Parties Rush To Select Hundreds of General Election Candidates

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak during a general election campaign visit to Derbyshire (Alamy)

3 min read

Rishi Sunak’s decision to hold a general election in early July has triggered a rush across all political parties to find the remaining candidates to contest constituencies nationwide, and the number still runs to the hundreds.

Up until Wednesday when Sunak confirmed a 4 July vote, Westminster had settled into an assumption that the Prime Minister was more likely to wait until the autumn before going to the polls.

As such officials across the political spectrum believed they were likely to have months left before needing to finalise their lists of people to stand for them in seats across the country.

The exact number of candidates still to select in the coming days remains uncertain but PoliticsHome understands that Labour, which is the strong favourite to win on 4 July, has up to 100 to select, while the Conservatives have the best part of 200 still to confirm. 

Conservative Campaign Headquarters (CCHQ) hopes to have all candidates in place in a fortnight’s time, PoliticsHome understands.

There will potentially be tension between local Conservative party associations, many of which would prefer to select candidates from their areas, and figures in Tory central command who want to put forward government figures including Downing Street advisers, also known as spads, to stand in safe seats. One party source said they expected “pushback to the centre” from some local association chairs if asked to accept candidates drawn from Westminster.

Labour is believed to be working to a similar timeline on candidate selection and they too will have tensions to contend with. 

PoliticsHome understands that the remaining general election candidates will be selected by Friday, 31 May. General secretary David Evans has told members of Labour’s ruling body, the National Executive Committee (NEC), that they will meet on Tuesday, 4 June to endorse those candidates.

NEC officers met today to finalise the details of the process. PoliticsHome can reveal that they agreed all candidates in battleground and retirement seats from now on will be selected directly by the NEC.

Panels comprising three NEC members will review applications, draw up shortlists, and receive a due diligence report for all those shortlisted. They will then interview those who pass the checks and select the successful candidate.

Candidate interviews for Labour’s remaining seats are due to take place on Wednesday and Thursday next week.

A spokesperson for left-wing group Momentum said: “Even before the election was called, local Labour parties were already seeing candidates imposed. Sadly, Labour’s entire parliamentary selections process has been characterised by centralisation and a disdain for local members and parties.”

They pointed to Keir Starmer’s 2020 pledge to end NEC impositions and described Labour’s next MP cohort as “set to be dominated by well-connected Westminster insiders”.

On both sides, the tighter timeline to be ready for a July election will likely trigger concern about the challenge posed to vetting processes, which are designed to ensure selected candidates meet the parties’ requirements. 

It is widely believed in Westminster that former prime minister Boris Johnson’s decision to call a snap general election in 2019 led to candidates who the parties otherwise wouldn’t have approved being elected to the House of Commons.

The Conservatives and Labour alike will be keen to avoid this scenario in seats where they are expected to win, as the chosen candidates will have a higher chance of becoming MPs.

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