I've been a member of my Regional Candidates Committee since 2005. It's been, for the most part, fairly quiet in terms of problems between candidates and Local Parties, probably by good fortune rather than by design.
In that time, my colleagues and I have reviewed the performance of candidates in the 2005 General Election, and found little in the way of problems. There were a few instances where candidates were called in for interview, but they were few and far between. Otherwise, we have mostly administered the existing system. We've done virtually no pastoral work with candidates.
Privately, however, the story is different. I have been approached by a number of candidates and ex-candidates who have been concerned about the way they have been treated, or by incidents within the Local Party. I do what I can, on one occasion plying an old friend with vast amounts of red wine to stiffen his sinews, so to speak.
I answer questions about opportunities elsewhere, I matchmake across regions, I ask people if they've thought about what they'd like to do in the Party, I talk about the assessment process and about how selections work, and much of that information is published on my blog. I even like to remind people that candidates put their egos on the line whenever they apply for a seat.
Some of this is responsive, some reactive, all of it important. However, it's all informal. You have to know me and, more importantly, approach me, because I'm easily distracted and a bit overcommitted. Persistence helps too...
However, my committee is a potential source of long term support. London's Regional Candidates Committee has a membership of seven, with a variety of skills. Most candidates won't need anything more than an occasional chat and, in the less winnable seats, won't be in post for very long. On the other hand, a few will need ongoing support, and having someone at Regional level, with access to information and contacts across the Party, who can be reached fairly easily, can only be a good thing.
So, I'm going to propose that my Regional Candidates Committee appoint two members tasked to act as a contact point for candidates. In fact, I'm going to volunteer to be one of them. Of course, I'm going to have to get re-elected back onto the committee in order to be one of them, although there is, theoretically, nothing to stop me from offering my services anyway.
What this means is that I'm going to have to give up something, something that theoretically takes up a lot of my time. We'll see what that means in due course - I'm still lost in thought about my plans for 2009 otherwise...