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Local parties and sitting candidates – the big impediment to MP defectors or electoral pacts

August 5th, 2019

With a possible General Election only a few months away and ongoing talk of MP defections or constituency pacts there’s been little focus on how this happens in practice.

Just imagine for a moment that you want to become an MP and have first gone through the process of being approved by your your national party. Once on that list then constituency parties can choose you and generally you have to fight an internal constituency election in order to become the prospective candidate.

Now imagine if in your seat that the sitting MP, who is not of your party, indicates that he or she wishes to defect and all the speculation is that he/she want to join yours.  A big proviso in the secret discussions will be whether they can be the candidate in the seat at the ensuing election. You are not going to feel too happy and neither are many within your local party.

You have mixed emotions. You like it that your party is getting another MP but why should this be at the expense of thwarting your political ambitions.

The same applies if there is talk that say, your party should stand aside in the seat in favour of another party that has broadly the same approach to the biggest issue of the day, Brexit perhaps.  Here again you could find yourself not being the local candidate at the coming election and all the effort you have put in personally counts for nothing.

The problems with sitting candidates and local parties are big reasons, I believe, why, with the exception of Chuka Umunna, none of those MPs who left CON or LAB in February have found a permanent new main party home.

All this highlights the need for these moves to be dealt with at a local level and not forced on local parties by head office.

Mike Smithson