New access fund for London candidates – how you can help

We all know standing as a candidate involves huge personal and financial sacrifices. I’m always grateful to everyone who puts themselves forward – whether as a “paper” candidate flying the flag for the party, or even as a target seat candidate dedicating all hours of the day to the party.

For next year’s elections in London we will shortly be selecting our Mayoral candidate and 25 candidates for the London Assembly. Those candidates’ ability to lead and motivate our activists and to promote our messages is going to be critical to our performance at these elections. And the high profile London elections are an early opportunity to show the Lib Dem fightback in action.

But it is also critical that our field of candidates reflects the diversity of London in all its aspects.

We know our ability to communicate with all Londoners will be strengthened by presenting a field of candidates who reflect the city’s diversity. But we also understand the costs and sacrifices involved in attending hustings, community events, and local party campaign days.

That’s why I thought we might experiment with crowd-sourcing to create an “Access fund” so that all our London candidates who get selected are able to play a full role in the campaign. We could use the fund to reimburse candidates for childcare costs, travel costs, lost hours at work for candidates on low incomes, or additional costs faced by candidates with disabilities.

I’d hope we could raise a significant sum (I’m targeting £5,000, perhaps I’m an optimist?) that could make a real difference to candidates in next year’s election. And if it’s successful, it would also send a powerful message to encourage even more diverse candidates to put themselves forward in future.

I’m sure there are plenty of practical questions like who’d decide how the money gets spent. I’d suggest that selected candidates could apply for an access grant to an independent panel e.g. former London candidates like Susan Kramer, Lynne Featherstone, Meral Ece and Regional Chair Mike Tuffrey. Suggestions in the comments are most welcome!

I’ve spoken to Mike who is really keen on the idea, so I’m going to kick it off by donating £250 myself.  If you agree this is worthwhile then do please join me in making a donation via the London Region bank account here, however small, and we’ll keep a running log of how much we’ve raised.

Together I hope we can make sure all our candidates, whatever their personal circumstances, can play a full role in the campaign.

* Dominic Mathon is a member in Islington and at various times has been a deliverer, canvasser and volunteer agent but has absolutely no desire to hold elected office.

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6 Comments

  • Think we s/could also consider whether this fund could support shortlisted candidates during the selection campaign (but on practical issues like you mention, not on costs of printing selection literature)?

  • Mavarine Du-Marie 6th Aug '15 - 9:33am

    @Dominic Mathon | Thu 6th August 2015 – 8:55 am: “I’d suggest that selected candidates could apply for an access grant to an independent panel e.g. former London candidates like Susan Kramer, Lynne Featherstone, Meral Ece and Regional Chair Mike Tuffrey. Suggestions in the comments are most welcome!”

    As the campaigns have a short turn around, why have a panel? You’ve already decided practically in this article what the fund is for, therefore reimbursement of expenses on receipts should come from the Financial Campaigns person who holds the purse strings only isn’t it on approval? Why create an additional barrier to what it’s meant for? As far as I am aware panels are for deciding longer term investments eg. academic or entrepreneurs ventures.

  • Zack Polanski 6th Aug '15 - 9:33am

    Dominic,

    I’ve not stated this publically anywhere else as I didn’t want it to become a sob story. I intended to say it though after May when the campaign was over – since you’ve brought it up now though i’m happy to share my thoughts.

    I was a candidate in a local byelection in March, and volunteered lots in the General in May. I’m now seeking to join the shortlist for the GLA elections.

    I completely appreciate i’m choosing to do this so this is in no way a complaint but it’s been at considerable financial risk/cost to myself. Rent is only just getting paid (with a little bit of good will on my Landlords part) and I go frequently and queue up for free lunches in the city to make sure that I can just make ends meet. Part of this isn’t just a campaigning problem and is actually a further indications of why i’m running for the GLA at all – because of the rising costs of rent and it’s effect on inequality in the capital.

    I’m aware that actually i’m just making it work – and i’m not someone in dire need. It’s definitely a huge struggle though and I can only imagine how offputting it would be, or rather impossible, for someone who wasn’t lucky enough to find the cheap(er) rent I have or be able to have a flexible enough working schedule that they could go get free lunch.

    It’s little costs that often don’t get factored in. And Anthony is entirely right – it’s the selection too..
    Small example, I’m running for Barnet & Camden so want to create relationships with their exec, ex counsellors and counsellors so I can do a decent job in beginning to represent them – before we even approach the public! Just the cost of travel back and forth, buying someone a cup of tea to thank them for their time or the cost of refusing an extra hour of work because you want to do a little bit more campaigning all adds up.

  • Zack Polanski 6th Aug '15 - 9:34am

    The bottom line is this – If I want to continue campaigning through to May and then let’s face it up until 2018 too – as the GLA and local elections for us are inevitably part of a greater strategy – I’ll probably have to move house. And that’s problematic. It makes everything even more transient and creates problems about where you build up relationships with your local party and residents. Again, just more indications of problems within our cities but I think an access fund would go a long way to addressing there is problems. Even if it was a just symbolic, ‘we’re trying to help!’

    Genuinely thanks for bringing this up and I hope we can get it resolved to encourage more candidates from BME communities or just people simply without financial security in their life.

  • Anthony & Zack – definitely worth thinking about something like this for selection costs too, going forward. And Zack, thanks for sharing your personal challenges – reinforces the need for this kind of fund much more effectively than I could do in my article.

    Mavarine – fair challenge. Two reasons why I thought we might want a panel: 1) as I expect the demand will be greater than the funds available (though please all prove me wrong by donating!), so there will need to be some choices made and 2) I thought it would be good to have people with practical experience of having been candidates for the London elections, who are impartial & well-respected. But completely agree that this shouldn’t be a barrier: it needs to be a very “light touch”, low bureaucracy process for people to apply for the funds.

  • Avril Coelho 16th Aug '15 - 11:12am

    Does anyone know of any issues with registering on the forum here? I’ve valid membership and it says that there’s a problem with my form every time and to resubmit. It doesn’t state what the problem is. I might have previously registered but it tells me user not recognised trying to directly log in.

    This is a very helpful idea as many of us want trio stand but have work related time constraints and financial constraints because local parties prefer us to live where we stand which for some of us is already expensive just trying to get by and getting harder. The cost of travel to events and networking as previously mentioned is already so an issue.

    Having a couple of disabilities too makes it difficult getting to conference. At times I can’t attend like this Autumn because of work not being considerate or flexible. At other times when I can get time off I’ve not been able to travel alone that far via public transport as carrying my baggage is difficult with three worn vertebrae and chronic pain. I’m sure that others also find mobility an issue. Having epilepsy makes it difficult too as I can’t drive to collect boxes of leaflets at an time to deliver. Luckily my ward colleague Ellen filled her car boot with them and drove our canvas sheets back to the office as we both campaigned around full time work and meetings. This limited how much I could do at toimeimes when she wasn’t free though. We need to be able to afford time off work to campaign and this could help a little but I think calling in sick too often poses another risk to job retention in the current economic climate so I’d use it more for travel and especially now that the only office is at the other side of the borough in the next constituency. There’s no way I can go there and back for small amounts of leaflets at a time. Lifting a box from the bus stop to home isn’t an option. Help getting to conferences and staying somewhere with good disabled access would help. The same for being able to buy the odd cuppa or other beverage whilst socially networking.

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