This paper presents a summary of the provisional conclusions from an Institute for Government project, kindly supported by the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust and in collaboration with CentreForum, Policy Exchange, IPPR and Progress, on how the three major political parties select their parliamentary candidates. Our final conclusions and recommendations will be published as part of a longer report due for publication in October 2011, which will also contain separate chapters on the history of candidate selection reform in the Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat parties.

The purpose of the project has been to review recent reforms to candidate selection processes and to assess the effectiveness of different innovations in achieving the stated and implicit goals of the three parties. Broadly speaking, in designing their selection processes, each of the parties has sought to achieve some combination of the following goals:

  • increasing the diversity of parliamentary candidates; 
  • ensuring that candidates have the requisite skills and competencies; 
  • increasing public participation and engagement in politics;
  • while minimising party disunity and conflict.