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Vote me!

August 15th, 2013 · Posted by Skuds in Politics · No Comments · Politics

This year I decided to put in nomination papers for the local council elections. For various reasons I have been quite absent from politics for a couple of years, but I’m feeling a lot more up for it now.

When I got selected for the Horsham parliamentary elections I concentrated on that constituency, although did manage to fit in some canvassing in Crawley as well. As we all remember, the general election didn’t get called when Tony Blair stood down and so I was a PPC for a couple of years longer than expected.

Since then I couldn’t have faced being a councillor and so didn’t take part in Crawley’s nomination and selection processes. I still like to do what I can so I let myself get put down as a paper candidate a few times, this year in East Grinstead and before that as a last-minute substitute in Maidenbower when somebody dropped out. That quite suited me because I hadn’t had to go through all the motions of the nominations and vetting and selections, which is a lot to go through for standing somewhere you don’t expect to win.

This time I feel up to all that, though I am not looking forward to it. You might expect that I would be quite confident, having been through it all before, and having been part of the interviewing panel before as well, but I find any sort of interview a bit stressful.

People who are not in the Labour party (i.e. most people) probably are not aware of all the stages you have to get through to be a councillor, or even a candidate, in a fully-functioning constituency where there are plenty of winnable seats and more potential candidates than seats. In places like Horsham and Mid Sussex there are usually fewer candidates than seats and so they miss out a lot of the stages in order to get as full a slate as possible, but in Crawley we do the whole thing.

Stage one is getting nominated to go onto the panel of candidates. In the old days you had to be nominated by somebody else but now you can self-nominate. Some of the older hands think this is dead wrong but it does make it a bit easier. I’m pretty sure I could find somebody to nominate me if I really wanted to, but I didn’t bother.

Stage two is when you get vetted. That is probably not the word used, but it is what it amounts to. Assuming that nothing has changed significantly since I last went through it, a panel from the local party interview the panel of applicants to see who gets on the panel of candidates. The word ‘panel’ is used too often and it does get confusing. The interviews are not to find out who are the best candidates but just to make sure that anyone who goes to the next stage meets the minimum requirements. This means making sure they don’t have anything that would disqualify them from taking office if they win, have no skeletons in their closet, and understand what commitments they would have to make  (and keep) if they became a candidate or a councillor.

Stage three is when everybody has been through the interview and the list of potential candidate has to be formally approved by the party’s general committee.

After that there are the selections – stage four. In each ward where there is to be an election, the members choose a candidate from the pot of approved people. They will normally invite several to a meeting, get them all to address the meeting and ask a few questions and then select whoever their current councillor is the best one.

The wards are supposed to hold their meetings in order, with the most winnable getting first pick, and the scheduling of that is usually a logistical nightmare. At the end of all that, there is a central selection for those wards that were unable to hold a meeting for whatever reason. Personally I would be happy for the whole thing to be done in one central selection, though this is considered heresy in most parts of the party. As you can imagine the last ward to select will have a much smaller number of options.

Stage five would be the actual elections, which is where the average person might, if they didn’t think about it too hard, think it all starts, but it is quite a long process just to get there.

So, do I expect to be a councillor at the end of all that? Do I want to be? Do I have any preferences about where to stand?

Taking the last question first, I’m not too bothered. Crawley is a small, compact area. It is hard to live here for any length of time without having friends in every ward and being fairly familiar with all parts of the town. It is not like the county council where they could be discussing places you have literally not even heard of. It is nice to represent the area where you live in an ideal world, but it is very far from essential in a place like this.

Do I expect to be a councillor? That depends on getting though the first couple of stages and then seeing who wants me. The way things are going there is a chance that almost anywhere in town could be winnable for us next year if we do enough work, so if I got selected somewhere we already hold or where we have made leaps forward in the last few elections then there is a very good chance? And if I end up getting selected for Maidenbower again then I’ll do that and actually try to do it as more than a paper candidate.

But do I want to be? Although the prospect is a bit scary, I do now. I think that the job is a lot harder than when I did it before, which is what makes it more scary, and it can take up a lot of your time. Fortunately I have a lot of time now that I don’t have commuting to London to contend with, and since I was last there all the kids have grown up and left home.

Two things make the prospect of rejoining the council quite enticing. One is the number of new faces. There are a lot of people on the council now that I now well enough but have not worked with because they were elected during the last 10 years – Peter Lamb, Michael Jones, Chris Oxlade, Peter Smith, Geraint Thomas, Colin Moffatt for example – and it would be exciting to work alongside such a strong team. That is not to discount the ones who are still there from my time, but its always novelty that makes things attractive isn’t it?

The other exciting thing is that we just don’t know what the colour of the council will be. Labour could well be in control again, certainly if the local Tories keep imploding,  tearing each other to pieces, and defecting to UKIP. Whatever happens at the 2014 elections I can’t imagine the outcome being anything less than interesting.

Having said that, I’m not desperate to be a councillor ( I think that anybody who is should probably be disqualified on that reason alone). If I was that keen I would have tried to get selected in a winnable seat years ago, but now that I’ve got the time to do it I might as well put my name in the hat.

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