Kemi Badenoch is MP for Saffron Walden, and the Conservative Party’s Vice Chairman for Candidates.
I was very proud to have been appointed as Vice Chairman for Candidates in January. I was on the candidates list for nine years. I fought a safe Labour seat in 2010, canvassed in seats across the country, manned phone-banks in CCHQ and campaigned in numerous by-elections throughout this period before successfully getting elected last year. I know the ups and downs of being a candidate and want to use this experience to help iron out the creases and continue to improve the system.
I have clear objectives in my new role: to improve candidates’ well-being and satisfaction through support and development; to broaden the pipeline of candidates so that we have the breadth of talent that is as representative as possible of our country’s diversity; and to build an effective body of campaigners who can win elections.
It is critical that our Party members have faith in the system, and know that only the brightest and best candidates are being selected. I am against the use of quota systems, including all-women shortlists. I believe they are a short-term fix which do nothing to resolve the underlying problem of why fewer women decide against a career in politics.
Except in extraordinary circumstances, local associations must have the final say in picking their candidates, but it is also crucial that associations do not decide on who they want before the selection process, without having the opportunity to see many others keen to represent their seat.
A balanced Parliamentary Party requires a diverse pipeline of candidates, and this means diversity of background and thought. Given the nature of our work, it is right that we have a decent number of talented lawyers but we need much more than that. The nurses, doctors, engineers, postmen, miners in the Party provide us with a depth and breadth of life experience far beyond that of Labour, Lib Dem, or SNP MPs.
It is important that the candidates’ department communicate as often and as clearly as possible – not just about what we are doing, but how and why. Many Party members find the selection process mysterious and opaque. Many candidates can feel left in the dark about how the machine is functioning, and how close they are to getting shortlisted for a seat.
We can and we must do better, and I will be working with the rest of the team to improve the communications we send out. We can’t please everyone all the time, but the number of those disappointed will fall if we provide a clear and transparent process with rules laid out in advance.
In return, we expect transparency and integrity from our candidates. We will be increasing due diligence activities. This means continuing to ensure that the job descriptions and achievements on candidates’ CVs give associations the right information to hand when making decisions.
Teamwork is the single most important attribute for electoral success. For candidates, this means helping other candidates, not just at a parliamentary level but at council elections and by-elections too.
Real teamwork often means personal sacrifices for the greater good. It means turning up at campaigning events if no government minister will be attending, volunteering to run associations and other networks.
We are a campaigning party, and that campaigning is built on support for each other. For candidates, that means supporting fellow aspiring MPs in their seats and on to electoral victory. It is a key part of being a candidate and works in both directions. It continues when you are elected, and when you are a minister. It is a fundamental part of ensuring that we form a government, through having more Conservatives in the Commons.
On my part, this means collaborating more with other vice-chairs. There is some overlap in the work we do and supporting each other, which will be vital to achieving success. For example, I will be working on training for candidates with James Morris, my fellow Vice Chairman.
I am looking forward to working with everyone on the list, and with my colleagues here at CCHQ, to ensure that being a candidate for our party is as fulfilling and enjoyable as possible. Whether or not you are successful in finding and winning a seat, being a candidate should be an enriching experience that is both personally and professionally rewarding.