The candidate selection processes of the last Parliament produced the Cameron’s Children intake. It is a good one, which suggests that Downing Street and CCHQ have learned from some of the mistakes that dogged the A-List idea. The matching of types of seats to types of candidates – in which CCHQ and the local Association sit down together, aided by a demographic analysis of the constituency in question, to try to get the selection right – is sensible enough in principle. Bursaries for less well-off candidates is a long-held cause of this site, given the cost of being a candidate, which the Party is now taking an interest in. They would perhaps have a special role to play in “development seats” that a candidate would be expected to contest for more than one election in order to have a shot at winning.
But there is a balance to be struck between central planning – necessary if the very low number of candidates with public sector experience in the safer seats is to be raised – and Association autonomy. The candidates’ list has probably been too small and prone to fashions that chop and change. One thoroughly retrograde development is the way that the final selection round now tends to work in the safer seats. Association members turn up to choose from three or four people about whom they know absolutely nothing. The identities of these people has been kept a closely guarded secret. They are then expected to make a selection in a few hours, with no opportunity to probe at more leisure what the candidates are like. It is a speed dating process for a marriage that could last 20 years or more.
This needs to change if the charge made by Nick Timothy is to be put to sleep: “It is…wrong to treat constituencies as baubles to be handed out as a form of patronage.” There is a case for Associations with fewer than 100 members being required to select Prospective Parliamentary Candidates through open primaries (or, rather, open caucuses). When polled, more of this site’s Party member readers voted against that proposal than for it. 92 per cent agreed that Association members should be informed of the names of candidates in the final round of Parliamentary selections at least three days before the final selection meeting takes place.