How we Stood a Full Slate in Herefordshire

Councillor Sam Potts, campaign organiser for Herefordshire, tells us how his local party stood a full slate of candidates in their most recent elections.

I’m a Liberal Democrat and have been since I was 14 years old. I have been involved in candidate approval, selection and election for years.

Whether it is a third of the council up each year or all candidates up once every four years, there is a definite issue when people turn up to the polling stations and don’t have the opportunity to vote Liberal Democrat.

Voters across Britain are still more likely to go to a polling station and find no Lib Dem candidate to vote for than they are to find no Labour or Conservative candidate. In the 2024 local elections we stood in 68% of the seats up for election. By contrast Labour stood in 91%, and the Conservatives had candidates for 95% of the vacancies.

The message that having no Liberal Democrat on the ballot gives to voters is huge. Not only for that particular election, but for elections for years to come. it allows voters to think having a Lib Dem option is not important, and that voting for other parties is acceptable. This message may stay with them for future elections – even ones we contest.

As a party we quite frankly need to do better. I was mortified when I got my ballot paper at my parents house to see there was no Liberal Democrat on the ballot. I was left to think well what about people like me. I cannot stomach voting for the Green Party, Labour or the Conservatives. In the end I spoilt my ballot in capital letters it read “LIBERAL DEMOCRAT CANDIDATE REQUIRED”! I vowed that no matter what local party I worked with in future we would put a full state of candidates up.

I then moved to Herefordshire, an area where we use to have the MP and had previously had control of the council. Like many areas it lost councillors in 2008-2015 and we were now on the way back up.

The local party agreed we needed to put up a full slate of 53 candidates and this meant we sent out a strong message that we were serious about winning. I think this played a big part in the huge 14% swing we had in this election.

So how did we find them you might ask?

Starting with a list of wards we put names by existing councillors that had been approved to stand again.

Then we looked at who had stood before or those who had come forward to ask to stand (a small number I know)!

The main part of the list then came from the community – people our councillors and members had worked with on community groups. We went out to ask these people to help us make a change. Many were not Lib Dem members at this time. But we felt they were sympathetic to our values and shared our passion for the community.

We found people already involved in the community ; the local bookshop owner, fish and chip man round the corner, the traffic warden, the woman who runs the autistic society, the IT man who used to be a council officer, the retired nurse, the vicar who had just moved to the area, no one came off the list unless we had a definite no and even then they stayed as a maybe!

Finally, we went to our membership who had already had two emails telling them how important it is that we put up a full slate. We had to assure them that there was no chance of you winning. This filled our last few spaces, a huge thank you to all who became part of the team!

All then went through an approval process and we selected our target seats by December. We got the full slate and have grown as a team, we are now the main opposition on the County Council and our aim for 2027 is to have an active local candidate in every ward.

Under the new form for England local elections you only need a proposer and seconder for the nomination paper – if the candidate lives in the ward they can sign their own nomination paper if need be. But it’s extremely easy to get two signatures from spouses or neighbours!

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