Every Failed Candidate Must Take Responsibility for the Winner

A couple of weeks before the election, I had the pleasure of going to a hustings in my local constituency to hear from four parliamentary candidates: the sitting Tory MP, and challengers from Labour, the Liberal Democrats, and the Green Party. It was clear to everyone in the church hall that the Conservatives and Labour had each fielded serious candidates, which was to be expected considering they were the only ones with a realistic chance of winning the seat. The Lib Dem candidate had a good CV but was not a particularly good public speaker; she didn’t feel to me like a real contender.

The Green candidate was a complete joke.

I say this as someone who likes Caroline Lucas a lot, could possibly feel comfortable supporting the Greens if they had a shot at winning in my constituency, and I have a lot of admiration for the Green Party’s openness to electoral alliances.

But this Green candidate was not serious.

He was not professional, had a childish grasp on policy, and clearly did not understand the significance of his candidacy. He was an embarrassment to his party and to the whole electoral system.

Anyone who talked to him might think he was a perfectly nice man but I cannot imagine anyone thinking he had the competency to be an MP.

But of course very few people did meet him. The vast majority of the voters in our constituency would have seen his name for the first time on the ballot paper or perhaps on a junk-mail flyer.

This Green candidate received over 1,400 votes in a constituency which Labour lost by less than 350. I can bet most of those 1,400 votes were for the Green ‘brand’ rather than this particular candidate.

I have no objections to the Greens and other minor parties fielding genuine candidates and trying to make a go of it in competition with the bigger parties, but to field a candidate who was so clearly a disposable name to put on their national candidate list does nothing but sabotage elections.

Elections have consequences, and parties and candidates have a responsibility to not take them lightly.

As long as we have a first past the post system, parties and candidates cannot afford to be vote-wasters. And I mean this for all the parties. The Lib Dems should have seen the opportunity to help Labour take down Amber Rudd in Hastings & Rye; Labour should have stood aside to let Sarah Olney fend off the Tories in Richmond.

Every candidate is partly responsible for the winner of their constituency: each candidate should take a moment to ask themselves if their candidacy made the eventual winner more or less likely, and then ask themselves whether they can live with that.