Now that I am able to sleep like a normal human being again (that is not to say that I will, but I could if I wanted to), there is a little time to reflect.
In the past three list selections, I have been the Returning Officer, dealing with the influx of requests for application packs and the like, and so have had a pretty good idea what is happening. As Chair of the Shortlisting Committee, all I know is what our Returning Officer is willing to tell me, so I'm not as well-informed as I might otherwise wish. All I can do is wait...
However, there are things to ponder about. Will we have enough, indeed any, women candidates? Will BAME applicants emerge to take part? And how much effort should I make to do something about that?
There is a conflict of interest, in that as Chair of the Shortlisting Committee, I must remain strictly neutral. However, if I am expected to seek out women and BAME applicants, and encourage them to take part, does that not engender a sense of obligation on my part, in that, having gently twisted their arms to compete, it would be unfair to then reject them.
So, if I can't actively encourage them, what can I do? Well, having mulled over the question, I have concluded that I can ask what the relevant 'lobby groups' are doing, i.e. the Ethnic Minority Liberal Democrats, the Campaign for Gender Balance and the Women Liberal Democrats. After all, one of their roles is to support and encourage, isn't it? And it would surely be better coming from them, I feel.
Doubtless, when this is over, there will be another round of recriminations diversity. As a shortlisting committee, we can, and will, do everything in our power to make all applicants feel comfortable. But we can't campaign for them and, unless they can beat an incumbent MEP (very unlikely), or are prominent in a Region without an incumbent, their chances of ultimate success are relatively slim.
Applicants might be better off thinking about the Shortlisting in terms of a long-term strategy. Building a campaign team and across six counties doesn't happen overnight, it takes months and indeed years of networking, building links, making friends, which you then utilise when the campaign starts. And despite the fact that I've been pointing this out for a decade, very few people appear to listen.
But, if you are interested in being a European candidate, regardless of who you are, or where you come from, do think about applying. We want the very best lists we can construct, and we want to draw on all of the talent that we know is out there. And I'm sure that I speak for the whole Region when I say that...