Sunday, 13 October 2013

Why I cannot give feedback on the PPC Interview process (so please stop asking me!)

Despite being specifically asked not to seek feedback, many candidates have done so! I suspect this is understandable, and if I was in their shoes I would also like to know if I did anything wrong or what I could do better. The fact is, I am unable to give feedback, and even if I was I would not do so. The process was confidential and that must be respected. However, for the sake of transparency, here is how I have replied to all who have contacted me.
As I explained in my email of Tuesday, I cannot give individual feedback. First of all, each member of the Sift Committee might have had different reasons for either rejecting an application or putting one through. I didn't ask what those reasons were, nor should I. I cannot therefore comment why people reached the decisions they did. I understand that the Head of Candidates at CCHQ is happy for me to direct specific enquiries to him.
Looking at those shortlisted, there is no clear pattern. Some have long histories with the party as activists and some did not. Some has visited the constituency and helped with campaigning, others did not. Interestingly, those who tried hardest to get themselves noticed, tended to have poor support. I think this is an important lesson, especially in a seat like T&M; phoning, turning-up on members' doorsteps, buying tickets for every branch event and using them to network, all seemed to irritate people and in the end I believe it did more harm than good.
It is interesting that neither the Sift Committee nor the Executive Council set themselves any quota, or even discussed the spread of applicants they would like to be offered. In fact, such discussions are specifically forbidden under the rules. Each member of the Sift Committee had to work independently and with no consultation or agreement with others. I was therefore pleased to see that of those applicants put forward for further consideration, 50% were women and around 20% were BME.
The one attribute which I believe every successful applicant had in common was "leadership". Whether in the field of politics, business, community or charity work, each had clearly demonstrated a degree of outstanding leadership in his or her chosen field.
In reply to your final point re CCHQ. Many have raised this, and on many blogs and websites there has been the usual background noise that "CCHQ will dictate what happens". I would like to nail this once and for all. From our very first meeting with the Candidates' Team right up to meeting to select the shortlist last week, every decision has been made by the Association. The timetable put forward by our Chairman was accepted. The proposal to hold an Open Primary came from me, the Management Committee supported it unanimously and over 95% of the Executive Council voted for it. We saw all the applicants' CVs. Yes, clearly when we had many applicants chasing 10 interview places not all could go through, but the decision to put people through or not was taken by the Sift Committee.  We did have an issue with the final two places as there were 20 candidates "tied" and we went through round after round of voting to narrow the field. When we finally reached three applicants for the final two places, it was clear that we were at stalemate; so to be fair we increased the number being interviewed and put all three through.
I hope this is in some way helpful. As I have said to every candidate who has asked, I cannot and will not give personal feedback as it simply isn't possible to do so. Nor, I trust, will individual members of the Sift Committee.   However, I believe the above principles are an accurate reflection of how the Association approached the selection and shortlisting process.

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