30 years) on LDV….A wise head pointed out that such attacks, on opposition persons, were ‘giving hostages to fate’ as no party is immune from scandal; how right he was…

  • Peter Davies 15th Sep '20 - 11:39am

    If we have a strong vetting system that ensures that anyone who can put themselves forward is a suitable candidate, can I ask what is the point of the shortlisting procedure. In most cases, the list of applicants is already too short to give the members a meaningful choice.

  • Sue Sutherland 15th Sep '20 - 1:57pm

    Just to point out that there are perfectly justifiable reasons for adopting a pseudonym when writing an article for LDV, such as having a job which proscribes involvement in a political party.

  • For a liberal organisation we do seem to have control freak tendencies. I would allow any member to put themselves forward for any position and let the relevant local party sort it out. We may get the odd “interesting” person getting through, but then the Tories have had plenty of rogues in their ranks and it hasn’t done them too much electoral harm, has it ?
    My local party has decided that, in line with central party instructions, all candidates in next May’s local elections will be vetted by a panel. As it is we struggle to get paper candidates for the less winnable wards and I know for a fact that several who stood last time will simply not be bothered to go through the process just to get their 50 votes. As a consequence, we will be standing fewer candidates than in the past.
    Don’t understand why it was neccesary to bring the gender dimension in, telling us that women find it harder to get approved, when the whole article is about a woman who, presumably, should not have been approved in the first place. Should we have harder on her, or easier ?
    @Renata Jackson. I find myself nodding in agreement to your posts. As Lorenzo said, fresh air indeed.

  • @Sue Sutherland. Are you suggesting that LDV aid and abet someone who is breaching the terms of their contract of employment ? Shame !

  • Stephen Booth 15th Sep '20 - 3:29pm

    I agree with most of what Adrian Noble has written but would it not be worth circulating the local party in which the prospective candidate lives; plus any places where he/she has previously lived. It might ring some bells amongst members with longer memories on past indiscretions or weird positions on topics.

  • Malcolm Todd 15th Sep '20 - 3:35pm

    All this angst over a “candidate” who never actually became the official Party candidate for anything. Very strange.

  • “In fact, one thing about Lembit was that he had no real roots anywhere. ”

    Is anyone else uncomfortable with a liberal forum being used for snide digs at the first generation children of asylum seekers as having ‘no real roots anywhere’?

  • It is dismaying to see a candidate dropped for something said 23 years ago. I completely abhor the comments made but they should not stay with her forever.

    If she had called someone “pale, male and stale” nobody would have batted an eyelid. Is that really an acceptable way to talk though?

    I feel that concepts such as “suitability” and “disrepute” are defined by a narrow strata of society.

  • @George Miles – there is an appeal process. You should have been informed of this and the reason they rejected you. If the local party concerned didn’t do this then they are not following procedure and you can appeal to the relevant Regional body.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 15th Sep '20 - 9:47pm

    John Pugh, Chris Cory as is the norm, talking common sense, George Miles you ought to take that further, it vindicates those of us supporting a Liberal, democratic approach, and reveals the illiberal undemocratic one some are seeming to like, that we now adopt!

  • Alex Macfie 16th Sep '20 - 9:54am
  • neil sandison 16th Sep '20 - 10:40am

    Some interesting comments here on a long overdue subject .As someone who chaired a local government selection panel I know I insisted upon formal application ,checking applications including social media but also a declaration from the candidate that they and their past activities would not put the party in disrepute. You would be surprised how many people and perhaps a little too comfortable establishment types railed against this in the local party . A good set of up to date guidelines and a declaration by the prospective candidate would not go amiss.

  • Ruth Bright: We only lost one outstanding female candidate for Mayor. We now have another one, unless Luisa has suddenly resigned without telling anyone!

  • A few days ago LDV said here, she was a “fantastic” candidate!. How do we get so many things seemingly wrong.

  • Alex Macfie 16th Sep '20 - 1:44pm

    Caroline Pidgeon didn’t “stand down”, she just chose not to run this time around. She had been our candidate in 2016 (on a shortlist of one) but seems to be happier in the London Assembly. It’s not as if she’s resigned from that role or from the party.

  • Malcolm Todd 16th Sep '20 - 1:52pm

    “It’s not as if she’s resigned from that role or from the party.” – unlike, it transpires
    Siobhan Benita.

  • Alex Macfie 16th Sep '20 - 2:58pm

    Ruth Bright: I know Siobhan stood down and resigned from the party. I’m from Kingston, and I know her personally, so was especially sad when this happened. Her reasons for resigning from the candidacy and from the party seem (according to the City AM article I linked to above) to relate to the problem of poorly vetted candidates like GSR, who seem to be being fast-tracked because of their money and connections.
    I don’t think Caroline’s case is relevant. She’s our Assembly Member and is #1 on the Assembly List for the 2021 London Assembly election. She probably just wasn’t interested in the Mayoral role, and I have a feeling she was pushed into it in 2016 after no-one else came forward.

  • Stephen Howse 16th Sep '20 - 3:51pm

    “Before candidates go to an assessment day a full social media audit and some comprehensive background googling should have happened.”

    The party will be doing exactly this going forward if the email I received re: remaining on the candidates’ list is anything to go by – the agreement candidates must sign has also been updated to reflect this. A good move!

    Re: Marco – “I feel that concepts such as “suitability” and “disrepute” are defined by a narrow strata of society.” I feel that racism is racism, and the non-apology ‘regret’ offered by Geeta Sidhu-Robb falls short of the level of contrition and reflection one would expect from someone outed as having aired such views. And anyway, even before that clip was dug out of the archive there were plenty of other reasons to be appalled that she’d made it as far as the shortlist for London Mayor. Thankfully the other candidate on the shortlist is very good!

  • “I feel that racism is racism”

    Completely agree – but is the currently fashionable remark of “pale, male and stale” not racist, sexist and ageist?

  • John Marriott 17th Sep '20 - 9:37am

    Yes, Ruth Bright, never was a truer word spoken! To succeed in anything often requires sacrifice and your point about “juggling family and political commitments” is well put, especially when standing for a minority party in unfriendly territory is concerned.

    In my thirty years as a councillor I used to envy the organisation behind my Tory and, in certain urban areas, Labour colleagues. Being a Lib Dem meant organising, motivating, writing and delivering leaflets, finding good causes, Recruiting new members and potential candidates, negotiating with and using the media, where possible, and, when elected, attending meetings, both council and party, sorting out cases, making tough and sometimes unpopular decisions and much, much more. All this, while trying to hold a day job down, at least for the first ten years or so, and trying to do my best as a husband and father and latterly grandfather. Is there any wonder that the sort of well rounded empathetic candidates needed to win regularly are hard to find these days?

  • Paul Barker 17th Sep '20 - 5:07pm

    This whole discussion seems pointless unless we know how many people applied for the post in the first place. My guess is that the Long List wasnt much longer than the Short List. Standing for London Mayor for The Libdems involves a lot of work, giving the Gutter Press carte blanche to trawl through your past life & hassle your friends & family while your chance of being elected is essentially Zero. All that work is to get other people elected, as Assembly Members.
    Its no surprise that we have such difficulty getting good candidates.

  • tony dawson 17th Sep '20 - 6:54pm

    “Mark Oaten, Chris Huhne and David Laws . . . .made a stupid mistake/error of judgement after their election as MPs. ”

    If you think that that statement remotely reflects the full truth then I do hope you are not thinking of becoming a candidate! 🙂 More pressingly, we do need to reflect reality. As things stand, short of a revolution, there are about a dozen seats in the UK where election a Lib Dem is a reasonably likely prospect provided that the Tories become less popular http://www.electionpolling.co.uk/battleground/targets/liberal-democrat. Candidates in some of these at least will be already chosen. Candidates who are not ‘self-starters’ (Like Lynne Featherston, Paddy Ashdown, Jo Swinson, Steve Webb) will get nowhere outside of these seats.

    At the last few elections, a couple of hundred of brave souls have been drafted fairly last-minute into standing in constituencies where they knew they had no chance and the media largely gave them little attention. While it may well be very useful to improve the overall quality of candidates for the future, the Party has rather more to worry about right now.

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