We are trying to imagine what Boris Johnson, in his buccaneering days as a Daily Telegraph columnist and aspirant Conservative candidate, would have made of an e-mail telling him that “we are moving away from the linear two-pass model and instead are transitioning to a nine-box lattice model”.  And that “this will provide a much broader and flexible range of development paths”.

Our guess is that he would run for the hills.  Or for his word processor.  Or both.

That may also be the instinct of members of the Conservative candidates’ list, who as we write this piece, are receiving a note containing those words.

The e-mail also refers to “a reimagined competency framework” and ensuring “that our new platforms are populated with one source of truth” and offering “a supportive and bespoke development journey for each one of you”.  So what’s going on?

The note is to those on the candidates’ list. And it says that “we will shortly begin inviting a small number of you to take part in our pilot scheme for the new Re-List Assessment process”.  However, that’s only the start: for the pilots are “the roadmap to the application process being rolled out”.

In plain terms, the candidates list is about to undergo what was described to ConservativeHome as “the first real overhaul of the process since 2002”.  Forget pilots (for a moment): everyone on the list is to be reassessed – sooner or later.

The thrust of the e-mail is that there has been a candidates’ review since the election; that the whole system is “transitioning” off paper and on to digital, and that this will free up the candidates’ team to do more work with each candidate.

So what does this “reimagined competency framework” look like?  Well, there will be “a short campaign elevator pitch, a 50-minute-long competency-based interview, a multiple-choice test, and a review of your campaigning report from the 2019 General Election”.

CCHQ will be asking four main questions about prospective future MPs.  How would they campaign?  What would they be like at constituency work?  What would they be like as legislators?  How could they help develop party policy?  It will also be looking for “integrity”, “compassion” – and a series of other values.

Footnote: the good news is that CCHQ has decided to cancel the ‘Candidates Network Fee’ for this year.  However, “the new platforms have affected how the Re-List Assessment process is conducted, and you will now be required to contribute £110 towards the Re-List Assessment”.  What you gain on the swings…

What to make of all this?  Four points.

  • The response of many of those who have been through the candidates’ list experience, or are members of it now, will be a weary shrug – and claims that this new process is “a CCHQ stitch-up”.  But it seems to us that if CCHQ wants to stitch something up – and we’re not saying it’s never happened – it wouldn’t need to invent such an elaborate process to do so.
  • Testing the prospective ability of future candidates both to campaign and legislate strikes this site as reasonable enough.
  • It seems unlikely to us that a CCHQ team of six people, even if liberated from the grind of paperwork, will be able to staff “a supportive and bespoke development journey for each one of you”.   There is talk of farming some of this work out to the regions and areas, but we are sceptical.  It strikes us that one way of soothing the nerves of would-be candidates would be to de-jargonise the process.  But what do we know?
  • As readers will note, this rolling revision of the candidates’ list is a very long way away from any actual selections for seats – and we are several years off a general election.