Dan Watkins is PPC for Tooting and contested it in May’s General Election.
Many of you will have recently read Paul Abbott’s interesting article on this site about selecting our Parliamentary candidates as early in advance of 2020 as possible. As Paul says, he hasn’t been a PPC himself, so I thought I’d give a personal account from the front-line, as I was reselected as the Conservative Parliamentary Spokesman for Tooting over the summer, in what may have been the earliest nomination in this Parliamentary cycle. (Astute readers will already be aware that our minds are focused on a possible by-election here next year).
Like a Tour de France cyclist, anyone ‘going early’ has to recognise that the risk of not ultimately winning the seat are high. Not only might you do an excellent job in the role only to find your seat’s boundary change makes it virtually unwinnable, but it could morph to include the seat of a sitting Conservative MP, or attract other star performers, so that you don’t even get nominated.
What’s more, it may be that you have no option but to choose not to stand when the time comes – because, for example, of relocation for work, family changes, ill-health, and so on. As an entrepreneur, I suppose I have an unusually high tolerance of risk, but I think there are lots of scenarios in which it does make sense for even a risk-averse potential candidate to take the plunge:
- Councillors: if you are a local councillor then you already have a footprint in the seat, so being the Parliamentary spokesperson is not quite so much extra work on top of what you already do,
- Local residents: if you live in the seat (as I do) then it’s much more feasible to keep the work going, even around a full-time job and family
- Community activists: linked to the above points, if you are already running local projects and campaigns on a voluntary basis, it becomes much easier to demonstrate to residents that you have the skills needed to be a good future MP.
I make no bones about it: giving up so much spare time to serve your community and your party is a real sacrifice and gruelling at times. But I do think it’s achievable, especially if you can tick one or two of the above points.
Above all, I’d point out that being a Parliamentary Spokesman is a two-way street and, just as the Association may not ultimately select you, you may choose to drop out at some stage. We’re all just volunteers at the end of the day, and I think Associations respect this fact.
And finally, the worst that can happen is that you don’t make it as the MP this time – but, even so, during your stint you improved the area through the campaigns you ran, helped people out and kept the Conservative flag flying.
I’d be interested to know if any other constituencies have elected a Parliamentary Spokesman (or equivalent) already? I certainly hope there are plenty of other candidates willing to do it. After all, four years and eight months will fly by…