Candidate Selection : My Experience by Sheila Kingston-Jones

Monday April 1st, 2019

Four years ago when I was in my early sixties I joined a political party for the first time in my life. It was in March 2015 and while watching the political reporting on the TV I felt compelled to be more active in politics because I feared that my life values and the hard fought achievements of the party in government were under threat.

Having discussed this with a friend I was ready for membership and I submitted the application. The party was The Liberal Democratic Party.

I then made another major decision; to become a candidate if possible. My knowledge of the process was nil but knew I had something to offer. The approval process came first and included written papers, a group exercise, a mock media interview and a one to one interview.

This was stringent but I passed. Thereafter I became a candidate three times in non-marginal seats. I gained considerable experience but gaps in my knowledge emerged such as dealing with the media and understanding the candidate selection campaigning process. I knew I would need to address these so I attended training sessions including a Liberal Democrat organised residential weekend for future women MPs.

In 2018 I also applied for the newly formed cross-party Welsh Women’s Equality Network (WEN) mentoring programme. At the end of the WEN programme I decided to stand for the Regional Assembly List. The South Wales West Region stretches from Gower in the West to Bridgend in the East. The Regional List is part of the Welsh political system (a third to be exact) which offers a form of proportional representation.

Here the voting public have an opportunity to have wider representation than that available through the constituencies. The application process included an information pack with rules which need to be followed to avoid disqualification.

I used my work/life experienced to full advantage for the application. I moved to the interview stage and later to the campaigning stage.

Once the membership list was available my strategy was to speak to as many members as possible. Having phoned everyone to ask for their
vote I rearranged the list to include all “non-spoken to” members by post code groups for door to door canvassing purposes.

I participated at the two hustings held at either end of the region. I canvassed door to door up to 24-36 hours before the close of voting.

The WEN programme offered training on a wide variety of activities needed for political and public life. The programme was well organised and offered valuable insight into the work of AMs at the Senedd and MPs and Baronesses at Westminster as well as the opportunity to meet a number of people representing Wales in public life.

It brought together women from different parts of Wales and different political persuasions including both mentors and mentees. The delegates were very supportive of each other’s achievements throughout the year.

For me this support included a delegate creating a Twitter account for me, another proof read leaflets and offered advice on detail, another translated a leaflet into Welsh within a short deadline and another offered sound advice when needed.

My thanks to all of them and the part they played in my achieving Lead Candidate for the South Wales West Regional List for the Welsh Liberal Democrats.