The PPC Files (2): what do you wish you'd known before you became a Lib Dem parliamentary candidate?

by Stephen Tall on July 29, 2008

Imagine what it’s like to be a Liberal Democrat prospective parliamentary candidate – tasked with leading and motivating a group of diverse volunteers against all the odds, and organising foot-slogging campaigns on a shoe-string budget that will get you and the party noticed.

Lib Dem Voice contacted a dozen PPCs to find out what they really think about the experience. We guaranteed anonymity to ensure those responding felt able to say what they think, and not simply stick to the obligatory it’s-such-a-privilege line. Of the 12, seven are men and five women, and they include one ethnic minority candidate. The constituencies they hope to represent range from the south to the north, and include Lib Dem marginals and ‘no hope’ seats.

In yesterday’s first instalment of The PPC Files, our ‘golden dozen’ told us what they felt were the three worst things about being a PPC. Today, they let us into secret of what they wished they’d known before they were selected:

Being selected as a PPC in a target seat is like making it through the foothills; getting elected is a whole new story.

A little more about the dark arts of managing difficult people within one’s own party.

That Gordon Brown was going to make this Parliament last the whole five years.

How depressingly predictable it can all be, especially fighting a development seat – not enough people, resources, and a team with hopelessly unrealistic views about how we can do!

That there is a fantastic network of ppcs throughout the country, and many of them are experiencing exactly what you are going through. That network has kept me going!

On the whole I went into it with my eyes open and cannot complain about anything. As I say to our councillors when they gripe – you did volunteer. I had the advantage of having worked for a candidate/MP and had a pretty good idea what it was about. Ultimately, you do volunteer and your time is your own to manage as you see fit.

The personal financial contributions that would be needed. I don’t know how a much younger person, or one with a young family and no personal wealth, can possibly take on being a PPC.

That Gordon Brown wasn’t going to call the election after all! How much of my money it would cost.

That I would have to put almost every other aspect of my life on the back burner to win

That the local party were looking for a miracle as well as a candidate.

How great people’s expectations of you are. My first constituency in 2001 clearly had expectations of me to lead a campaign far in excess of their own capacity to match in activity or my own ability to deliver – you’re expected to be a kind of magic bullet that will sort out the local party, increase fundraising tenfold and devote every evening to knocking on doors, regardless of the seat’s prospects.

The importance given to the status of PPC. I just went through the selection and came through the other end not knowing how difficult it can be to become selected.
The pros and cons of working with lib dem volunteers!!
The self sufficiency that’s required in the role.

In part 3 of The PPC Files (tomorrow): What do your family and friends think about your decision to run for Parliament?