paint-mapThe race to succeed Richard Ottaway in Croydon South continues apace.

After sifting through a large number of applicants, the local Association has chosen a long-list of 15 to go through to the next round. Those candidates are now being whittled down to 3 who will go through to a vote of the Croydon South party membership.

Next week they will face the traditional mainstay of PPC selection – the interview. But last weekend all 15 went through a more unusual test: a canvassing assessment.

I understand that two wards were picked, and the candidates sent out to knock on doors, each accompanied by a councillor to act as an assessor.

It’s a good idea – all too often selections rely on good interviews and entertaining speeches without testing how candidates communicate when face to face with the electorate.

I’m told that the process threw up some genuinely challenging situations, and turned the selection panel’s opinion of several candidates on its head. While some seized the moment and impressed, a couple faltered badly – all of which helps to inform the decision for the final shortlist.

For a party that believes in success based on merit, these practical tests ought to be far more common. Making speeches and inspiring the party faithful is important, but so is the ability to convince sceptical voters that you are the person to vote for.

Apparently the associations in Tonbridge and Malling and in Newark have both implemented some practical tests of their own in their candidate selections, so it seems this is set to become more popular.

It’s part of a growing – and welcome – realisation that candidates must be able to win elections, as well as perform well in Parliamentary debates. After all, they never get to do the latter if they can’t do the former.