The PPC Files (5): How has becoming a PPC affected your career?

by Stephen Tall on August 1, 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 today’s fifth instalment of The PPC Files, our ‘golden dozen’ tell us how being a Lib Dem PPC has affected their careers.

Increased stress for sure, but a positive endorsement for level of ability to have been selected as PPC.

It’s like having another job, so I work part-time. Consequently, I estimate that it costs me at least £40k a year in lost earnings, and put my career back about 3-4 years (which actually means the lost earnings are rather greater). On top of that, I haven’t been able to put aside enough money to buy a house. You have to accept all this if you’re going to be a PPC, but perhaps some greater recognition of the sacrifices that some PPCs make is overdue, particularly for women PPCs.

I used to have a full-time, well paid job, and now I work three days a week to subsidise the fours days a week I spend campaigning. Any candidate who wants to win can forget about a work-life-politics balance.

My career is on hold

Big time! I have been ‘offered’ two jobs both of which were withdrawn once I made clear the extent of my campaigning activities and the need for time off for the General Election etc/ I work for a University now which is probably the only employer that would allow such flexibility.
I also spend all of my time thinking about my campaign and what I need to do and when I need to do it by. Therefore it stands to reason that I don’t invest as much energy into my job as I would like to. So I don’t go that extra mile, I don’t work late in the office (I go resident surveying instead) I don’t make that crucial contact, I don’t go to the networking events, I’m not scanning the job adverts. I’m far less likely to be promoted internally or have the time or inclination to apply for a promotion. Nor would “losing candidate in a General Election” really enhance my CV. It is win or bust for PPCs in my opinion. Warning: being a PPC will SERIOUSLY damage your career prospects!!

Not much, since I only have part-time commitments otherwise and can control my allocation of time. I suppose it has reduced my income a bit, but I worked out with my wife in advance whether this was within tolerable limits.

There is no doubt that being a PPC has significantly impacted on my earnings potential. I have been a PPC in a development seat and then target seat continuously for six years and in that time I have been unable to move from my current job despite numerous attempts to do so. And the biggest single factor that is affecting my employment is the fact that I am a Parliamentary Candidate. I have had would-be employers ask in detail how much time being a PPC takes, what happens if an election is called, what my prospects for elections are etc. I know that all else being equal, I won’t be offered the job because the political activity is a distraction from my professional work. I don’t believe that it is party political it is just the way it is in a competitive jobs marketplace. And the other side of the coin is that if I did not remain in my present, relatively low paid and local job, there is no way that I could manage the political work that I can. If I had to work longer hours or commute any distance, it would be impossible to keep up.

Yes. I’ve lost promotion, have gone for a career route that was more flexible, but this has meant less pay and less opportunity. I’m also paying less into my pension than I want because of my high levels of contribution to my local party.

I left my job before the last general election to concentrate on my campaign. Since then I have worked freelance. It has worked out quite well, but would have been an unreasonable step to take had I had family dependents to consider.

Adversely. That is, I’m pretty certain that I would have advanced further, career-wise (and in particular would have enjoyed greater job security), had I not become a PPC. My occasional professional habit of sailing rather close to the wind in respect of deadlines is largely down to time pressures connected with my PPCship. However: there is a positive feedback between being a PPC and certain aspects of my job (confidence in public speaking and more generally, for example); and it has (I hope!) been possible to achieve a situation where, should a parliamentary career cease to be an option, my paying career remains viable. I think this is a bare minimum which a PPC should be able to expect.

I chose my career for my politics. I am a solicitor. I am open about standing. I have not been able to apply for some jobs and have been refused contracts because of my political involvement. I have given up full time work for the party. However the training I have received as a PPC has been invaluable and transferable into the work place and now my own business.

In the sixth and final part of The PPC Files (tomorrow): What are the three best things about being a Lib Dem PPC?

The PPC Files (1): What are the three worst things about being a Lib Dem PPC?
The PPC Files (2): What do you wish you’d known before you became a Lib Dem parliamentary candidate?
The PPC Files (3): What do your family and friends think about your decision to run for Parliament?
The PPC Files (4): What’s different about being a Lib Dem PPC compared to being a Labour/Tory PPC?