Thursday, 12 February 2009

Conservative Home Selection Surgery

I recently held a selection surgery on Conservative Home. Here are some of the questions I received and my responses:

Should I be truthful about my views?

What if my chances may be harmed? Handling questions about Heathrow expansion in a nearby constituency was one example. You should always be honest. If you make a promise to fight an important local campaign then betray it after you get selected, you are likely to have a very bad relationship with your volunteers, and probably get some bad publicity.

Another example was moving to the constituency. If you aren't able to make the commitment you should be honest about it, or be prepared to be taken to task for your bad faith. Volunteers are unlikely to work with a dishonest candidate.

Having been straight with the selectors, you should go on to sweeten the pill by explaining your reasons, and how you plan to compensate for your decision.

Should I take my same sex partner to the selection?

Yes, if they will help you to win! The days when candidates felt they had to present the other half for inspection are long gone, however a confident partner - of either sex - can help you cover more ground if you have to go through a death by canapes meet the members event. Obviously you shouldn't inflict this on your partner if they are uncomfortable with the prospect, or if they are likely to pick arguments. And there is no point in parading them on stage for the formal interview session.

I'm new to politics, is my lack of experience a problem?

Expect a question about your campaigning experience, so go and get some, as soon as possible. However you should also make sure the selectors know about what you have achieved outside politics. Don't let them overlook any relevant experience you have, even if it is in another field.

I'm an older woman, district councillor, dyed in the wool Tory. The party doesn't want candidates like me...

Oh yes they do! I know people with all those attributes who have been selected for safe seats, so stop moaning and go for it. As a councillor you probably have some valuable experience of campaigning and working with people. If you write yourself off in this way you definitely won't be selected.

What about women selectors who won't vote for female candidates?

This is much less of a problem than it used to be. Forget about the few closed minded individuals you might encounter and concentrate on winning over the majority of the selection panel who will be open minded, and who want to find the best candidate for the seat.

Should I pay for professional help?

Some of the best candidates are the ones who recognise their weak points and are willing to learn. However, professional assistance is not a magic wand and in the end you will have to do the interview on your own, without help. Assistance is available for most aspects of the process - how to design a CV, handling questions, policy research, speaking skills, what to wear, and so on...

A lot of advice can be gained from other candidates, without paying a penny. If you do pay, make sure you are comfortable with your mentor and that they come recommended by other successful candidates.

The Selection Process Stinks!

I see this in response to every thread about candidates. Some people will never be satisfied...

Look, the process is what it is, not what you might like it to be. Successful people adapt to their circumstances, which brings me to my most important rule:

After an interview, write down all the questions you were asked and think about how you can answer them more effectively next time. You are allowed to lose a selection but you should never lose the lesson.