Are Local Candidates Unbeatable?

So you have managed to secure that vital interview for a seat. You turn up filled with enthusiasm and perhaps a little trepidation – a touch of adrenaline will help your performance.

But why is there a bus parked outside? Who are all these people you have never seen before? Why are they making a big fuss of this other guy?

You’ve just met the Local Favourite.

Just about every selection interview I have attended, for council seats as well as places in Parliament, has featured a much loved local contender with masses of support. Often they are not above trying to shift the odds by busing in their supporters and even providing them with helpful (and unhelpful for opponents) questions to as

They look unbeatable.

But are they?


Although every contest features one or more local favourites a surprising number are won by outsiders. The local may start with a lead but there are good reasons why many don’t triumph.

As one of those outsiders, you need to be aware of the likely weaknesses that a local candidate suffers from – and how to make the most of them.

With careful planning and a gutsy approach even the most deeply entrenched locals can be beaten.


Local candidates will have already demonstrated their ability, climbing the ladder inside the association or the council group. They have built alliances and generated support. Everything is in place to guarantee success.

But they have also had to make some tough decisions. Nobody gets to the top without stepping on a few sensitive toes along the way. Whilst they have a lot of vocal support, they will also have opposition. People they have upset on their meteoric rise can’t wait to get even – and where better than the selection meeting?

This pool of opposition is waiting to back the candidate most likely to defeat the local favourite. With a strong performance you can provide a flag for them to coalesce around. To get their support you don’t need to be local – you need to be the best of the non locals.

Occasionally there may even be several local candidates who dislike each other. In this case all you need to do is survive the early rounds of voting. You will pick up their supporters as they fall by the wayside.

And remember that big bus parked outside? The candidate who hired it probably felt the need to fill it too. At the front he was sitting with his mother, his close friends and members of his campaign team. But further back down the bus the allegiance is less strong. Some of these people are open to persuasion.

The Favourite may even have brought some of your potential supporters with them!

It takes a strong performance to persuade these people around to supporting you but that is no more than you should be offering to your constituents.

So there are three things to remember when faced with local favourites:

  1. Don’t try to out local them. You need to demonstrate you know the issues and have done your homework but you will never gain true local credentials in a 45 minute interview.
  2. Provide a flag for the local favourite’s opponents to rally around.
  3. Deliver a performance that is powerful enough to win support from the undecideds who have been brought to the meeting.


With careful planning even a well entrenched local candidate can be beaten..

I’m offering three months of mentoring covering the opening stages of the interview round – January, February and March.

This includes help with Application CVs, interview planning, and opening speeches as well as advice on raising your profile and building a solid political brand. Contact me for a free thirty minute consultation.

I’m looking forward to hearing from you.

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