Thursday, 17 August 2017

Local Government Candidate Recruitment

Identifying, recruiting and training sufficient local government candidates has always been a challenge, especially for "all out" councils who often need to find 50 or more good candidates. Our local Associations have a duty to:

  • Effectively fight every single seat
  • Replace non-performing councillors or those who have outstayed their welcome, and
  • Ensure members have a choice and don't just have to settle on who happens to be available.

Councillors are often arm-twisted into standing "one more time" as there is no-one else available, and too often we have to re-select councillors who clearly don't perform or fulfil their campaign obligations as there is no choice. 

In West Kent we have a mixed bag locally. Two of my Associations are absolutely ruthless at not just refusing to put weak applicants on the "approved list" but also removing non-performers (and this includes those who do not support their branch or campaign towards the association's wider political goals - including campaign support elsewhere). At the last round of selections in one particular Association almost 20% of incumbent councillors either "jumped" before they were pushed or were removed from the "approved list" by the Approvals Committee (with not one successful appeal, as I always ensure the process is followed to the letter). 

Many Associations fear removing poor performing councillors due to the effect this has on morale. Locally, we have few if any concerns about this. The overwhelming majority of councillors pull their weight both in terms of their support for the Association and with campaigning - and they are rightfully as irritated as the rest of us about their non-performing colleagues. Almost certainly, if a councillor fails to pull their weight with campaigning, fund raising and political activity, they almost always similarly fail to pull their weight with casework and council related business too - resulting in an unfair additional burden on their colleagues. 

The ability to bring forward a new generation and retire those who don;t pull their weight is of course dependent on having a ready supply of new applicants. This involves constant work on identifying and recruiting potential councillors throughout the year, and not leaving it until four months before polling day before realising you are short of local talent.

So we have already commenced our 2019 candidate recruitment and development programme for those districts with all-out elections in 18 months time. In Gravesham for example, 5,000 Conservative pledges in our target demographic group have just received this letter from the Chairman. Already almost 50 brand new potential candidates have been identified:

And the following poster is going up in shop windows, supermarkets, community notice boards across West Kent, often with surprising local results:

Some of our strongest and most effective councillors in West Kent are people who were not previously active: community leaders, campaigners, local activists and neighbourhood champions. Many did not see themselves as 'political' and few if any would have ever come forward to be a candidate had we not "reached out" beyond our traditional membership base and asked them to do so.

Be bold !  

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