We must stand a candidate in every constituency at the next General Election

Our Party has something to offer everyone in England Scotland and Wales and therefore it makes sense that we should stand a candidate in every seat (our friends in the Alliance Party do a great job in Northern Ireland).

That might seem like common sense – but at the last election we participated in the Unite to Remain Agreement by which we, the Greens and Plaid Cymru (Labour refused to participate) agreed to stand down in some constituencies – and it was a disaster. Not only did it make no difference to the results, but the way in which our local parties and PPCs were told they were standing down with no input from them caused huge problems.

If you agree we should stand a candidate everywhere, please support Amendment 3 to motion F23: Party Strategy, 10.55 on Sunday morning.

On Sunday morning Conference will be debating an amendment to the motion on Party Strategy which addresses this. It says we should stand in every seat (excluding the Speaker)  and that in cases where there is a desire not to stand, it has to be ratified by local members.  This is already the policy of the English Party but in 2019 we were told that it was superseded by Federal Party rules – this amendment is to ensure that can’t happen again.

We are unique among parties in the trust we place in our members – to determine policy and select candidates – and it is surely right that we should let them make the decision whether we run a candidate.  The Federal Campaigns and Elections Cttee ran a discussion session on Friday on electoral pacts – and what was striking listening to people’s experience was the damage done to local parties by not standing -one PPC (who had originally supported the idea) said that it had ‘more or less destroyed the local party’.

One of the conceits of those who want us to stand down is that we can tell our supporters who they should vote for rather than us – and the other Parties can do the same. But there is no evidence that works – and plenty it doesn’t.  “Soft” Tories who may vote for us are unlikely to transfer to a hard left Green candidate – and those Greens who have abandoned Labour for not being left wing enough seem unlikely to vote for us.

If you agree with me that we should stand a candidate everywhere – and any decision not to do so should be made by members, please support Amendment 3 to motion F23: Party Strategy, 10.55 on Sunday morning.

* Simon McGrath is a councillor in Wimbledon and a member of the board of Liberal Reform.

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  • John Marriott 18th Sep '21 - 12:41pm

    Standing a candidate in every constituency will, in areas like mine (Lincolnshire), risk ritual humiliation for those brave (or foolhardy) enough to accept the challenge.

  • Aidan Jenkins 18th Sep '21 - 6:39pm

    I agree with John M. Some areas also do not have sufficient resources to ensure a candidate is stood everywhere. Where a 6% vote share is a positive result and we will struggle to elect many if any councillors next year too. We’ve got to be more strategic in some areas or risk campaigns in some that are poor and therefore we may potentially return fewer than 12 MPs in the next GE. Target the areas we stand the best chance and throw resources into it. Be aware of local issues. We risk spreading ourselves too thinly. It worked for C and A with Sarah Green.

  • Are we saying that we have always fought where we had the resources?
    In this area a Regional leaflet was prepared for such weak constituencies and then free posted. That was the campaign!! Received between 9 and 16% of the vote. Probably would have got little more with a three leaflet, canvassing high profile oeration, given the strategic facts of the seats.

  • Simon McGrath 19th Sep '21 - 6:49am

    Aidan – I am certainly not saying we need to put a lot of resources into fighting every seat – far from it. But that everyone should have the opportunity to vote for us

  • Tony Harris 19th Sep '21 - 7:40am

    Although it’s a nice idea there are 650 parliamentary constituencies in England. That’s £500 deposit per constituency or £325,000 in order for us to stand everywhere. Were we to get (say) 60 candidates with more than 5% of the vote then we would have £30,000 returned to us losing £295,000. Personally I would prefer to spend the £295,000 on campaigning in a higher number of target seats where we think we can either win or get close. i.e. let’s look at those constituencies where we are pretty sure we can get more than 5% of the vote and stand there. It’s a much better use of our financial and campaigning resources. IMHO.

  • Paul Reynolds 19th Sep '21 - 8:30am

    Simon is right about this. We should at least try to have a candidate in every seat, even if it is a ‘paper’ candidate. In some cases local parties may go against this approach if they cannot field a candidate, but as a strategic move it is limited by the tendency for the electorate not to ‘do as it is told’ when it comes to voting. At heart, though, this is about the status of local parties and whether we match our policy of decentralisation and local autonomy for the country, by maintaining our age-old policy of decentralisation and local autonomy in the Party; a core strength of the Party which would be unwise to jettison.

  • John Marriott 19th Sep '21 - 8:55am

    Electing an M.P. is just that, namely finding someone who has the expertise, time and commitment to represent you in Parliament. In an ideal world it should not be about organising a kind of opinion poll. Yes, everybody SHOULD have the chance to vote a certain way. However, having paper candidates at any level of government is a form of confidence trick. The public can usually see through this ruse. Some of the outrageously optimistic statements that many ‘no hope’ candidates are often encouraged to make to the media quite frankly make me cringe. I’d put the ‘Jo for PM’ of 2019 in that category as well.

    As I wrote earlier, that’s fine if you are prepared to experience ritual humiliation. Personally I would not be. However, if we had some form of PR with regional top up lists, that might make me feel differently.

  • Nonconformistradical 19th Sep '21 - 9:49am

    @John Marriott
    “Some of the outrageously optimistic statements that many ‘no hope’ candidates are often encouraged to make to the media quite frankly make me cringe. I’d put the ‘Jo for PM’ of 2019 in that category as well.”

  • Denying a constituency the chance to vote for us will only (a) weaken us in the long term in that area and (b) help to reduce the party’s national relevance.
    We have fought every seat since October 1974, with a few exceptions. Weak local parties are usually only too glad to have a candidate offered to them, often with regional assistance in paying the deposit. It often starts the learning curve for future MPs, by standing in these seats, take Tim Farron in NW Durham in 1992 for a start.
    Refusing to contest scores (hundreds?) of seats will only diminish our party.

  • Paul Barker 19th Sep '21 - 2:41pm

    This thread seems to have become a victim to competing fundamentalisms – all or nothing (in some places).
    I don’t see any prospect of another National Pact like “Unite to Remain” so that seems irrelevant. There is a strong case both for ruthless Targeting & for standing at least “Paper” Candidates almost everywhere. However, I don’t see the point of standing against the only Green MP though that has to be up to the Local Party.

  • Complete waste of time resources and money to stand in hopeless seats. Just what the Conservative party want.

  • Lloyd Harris 20th Sep '21 - 9:14am

    One of the things not very well known is the number of candidates you put up directly affects how much money the party can spend in a general election.

    Out last general election we stood in 611 of the 632 seats – not standing in 21 seats meant our limit was cut by £630,000.
    For every seat we don’t stand in, we drop £30,000 in what the party can spend.

    This directly affects how much the party can spend in target seats via the ‘party’ campaign.

    So that is one reason we should stand in every seat.

    Another is – it is democracy – we can’t walk away from democracy, we need to take part in it.

  • Nonconformistradical 20th Sep '21 - 9:32am

    @Lloyd Harris
    You make a valid point – however it presupposes we had the money to spend in the first place.

    Did we?

    It seems to me that occasionally there are good and sufficient reasons for not standing – and the local party MUST be involved in the decision.

    But standing in a no hope seat would involve at the worst, surely, the time needed to get the signatures on the nomination form, the loss of the £500 deposit plus a minimal amount spent on a website (so the electorate can access some information about the candidate) and a social media presence.

    If doing that in a no hope seat results in one or two potential activists crawling out of the woodwork, mightn’t it be money and resources well spent as long as it doesn’t detract from efforts in better prospect seats?

  • Lloyd Harris 20th Sep '21 - 9:46am

    @Nonconformistradical it is worth noting the the ‘party’ spending limit is for the 12 months prior to a general election, even if you don’t know it was happening as with the snap elections in 2017 and 2019.

    In the 12 months before the 2019 the main political parties spent (13Dec2018-12Dec2019):
    Lib Dems £14.4 million
    Conservatives £16.5 million
    Labour 12 million
    (per search of electoral commission website)

    So yes we can spend a lot of money so need the headroom otherwise we can fall into the trap of finding out we have spend up to the limit before an election is called!!!

  • I think we should stand against the Speaker. It speaks to the unfairness of first past the post that people living in the Speaker’s seat are denied a proper choice often for a number of elections. Is it time to break with convention and say that until electoral reform is delivered we will contest the speakers seat?

  • Peter Hirst 21st Sep '21 - 1:27pm

    Forcing a parliamentary candidate on local parties that oppose one seems to be in direct conflict with local decision making. Negotiations should occur and if its Executive or by ballot decide not to, the Party should accept that. We can offer a replacement candidate so our supporters are still in a way supporting us.

  • Richard Elliott 21st Sep '21 - 6:16pm

    Standing a candidate should be the default position, but we should allow for a few exceptions (no more than 20 seats). I suggest on the grounds firstly if we reach a local agreement with another progessive party to reciprocate eg Lewes and Brighton with the Greens. In addition, I see no reason why a limited new Unite to Remain national agreement should not be attempted with if it is backed up by some joint national policy statements. Our party should emphasis co-operation and collaboration, particularly at a local level, where there is a meeting of policy objectives.

    The 2019 GE campaign was seriously flawed in its arrogant presidential tone and ridiculous assumption that we were either an alternative govt or an allternative leader of the opposition. Saying that we must field a candidate in every seat regardless smacks of this tone.

    More important than candidates is to get informal understandings re campaigning – this might be possible with Labour in London forexample where both parties lost seats to the Tories because of uncoordinated campaigning

  • primroseleague 22nd Sep '21 - 5:54pm

    I think the issue is basically whether people will do as they’re told or not in the places where we don’t stand. As an old-school rural Liberal (though with Municipal Tory Socialism sympathies – see name), I will be totally honest and say that at elections where there is no Liberal to vote for I vote Tory. Which is of course the other flaw with the progressive alliance concept in that I don’t suppose I’m remotely alone in that stance (while absolutely not the majority) and that there are others in (or fellow travellers of) the party who when it comes down to it hate Labour more than the Tories.

    I would have to crawl over broken glass before I did anything that put Labour within a sniff of government, but I’ll always vote Liberal when it’s an option.

  • In the last three Westminster elections, the Lib Dem candidate where I live has lost their deposit. But I’m very glad we have people with the guts to put themselves up as candidates, despite this. Because they are truly doing something for democracy.
    My vote may not count, but at least I get to show my preference. If I couldn’t, I think I’d just spoil my ballot paper.

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