Becoming a Lib Dem Parliamentary Candidate
Guidance and Information
Welcome to the Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate approvals process!
As a party, we are always delighted to welcome new candidates.
Becoming a parliamentary candidate and fighting an election as a representative of the Party can be a fantastic and often life-changing experience. As a candidate, you will have the chance to make a real difference to your local area and to stand up for local people. The role is one of variety - one day you may be dealing with a local resident’s problem, the next giving your opinion on national Party policy.
We hope that this document will provide you with a helpful overview of how the approvals process works.
If you have any questions or if we can be of any assistance at all, please do not hesitate to contact us by emailing email@example.com
The Approval Process
The Party’s approvals process is designed to ensure clarity and transparency. The process is based upon a Competency Framework which you will find at the end of this pack. This clearly expresses the Party’s view as to the abilities and qualities that a parliamentary candidate should possess. The six competencies that have been identified are:
Strategic Thinking and Judgement
Values in Action
The competency framework provides examples of the behaviour through which a person can show whether or not they have the necessary skills.
The rest of this document outlines, in more detail, the steps involved in the process, as well as providing a glossary of key terms and useful contact information.
Please note: We are absolutely committed to making the approvals process accessible to all applicants. Please let us know of any access requirements as soon as possible so we can make reasonable adjustments.
1. Self-Assessment, training and gaining experience
We would strongly recommend that you complete the self-assessment questionnaire included at the end of this document. This will allow you to judge how ready you are to go through the approvals process.
If there are any areas in which you feel you would benefit from further training, or gaining practical experience before proceeding, contact the Candidates’ Office for recommendations on how to gain this. Some useful resources can also be found on the party’s online training portal here.
Once you feel satisfied with your answers to the self-assessment questionnaire, you should complete an Application Form and Code of Conduct.
The application forms are very straightforward. They are used to ensure that you are who you say you are and that you are eligible to stand for Parliament. The application form does not form part of the assessment and is not seen by the assessors.
Each candidate is charged a £75 Administration Fee to cover the cost of the assessment day, administration and to conduct a Digital Risk Assessment. If the cost would present you with any difficulties in proceeding with an application, please contact the Candidates’ Office.
When applying, you will be asked to provide the following information:
Some basic background information
The contact details of three referees, one of which must be an office holder of a local, regional or state party within the Liberal Democrats
A signed declaration and code of conduct form
The completed application form should be sent to the Candidates’ Office who will pass your details onto your Regional (or State) Candidates’ Chair (RCC/SCC).
We will also order a Digital Risk Assessment (DRA) via a company called Hooareyoo. The DRA will audit your online and social media history. Upon applying to be a candidate, you will be sent a consent request from Hooareyoo directly.
Social media is a huge area of opportunity in a campaign but inappropriate comments can also derail a campaign and bring the Party into disrepute. If any issues arise from your DRA, your RCC will contact you to discuss and will then make a decision as to whether your application can proceed or should be rejected.
Once you have returned the completed application form you will be added to the list of people waiting for an assessment day. As long as there are no problems with your application, we will invite you to attend an assessment day as soon as there is a space available.
Assessment days take place across the country on a regular basis. Our target is that all eligible applicants will be offered a place at an assessment day within six months of handing in their forms.
The assessment day is based on the competency framework. This sets out the things we would expect a parliamentary candidate to do, and those things that a good candidate would probably not do. The assessment team does not see the information on your application form; they will base their assessment purely upon your performance during the assessment day.
At the assessment day, you will take part in a variety of exercises designed to allow you to show the assessors how you would perform as a parliamentary candidate. Information about these exercises will be sent to you once you have returned your application forms to give you time to prepare.
Key points to note:
The exercises are designed so that there is no “right” or “wrong” way to complete them.
Several different assessors will mark you over the course the assessment day. Assessors will be required to show evidence of your performance to support the grade they award you.
You will be tested on relevant Party Policy questions, the contents of which will depend on whether you are being assessed in England, Scotland or Wales.
If you pass the assessment you will be approved immediately as a candidate. If you are not successful on the assessment day you will receive helpful feedback and be eligible to reapply in either 1 or 5 years, depending on your final mark.
The Selection Process
Once you are an approved candidate and your name has been added to the Approved List, you are then free to put yourself forward for selection in any seat that advertises for a parliamentary candidate.
These adverts are published on a Friday on the Members’ section of the Federal website and are accompanied with an email notifying all approved candidates that the selection process for the seat has now begun.
To apply for a seat, you will follow these steps:
Contact the Returning Officer (RO) who will send you an application form. Complete the application form and return it by the given deadline.
The Local Party Selection Committee will shortlist the applicants for the next stage. Sometimes this will require you to attend a short-listing interview.
3. Campaign and Hustings
If you are successfully short-listed, there is typically a period of three weeks during which you can campaign among local party members to persuade them to select you. At the end of the campaign, there will be a hustings meeting at which point the Local Party members will vote for their preferred candidate.
If the Local Party selects you, then you will fight the next General Election for that seat. If you are not short-listed, or not selected, it is important not to be discouraged but to ensure you request feedback that you can learn from for the future.
There are 129 seats in the Scottish Parliament which are split between two types:
73 constituency-based seats elected by ‘first past the post’
57 regional seats based on the boundaries of multiple constituency seats, elected using the d’Hondt, or closed party list, method.
To stand in Scotland, candidates must have completed an assessment day and a Scottish policy assessment.
The 60 seats in Senedd Cymru are split between two types:
40 constituency constituency-based seats elected by ‘first past the post’
20 regional seats (4 in each of 5 regions) that are elected using the d'Hondt, or closed party list, method.
To be a candidate in Wales at either Assembly or Westminster elections, candidates must have completed an assessment day and the Welsh policy assessment. The selection for constituency seats takes place on a per constituency basis. The selection for regional list seats is done by a one-member, one-vote system across each region.
Who's who in approval and selection
- State Parties and Candidates Committees
The approval and selection of Parliamentary Candidates is the constitutional responsibility of each of the three Federal State Parties of England, Scotland and Wales. Each State has an elected Candidates Committee, which takes the decisions and sets the policies that govern the processes of the approval, selection and review of their Parliamentary Candidates. In England, this is undertaken by the English Candidates Committee (ECC); in Scotland, the Scottish Campaigns and Candidates Committee (SC&C); and in Wales, the Welsh Candidates & Campaigns Committee (WCC).
2. State and Regional Candidates’ Chairs
Each of these State Candidate Committees has an elected Chair who represents the Committee on a variety of bodies including the Joint States Candidates Committee (JSCC).
In England, each region has a Regional Candidates’ Chair (RCC), who is responsible for organising assessment days, appointing Returning Officers (RO), and providing advice and support to members going through the approvals and selection processes.
3. The Candidates’ Office
The staff in the Candidates’ Office, based at the Lib Dem headquarters in Westminster, are responsible for the day-to-day administration of the approvals process for the English, Scottish and Welsh Parties. They act as the first port of call for any general enquiry about standing as a Parliamentary Candidate, and can provide advice on the best person to speak with at a regional or state level if you have a more specific query.
Mentoring and Support for Prospective Candidates
Very few people are likely to have all the relevant skills at the outset of the journey to become a candidate, or a full understanding of the steps involved in the process. We want to support you on your journey and are here to offer advice, mentorship and training at various stages in the process.
For information about training that might be able to help you with key competencies, contact the candidates’ office or your RCC.
The Liberal Democrats are particularly committed to increasing diversity throughout the party and encouraging those from a diverse range of backgrounds to represent the Liberal Democrats at all levels. The Diversity team can facilitate access to additional mentoring and support to potential Parliamentary candidates from under-represented groups. If you are interested in receiving additional support to prepare for your assessment day, please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Other organisations that may be able to offer help, advice or training are:
PCA – Parliamentary Candidates’ Association www.parliamentary.org.uk
LDW – Liberal Democrat Women www.libdemwomen.org.uk/
CGB - Campaign for Gender Balance, contact: email@example.com
LDDA – Liberal Democrat Disability Association www.disabilitylibdems.org.uk
LDCRE – Liberal Democrat Campaign for Race Equality ldcre.org.uk/en/
RDC – Racial Diversity Campaign www.libdemrdc.org
LGBT+ - Liberal Democrats for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Equality http://lgbt.libdems.org.uk/en
Glossary of Terms
Here are some common acronyms that you may hear people using about approval and selection:
PPC - Prospective Parliamentary Candidate - the person who will fight the seat for the Party at the next General Election
PSPC – Prospective Scottish Parliamentary Candidate
PAC – Prospective Assembly Candidate (Welsh Assembly)
RO – Returning Officer - the person appointed by the region or state to make sure a selection is run fairly and according to the rules
ECC - English Candidates’ Committee - oversees the approval and selection of Candidates in England
SCC or C&C – Scottish Campaigns and Candidates’ Committee - oversees the approval and selection of Candidates in Scotland
WCC or CCC – Welsh Candidates’ and Campaigns Committee - oversees the approval and selection of Candidates in Wales
JSCC – Joint States’ Candidates’ Committee - co-ordinates the maintenance of standards in the approval and selection across all 3 States
RCC - Regional Candidates’ Chair - a member of the Regional Executive who has responsibility for approval and selection in that region. They also provide support and help to candidates throughout the approval and selection processes
This short questionnaire is designed to help you decide whether you are ready to submit an application for assessment.
Read this questionnaire to help you decide whether you would benefit from further training or development before attending the assessment day.
There are lots of resources available online, please have a look at the webinars and other content here:
This questionnaire is designed as an aid to deciding when to apply for approval, and there is no recommended number of questions to which you should answer, “Yes”. If, however, you find that you have answered “No” to more than one question in any category, we would strongly advise you to undertake further development in that area before coming to assessment.
You can contact your Candidates’ Chair for details of help available in your region or state, and the Candidates’ Office, on firstname.lastname@example.org, for details of training at conference and across the country.
- Policy and Values
Do you feel you are in broad agreement with current party policy?
Can you communicate Lib Dem policy clearly and persuasively?
Can you show how your Lib Dem values and beliefs affect the way you live your life?
Building skills in this area
The Policy area of the Party website contains briefings covering key policy areas.
The Conference area of the website allows you to read past conference motions which will also help in this area. We would also highly recommend attending Federal and Regional Conferences.
2. Communication Skills
Are you able to use different styles of communication for different audiences and occasions?
Do you enjoy talking to people and addressing their concerns?
Do you look for opportunities to tell people about what the Lib Dems are doing for them?
Building skills in this area
There is Party training available in this area which is offered at regional and federal conferences. A Powerpoint presentation with some tips is also available here. Many people are nervous about things like public speaking, and training can be of great benefit in building skills and confidence.
Do you feel able to communicate appropriately with journalists? Are you able to think on your feet and respond quickly and appropriately to questions on topical matters?
Do you make the most of media opportunities in order to maximise Party profile?
Building skills in this area
There is Party training available in this area via the links above. In addition, watching or listening to politicians being interviewed can be very helpful – both to pick up tips and to see what to avoid!
Do you have recent experience of participating in an election campaign?
Can you see how national issues can be linked with areas of local concern?
Can you show that you are organised and able to plan ahead?
Building skills in this area
Council by-elections are also a great way to get some campaigning experience all year round – you can find out what’s happening near you on the events page of the website. There is also plenty of training on campaigning, find it here.
5. Interpersonal Skills
Do you take the time to understand other people’s views and needs?
Are you able to deal effectively with conflict?
Do you make an effort to be friendly and approachable when meeting new people?
Building skills in this area
There is plenty of free training online and there is also Party-specific training available in this area, notably one course called “Dealing with Difficult People”, you can find the slides here.
Do you have experience of leading a group of people?
Are you able to inspire and motivate people to keep going, even when things are getting difficult?
Are you able to listen to and take account of a diverse range of views and opinions?
Building skills in this area
Look out for areas where you can gain experience of leading a group of people both in your professional and personal life. There is also leadership training everywhere online, available at Lib Dem Conferences, and some slides on our website here.