The PPC Files (2): what do you wish you’d known before you became a Lib Dem parliamentary candidate?

Imagine what it’s like to be a Liberal Democrat prospective parliamentary candidate – tasked with leading and motivating a group of diverse volunteers against all the odds, and organising foot-slogging campaigns on a shoe-string budget that will get you and the party noticed.

Lib Dem Voice contacted a dozen PPCs to find out what they really think about the experience. We guaranteed anonymity to ensure those responding felt able to say what they think, and not simply stick to the obligatory it’s-such-a-privilege line. Of the 12, seven are men and five women, and they include one ethnic minority candidate. The constituencies they hope to represent range from the south to the north, and include Lib Dem marginals and ‘no hope’ seats.

In yesterday’s first instalment of The PPC Files, our ‘golden dozen’ told us what they felt were the three worst things about being a PPC. Today, they let us into secret of what they wished they’d known before they were selected:

Being selected as a PPC in a target seat is like making it through the foothills; getting elected is a whole new story.

A little more about the dark arts of managing difficult people within one’s own party.

That Gordon Brown was going to make this Parliament last the whole five years.

How depressingly predictable it can all be, especially fighting a development seat – not enough people, resources, and a team with hopelessly unrealistic views about how we can do!

That there is a fantastic network of ppcs throughout the country, and many of them are experiencing exactly what you are going through. That network has kept me going!

On the whole I went into it with my eyes open and cannot complain about anything. As I say to our councillors when they gripe – you did volunteer. I had the advantage of having worked for a candidate/MP and had a pretty good idea what it was about. Ultimately, you do volunteer and your time is your own to manage as you see fit.

The personal financial contributions that would be needed. I don’t know how a much younger person, or one with a young family and no personal wealth, can possibly take on being a PPC.

That Gordon Brown wasn’t going to call the election after all! How much of my money it would cost.

That I would have to put almost every other aspect of my life on the back burner to win

That the local party were looking for a miracle as well as a candidate.

How great people’s expectations of you are. My first constituency in 2001 clearly had expectations of me to lead a campaign far in excess of their own capacity to match in activity or my own ability to deliver – you’re expected to be a kind of magic bullet that will sort out the local party, increase fundraising tenfold and devote every evening to knocking on doors, regardless of the seat’s prospects.

The importance given to the status of PPC. I just went through the selection and came through the other end not knowing how difficult it can be to become selected.
The pros and cons of working with lib dem volunteers!!
The self sufficiency that’s required in the role.

In part 3 of The PPC Files (tomorrow): What do your family and friends think about your decision to run for Parliament?

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  • A lot of them seem to find that its the rest of the local party with some unrealistic ideas. My experience has been rather the opposite, but I guess this isn’t a scientific sample.

  • Hywel Morgan 29th Jul '08 - 12:38pm

    “Being selected as a PPC in a target seat is like making it through the foothills; getting elected is a whole new story.”

    Did someone really not know that before they started?

  • Grammar Police 29th Jul '08 - 1:26pm

    In my albeit limited experience, the local party exec and key activists have a realistic idea of what’s achievable, but it’s quite difficult to campaign in a selection on the basis of entirely realistic ideas . . . for many of the wider membership, choosing a PPC is their only active involvement.

  • Martin Land 29th Jul '08 - 2:13pm

    Given that the whole process is flawed from beginning to end; that it is inflexible, passive and more concerned with ‘balance’ than ability, it’s amazing we end up with as many talented MP’s as we do.

    But maybe that’s it?

    If you can work your way through the arcane chaos of the system, motivate the warring tribe that constitutes so many Constituency Associations and deal with the generally irrelevant discourse and poor tactics and strategy coming from the powers that be then you are a star!

    Someone with more poetic ability than I could perhaps re-write Kipling’s If….

  • Now I’m sure my local PPC has been contacted – that mixture of weariness, realism and eternal optimism is undeniable!

    We really should be celebrating their efforts more, because I know it must be a struggle at times and I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t be able to do as well in their position.

    It’s just like Brian Paddick said after his campaign – we need to offer more support to our own.

  • Ruth Bright 29th Jul '08 - 5:36pm

    Compulsory viewing for pre-PPCs – Dennis Potter’s “Vote, Vote, Vote for Nigel Barton”.

    If that doesn’t depress you into doing something else – nothing will!

  • Ruth Bright 29th Jul '08 - 8:06pm


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