General Election candidates confirmed
At the end of last week, nominations closed for the 650 constituencies to be contested in the UK General Election. Although much of the focus of the campaign will be on national messages and the party leaders, the impact of the campaign at a local level may be more important than perhaps has traditionally been the case.
An early question in this campaign has been whether the Brexit Party would stand a full slate of candidates or only run in a limited number of places. Its decision not to stand in the 317 seats won by the Conservatives in 2017 appears to make it harder for the Lib Dems to win back in the South West now that the Conservatives can portray the contest as a straight Remain/Leave choice in a Eurosceptic part of the country.
Some commentators argue that Nigel Farage’s decision to stand Brexit Party candidates in Labour held seats in the north and midlands will make it harder for the Conservatives to make the gains they need to get an overall majority. However, others suggest that their presence may actually help if they can drive down the Labour share of the vote by winning over disgruntled “Leavers” who would not countenance voting Conservative. Only time will tell which analysis is right.
On the Remain side, the Liberal Democrats, Greens and Plaid Cymru have agreed to stand a single candidate in 60 seats, yet the impact of this is likely to be limited. As many of the seats have large majorities, the number of seats truly impacted by this deal is probably only in single figures. The national impact of this would therefore only be relevant in the tightest of elections.
Of the 21 Conservatives to have lost the whip in September, some have had the whip restored and are standing again while a number have decided to stand down. Only two have decided to stand as Independent Conservatives – Dominic Grieve and David Gauke. The task of holding their seats will be an uphill one for both, made slightly easier for Mr Grieve with the Lib Dems agreeing to stand down in his Beaconsfield constituency.
Moderates leave Parliament
Regardless of the result of this election, it is clear that the new Parliament will be younger and less experienced than this one with a number of old hands choosing this as their moment of departure. But those departing also include a number of younger, moderate MPs, on both the Labour and Conservative side who have chosen to leave Parliament, when they arguably still have much to give to public life.
Of greatest concern is that a disproportionate number of these MPs are female, citing concerns about the safety for themselves and their family and ground down by the abuse and hatred they have received on social media, including sometimes from within their own party. Those who regularly work with MPs will testify to the unacceptable pressures they face, most of which would be unthinkable just a few years ago.
Selected candidates stand down
Another set of politicians are departing the scene before facing the electorate for the first time. These are the parliamentary candidates who have been selected, but then have had to withdraw as a consequence of previous statements or behaviour, whether online or in-person. There have always been a few such cases in previous elections, but this is the first time that has seen candidates forced to stand down on an almost daily basis in the first fortnight of the campaign. Some may point to the (mis)use of social media as an explanation of why this is happening now, rather than in previous elections. But it is as much an indictment of the views and the character of some of those now attracted to politics and the fact that in many places those involved in party selections are increasingly partisan and disconnected from the views of the wider public. It is perhaps what happens when mainstream politicians are forced to leave the stage.
While the next House of Commons will contain a significant number of new faces, many come with previous political experience. This tranche of Conservative parliamentary candidates includes a number of former special advisers. This includes Boris Johnson’s recent advisers James Wild (North West Norfolk), Danny Kruger (Devizes) and Andrew Griffith (Arundel and South Downs), while Laura Trott, a former special adviser to David Cameron, was selected for Sevenoaks. However, two notable hopefuls were not selected – Theresa May’s (joint) Chief of Staff Nick Timothy and former Osborne adviser, Rupert Harrison.
On the Labour side, sitting MPs successfully fought off hard-left deselection challenges, but those standing down have largely been replaced by those close to Jeremy Corbyn and his advisers. This includes Claudia Webbe (Leicester East) and Ibrahim Dogus, chosen to replace Deputy Leader Tom Watson in West Bromwich East. A highly controversial selection took place in Bassetlaw where Sally Gimson selected by local members was removed by the National Executive Committee, with Unite-backed Keir Morrison replacing her. While the current Parliamentary Labour Party has largely been sceptical or hostile towards Jeremy Corbyn, the new intake is potentially more supportive.
For further advice and support or if you have any questions, please contact Razi Rahman, Partner and Head of Political at Maitland/AMO, on firstname.lastname@example.org