After what seems like months of meetings and planning, hundreds of phone calls, emails and chance encounters with people who "just happened to be in the area and thought they would pop-in for a chat" we are finally underway with our parliamentary selection.
At 3.50pm today the following email was sent out by our Candidates' Department to everyone on the Parliamentary List.
The Officers of the Association made a decision not to speak to or meet with any applicants as they felt to do so would give them an advantage, whether real or perceived. There was also the fear that if they met with one or two applicants, they would have to meet them all as a matter of fairness. I believe this was the right decision.
All enquiries (and there have been hundreds) have been handled by me through the Association Office. At the start of the process I wrote down 20 bullet points covering the application process, likely timetable, local issues, the demography and geography of the constituency, the background of the Association and our political strengths and weaknesses locally. Every potential applicant has received the same briefing, and I too have refused to meet privately or accept hospitality from anyone on the List. I expect some applicants may feel I could have given more away, but looking back I am confident that I have treated everyone with fairness and courtesy; not always easy when the unrelenting work related to my day job is piling-up and I am reading out my briefing for the tenth time that day!
It has been a privilege to chat to so many decent and dedicated candidates.I am absolutely confident that the Sift Committee and the Executive Council will be truly spoilt for choice.
May I also thank Gareth Fox at CCHQ and Julian Walden for their help, forbearance and hard work. For us, this is the only selection we will have to do (hopefully for many years to come). For them it is one of many, and I suspect every Association Chairman is sending lists of demands and wanting immediate responses. We are fortunate to have such experienced people working for the Party.
Let the contest commence - and good luck to each and every applicant.