Do Lib Dems ask too much of our candidates?

by Stephen Tall on May 12, 2008

Brian Paddick’s campaign diary was published in yesterday’s Mail on Sunday (if you haven’t yet had chance to read it, you can do so here). It’s a fascinating, wry, self-deprecating, candid account of the highs and lows of running for the London mayoralty on the Lib Dem ticket.

Brian’s conclusion, though, is pretty downbeat:

… on the whole it has been very, very disappointing. All that effort and time, nine months of my life, unpaid and for what? I feel bruised and bewildered by the lack of support as a result of not being able to raise enough money – we were outspent 20:1 by the Ken and Boris machines. Some people have asked if I’ll run for Parliament now. It’s as likely as me running another marathon. Not for anyone.

To which many of us will say: a shame. Brian is an instinctive liberal, who achieved much in his police career. If there isn’t room in political life for someone of his talents and determination, then something’s amiss.

But it also prompts the question: does the party ask too much of candidates, especially those who are first-timers and new to the rough and tumble of political life?

Now there are those who will say, politics is hard, and campaigns are gruelling precisely because those who aspire to elected office need to prove their resilience.

Yet we know the Lib Dems – lacking the financial resources of Labour and the Tories – have to run our campaigns on a shoestring: we continually punch above our weight, but it can be a bruising, knackering experience for the candidate. And if the result is that good people end up saying, ‘Never again!’, we have to ask if it does us long-term damage.

I don’t have an answer, and I’m not sure there is one. In the meantime, I for one am hoping Brian will change his mind.