Wendy Chamberlain MP: Tips for winning your selection campaign

When I joined the Liberal Democrats in 2015, immediately following the General Election, I was working in military resettlement, supporting service leavers into employment. If you had told me that within 5 years, I would be a Member of Parliament for the party, I would have laughed very loudly.

When I decided to enter the selection for North East Fife in 2018 (at that time the most marginal seat in the UK with only 2 votes separating the SNP from the Liberal Democrats) it was clear that I needed to take some of my own job-seeking advice on board.

If you are serious about becoming a PPC in a Liberal Democrat target seat, here are some top tips on how to approach the selection. I’m assuming here that you are already an approved candidate.

  1. Do your homework. How many members, councillors?  What are the boundaries? What campaigns are they working on locally (hint – read the local party website)? Who are the influential local members? Is there a local organiser? If you are selected, these people are the core of the team you need to win. It’s never too early to start building relationships and demonstrate by your actions why you are the candidate that can lead that team to victory.
  2. Follow instructions. This is a competitive process. Speaking personally, being an MP is a dream job. Candidates in the job market who don’t follow instructions (e.g. submit a covering letter AND a CV) don’t get shortlisted. Get the right things in by the deadline. If you are given a named contact outside the selection process to contact for a constituency overview, contact them. They might tell you nothing new (particularly if you have followed my first tip), but you are demonstrating that you are fully engaged with the process.
  3. Get a team. You simply can’t do this alone. Who can help you with the variety of tasks that a successful selection campaign requires? I couldn’t artwork to save myself, but I knew someone who could. North East Fife is a big, largely rural constituency with lots of driving between members so my mum helped out by being my driver over the weekends.
  4. Get organised. Map out all the tasks and agree who is doing what. I was working full time throughout the selection, so knowing things were happening whilst I was working was very reassuring. I had my big map and whiteboard so that I was keeping track of progress. My aim was to knock every member’s door prior to the hustings and we did it.
  5. Think outside the box. Always check in with your Returning Officer in advance but there are potentially lots of things you can do to reach out to members in a different way. I know of one colleague who, due to work commitments, knew reaching every member was going to be a stretch so sent a DVD to everyone. Be clear on your message, and why you are the best candidate to win the seat.
  6. Say thank you. We’re Liberal Democrats. We’re nice – or we like to think we are but I’ve been amazed at the stories of selections that turn nasty. Thank fellow candidates. Both of my opponents in my selection came to help during the 2019 GE campaign. They are committed campaigners who want Liberal Democrats to win, but I firmly believe that the positive way we all campaigned in the selection the previous year played a part in securing their support. Thank every member for being a member of the party. Thank everyone in your personal team. Thank your family and friends, who have just been given a taster of what’s coming if you are successful (and if you’re not – ask for feedback for future selections).

Finally, even if you are only entering a contest to gain experience, do take it seriously. This is your first engagement with members, and if it’s not you this time, you want it to be you in future. Good luck!

* Wendy Chamberlain is the MP for North East Fife and the Chief Whip of the Liberal Democrats in Parliament.

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2 Comments

  • Brad Barrows 30th Jul '21 - 12:24pm

    Yes, Wendy did extremely well to attract so many tactical Tory votes to win the seat from the SNP in 2019 despite the SNP increasing its vote share by 7.3%. For the Tory vote to fall by 11% was quite remarkable – the challenge will be to keep them voting tactically at the next election as a majority of 1,316 is still very marginal.

  • Jane Ann Liston 30th Jul '21 - 8:44pm

    Well said, Wendy – good advice.

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