One of ConservativeHome’s recommendations to repair the Conservative campaign machine was that the Party should select Parliamentary candidates far earlier in the cycle:
‘Earlier candidate selection gives focus to an association’s efforts, and gives the candidate the benefit of far greater name recognition when election day comes round. There should be a general presumption in favour of selecting much earlier.’
Pleasingly, that was one of the proposals taken up by Sir Eric Pickles in the General Election review he undertook for CCHQ:
’45. Early adoption of candidates is always very desirable, especially in regard to parliamentary, Police and Crime Commissioners and Combined Authority Mayors. Parliamentary candidates should be in place in battleground seats by June 2018 to ensure they are well-established within the seat before the next scheduled General Election on 5th May 2022.’
So far, though, no seats have been approved by CCHQ to select candidates – though new Parliamentary Assessment Boards have taken place, and the process of deciding who gets to stay on the Candidates List has continued.
Troublingly, Labour has now stolen a march on the Conservatives on this front. LabourList reports today that the Opposition has begun the selection process in 14 target constituencies, and intends to select candidates in 75 key seats before the end of this year.
The 14 in question are: Bournemouth West; Broxtowe; Camborne, Redruth and Hayle; Erewash; Filton and Bradley Stoke; Gloucester; Northampton North; Plymouth Moor View; Preselli Pembrokeshire; Rochford and Southend East; Rugby; Shipley; South Swindon; and Thurrock.
Why has the Conservative Party not yet started doing the same? Allowing itself to be outpaced by Labour would be an unforced error.