Select Your Candidates Early

While many councillors are thinking about new administrations and thank you leaflets, those with local elections on the horizon need to turn their thoughts to candidate selection.

Many of you will have local elections in 2024. This includes metropolitan districts, unitary authorities and districts electing by thirds, three unitaries and two districts with all out elections and the seven councils that elect by halves.

Even if you have all out elections that are still a few years away – getting candidates in place early and working hard for the ward is really vital.

Now is the time to start recruiting and approving candidates. The evidence is that election selection helps embed candidates and encouraging early campaigning, which wins elections.

Chichester District was one of our big successes on 4th May. We took control of the Council, gaining seats from Conservatives, Labour and Independents. Cllr Kate O’Kelly believes early selection was a key party of the success;

“ALDC had told us that we should start getting candidates in place early, so we started looking more than a year out. We had candidates to find for both the district council and for Chichester City Council (a parish level authority), so the task was significant with over 50 candidates needed.

“We managed to recruit some excellent candidates and get them in early. Most had no previous experience, so there was a significant knowledge gap. Early selection meant we were able to hold a series of evening and Saturday events to train and inspire our candidates. This meant they understood the campaign, what needed to be done and why we did it that way.

“Early selection and training meant we were able to sustain high canvassing rates for months, a key driver of success.”

While Chichester is an all out council, those who elected by thirds benefit from moving straight from one election result to selecting for next one. It never stops, according to Cllr Suzy Horton, the Deputy Leader of Portsmouth City Council. Early selection is part of the local campaigning strategy.

“This year we faced 3 tricky defences against Labour. In 2022 Labour had won two of the seats and were only 38 votes behind in the third. By selecting last Summer, the candidates had time to get into a pattern of regular canvassing, with plenty of contacts before Christmas.

“This was vital to winning. We were able to achieve big swings to us in these Labour facing wards.” In the Central Southsea ward, a 2022 Labour majority of 439 was turned into a Lib Dem majority of 265 this year.

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