Interesting experience, being one of 500 individuals converging on a theatre in order to sit for 6 hours in the process of choosing a parliamentary candidate.
Bureaucracy [were our names on the pre-registration list - only one? cannot admit t'other!] Oh for commonsense.
Tremendous buzz - people at tables reading through the CVs of the 6 finalists - people discussing animatedly inside the theatre. We had each a folder containing biro, stapled list of CVs, sheet for personal aides memoires, and a separate stapled group of 5 sheets listing the candidates, for the voting process [X for your choice, all gathered in buckets passed along the rows, taken and counted - then the one with least votes eliminated, and a second round of voting - until a clear winner with 50% emerged].
It was genuinely exciting to be part of a democratic process. Two of the candidates had called on us - remote as we are - and we had a chance to see what they were like. They all had web-sites; and these illustrated once again the absolutely KEY importance of a good website, as the means of putting across your own distinctive approach, experience, and background. Neither of the two candidates we had met had a good website: pleasant, cheerful but not comprehensive. Immediately one felt that one candidate was outstanding - solely on his website. If he had [apparently] glossed the extent of his experience at Westminster, then who except the other candidates would know?
Listening to the really excellent interview process - confidence-inspiring questioner, giving plenty of space for the prepared answers - part of our judgement needed to be about body-language, facility with the 'surprise' question ["you are on the Chilcott enquiry, what would your question be for Tony Blair?"] and how compelling might be their interest in concerns which matter to 'us' the audience. How to manage your time at Westminster [my question, which was put to each candidate] how to interest young people in politics, and really anything that pointed to a future that was hopeful.
One of our visitors was eliminated in the first round; the other in the second round, where a clear winner emerged. We recognised the power of local connections: perhaps there is an urge for accountability, and therefore someone with family locally must be more honest, less likely to be in any expenses scandal. People sitting near us all asked: "which is the local one" without weighting for other skills. It was a good choice; but at the same time there was one outstanding candidate, whose abilities as a Barrister meant she could face us without nerves, answer the question and the intention with clarity and conviction; and had the personality to complement all of this.
The sad part is that this one of the last of the safe seats: the remaining candidates have precisely 2 seats left - both due to have their 3 [only] candidates selected by HQ - and with all the people who were not adopted in other seats, this is a small opening. Without those safe seats, the alternative is to fight a Labour or Lib-Dem seat where the sitting MP is stepping down, and there is some equal challenge. But with so little time to go: perhaps weeks, it really is going to be hard for those excellent people.
We shall be the poorer without them in government. the one white hope of all of this is that we have people of utmost probity and ability, willing to serve. The people we listened to were exceptional candidates: it is amazing that such good people come forward.
Now for the election itself... whenever that might come.