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How can we support candidates who can’t afford to stand for office?

September 3, 2015 3:56 PM
By David Laycock in Liberal Democrat Voice
Originally published by East Midlands Liberal Democrats

With the #LibDemFightback still continuing after the announcement of our new Leader and by-elections happening almost every week across the country and the party making net gains, campaigners are now planning for next year's local elections up and down the country. We may be under 5 years away from 2020, with a new vision and a path for the party to be decided, but what about candidates who want to stand for election but can't because they can't afford to?

I write in response to last week's article by Mark Argent regarding the financial exclusion of candidates. I thought about standing in the last election, but I didn't feel it was the right time and I thought I didn't have the finances I would need. There may be many prospective candidates wishing to stand for parliamentary seats, but feel they could not because they couldn't afford to run a campaign for several months.

We as a party do need to look at the wider members within the party, especially the 17,000+ new members who could potentially be the next parliamentary candidate for their constituency. But what if they couldn't financially contribute to the campaign? How should the party help them?

Some local parties may not have the resources, there are of course other ways: training local parties on crowd funding, building the presence before a General Election. If local parties don't have the resources, then the party needs to look at setting up a fund for parliamentary candidates who need help to run their non-target campaign. I don't feel we are excluding them, but we are not encouraging members on lower incomes to stand.

Candidates are motivated to stand for all sorts of reasons. Perhaps it's because they don't like what the current Councillor or MP is not doing for their ward or constituency, or they're not happy with the Council Tax rise, or the fact that a library is closing and they and the local Lib Dems are fighting to keep it open. Their personal wealth, or lack of it, should not be a barrier to someone who would work hard for their area.

The same applies for General Elections. Standing up for Liberal Democrat values should not require deep pockets. I appreciate the comments Mark has made about access for funding. We need to have wider Access for Funding for candidates wishing to stand and we need to encourage them.

Now as the party rebuilds, this is the time for those voices to be heard and the party to decide what we can do for those candidates wanting to make a change for their constituents.

* Daniel Laycock is a Liberal Democrat member from Huntingdon and has been a council candidate.