Saturday, October 21, 2006

Living in the Constituency

Ellee Seymour has an interesting little titbit about York LibDems leafleting constituents alerting them that Conservative Parliamentary Candidate Julian Sturdy lives three miles outside the constituency and therefore cannot be considered to be a local candidate. Pathetic, but sadly too typical.

Hmmm. That brought back a few memories. I lived in North Norfolk but my LibDem opponent Norman Lamb lived 15 miles away in south Norwich. Without going all over it again, is this something that should matter? Is it possible for someone to represent an area without actually living there?

In my view anyone who is elected to Parliament to represent a seat should live there. It's the only way to keep your finger on the pulse of what local people are thinking. If you shop in the same supermarkets, go to the same doctor, go to the same cinema you're bound to get a different perspective. But what constitutues 'local'? I'd say living within a few miles is acceptable if you had lived there all your life or have kids at schools at a delicate age.

Many constituencies now expect that their candidates to move there lock stock and barrel as soon as they are selected - even if they are far from highly marginal. This is very difficult for people who aren't well off. But if you don't have a constituency base, it's something your opponents can use remorsely against you. Be warned.

15 comments:

Roger Evans said...

This is particularly important if you have to deal with Lib Dems, but even in Romford (where we have none) it counts with the voters.

Campaigning in the town market I'm often faced with 'I s'pose you come from Chelsea or Surrey, eh?'. It really helps to be able to point out the window of my flat, and it always seems to impress.

There's no logical reason for this - but the extra votes are welcome.

Lynda said...

Iain, my brother-in-law went to school with Norman Lamb, and his sister delivered my second child !They seem a genuinly nice family, although I could be wrong !I'm not surprised you found it difficult to take his seat.

ian said...

How long did you live in North Norfolk? Was it just for the duration of your campaigning? I note you're a Tunbridge Wells resident now, so was the Norfolk place a permanent residence, or just a temporary thing?

Iain Dale said...

Ian, When I was selected I promised to buy a house within 3 months. I did it in two. It became my primary residence. I still had to earn a living, but for the last six months I was there full time.

I wanted to keep the house when I lost the election, and did so for six months, but in the end I sold it because all my work was in London and I wasn't going to fight the seat again. I also had huge debts to pay off which had built up during the campaign.

Shotgun said...

Since when is that twat Bliar from Sedgefield? Since when is that fat shite Prescott from Hull? etc. etc. etc.

Our local MP is Mark Tami, from Reading...and who had never set foot in North Wales before he was given this safest of Labour seats.

No doubt New Labour will continue to whine and make breast beating noises right up until they are wiped out, which can't come too soon.

Jonathan Sheppard said...

Ah yes I remember it well. I remember leaflets saying the Tory candidate from Derbyshire (when I was standing in Bassetlaw). It somewhat backfired when I pointed out that the MP came from Bradford and that my house was closer to the town hall in Worksop than his was. The issue is also that even if you register at an address and live in it, as the law stands cant that be contested - as someone can claim it is not your "main" residence. Charming - you know not all candidates can afford either two houses or indeed the stamp duty and moving costs (particularly if the seat is deemed by the powers that be as non winnable.

Anoneumouse said...

Not only should parliamentary candidates live in the constituency they wish to represent but they should only be allowed to raise funds for their electoral campaigns from within that constituency.

No representation, no funding

Anonymous said...

Reminds me of the time I first stood as the Conservative candidate for a District Council in South Lincolnshire.

'But you're not local, Duck' said one elderly lady. I said that we had lived in the village for 5 years and in the area for 10. This wasn't good enough for her. I played the family card pointing out that my husband was born and bred in the area and his great grandmother had come from that particular village.

That was it! ' You've got my vote Duck!

Yes I took the seat

Cllr Iain Lindley said...

I've seen those leaflets. What neither yourself nor Ellee mention is that the biggest stick the York LibDems use to bash Julian (who I met last week and seems a genuinely excellent candidate) are the comments left by the moaning idiots on ConservativeHome.

Every single selection announced there has been met with a hail of bullets in the comments section. It's embarassing and it is becoming a real liability.

Anonymous said...

It is not the fact you need to live in the area to win its that if you live in the area you tend to be around more often than not, and that people see you in the shops etc helping face recognition. if a candidate is able to spend a few days a week in an area by travelling ( and is avalibale by phone and email regularly) then living there doesnt matter nearly as much as people think. Of course if you opponent local and hard working and is active then that is another issue...

Anonymous said...

How many Lib Dem MPs claimed to be "local" in their election addresses, and put a "local" address on their nomination papers, but claim Parliamentary expenses for a "Principal" Residence elsewhere??

FoI enthusiasts get to work.

Danvers said...

The problem is that this is the thin edge of the wedge and we are moving towards a system, like in the US, where you cannot fight a seat unless you were born and bred there. For starters this would exclude many talented candidates (who, like many talented people, have moved to London and the South East for their careers), and secondly turns MPs into delegates rather than representatives - i.e. jumped up councillors. I realise electoral success has come to the Libdems by adopting a local strategy, but in my limited experience (e.g. melt down of 97) being a good local man (or woman) counts for little when the national swing is against you.

Anonymous said...

My MP lives in East Anglia and visits our constituency in Gloucestershire once in a blue moon whether he needs to or not.

Useless biff. If he's the best the Tories can do, no wonder they haven't broken through yet.

Radders said...

Iain;

Your comment ref Norman Lamb not living in N Norfolk & you did indicates why you lost!Norman worked very hard for years to get elected;taking chunks out of Sir Ralph Howell's & David Prior's majorities.

You popped up,no one knew you here.Your biggest contribution to N Norfolk was the money you paid for the house.

It's what a man does for his constituency rather then where he lives & your way of raising your profile was a set of publicity stunts rather than finding out what concerned the people you hoped to represent.Compering a wrestling show!

Your campaign was a negative one.For all your attempts at being a good ol' Norfolk boy,it takes more than living in a place to get elected.

BTW,of your two tory predescessors,neither lived in N Norfolk either;I seem to recall Ralph Howell lives in Dereham.

Joe Taylor said...

Iain - sadly all parties do this at some point or other - remember the Tory leaflet attacking Mark Hunter at the Cheadle by-election?

I do wish parties wouldn't do this sort of thing - it just creates an arms race for more negative literature, and since we all live in the same glass houses it just serves to make politicians of all creeds look like tossers.

I for one would like to see private voluntary arrangements between local parties not to use this sort of material - but I accept that's probably wishful thinking...