Parties scramble for candidates as deadline looms

Party rosettes
[Getty Images]

Ever since that first rain-soaked moment when the election was announced, nearly all the political parties, including the prime minister's, have been scrambling to get candidates in the seats they want to fight.

The Scottish National Party has had all but one of its candidates in place since April.

The other parties... not so much.

On Wednesday, there was the sound of metaphorical helicopters in the relatively safe Tory seat of Basildon and Billericay, as the party's chairman, Richard Holden was selected there.

The local Conservative association said he was the only candidate offered by the national party.

A cabinet minister told the BBC this had "gone down like a bucket of cold sick”.

And on Thursday morning, there was the surprise announcement from Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross that he would stand.

He had said he wouldn't, because he wanted to concentrate on his job as an MSP in the Scottish Parliament.

There have been plenty of rows for Labour too, and accusations the snap election was an opportunity for the leadership to purge the party of left-wing candidates.

The first week of the campaign was dominated by whether Diane Abbott would be allowed to stand following a previous suspension from the party... She was.

But another candidate, Faiza Shaheen, was barred over previous posts on social media.

'Late skulduggery'

Veteran political journalist Michael Crick - who has been closely following who's in and who's out on X - says this election has felt different to those in the past.

“There’s always some late skulduggery, but this time it’s extraordinary. I think it will go down as the grab-a-safe-late-seat election.”

He says it could store up future problems for those candidates, and even lead to deselections.

“If local parties feel like a candidate has been imposed on them, that sense of grievance could last for years.”

The newish kids on the block, Reform UK, also had their share of 'will he, won't he?'. But Nigel Farage eventually said he would stand.

The party tell me they expect to field more than 600 candidates across Britain, though, with a day to go, those names haven't been finalised.

Banner reads "More on general election 2024"

The Lib Dems say they will have a full slate of candidates, excluding the seats contested in Northern Ireland or by the Commons Speaker. And their list includes former MPs wanting to get back to Westminster.

The Green Party has confirmed it has dropped four candidates after it launched an investigation into reports of antisemitic or extreme comments.

The party said it still aimed to field candidates in all seats in England and Wales.

So far there are 131 MPs standing down, including 75 Tories.

But that number could change, as more decide to go or stage a comeback after all.

The deadline for nominations is 16:00 BST on Friday, after which time you will hear BBC types like me confidently say “there is a full list candidates standing in every constituency available online”.