One of the candidates, Chris Carrigan, has written some notes on the elections on the Reform groups site, which was founded in large part by activists heavily involved in the Yes referendum campaign who were very disgruntled with central leadership. I, broadly, shared those worries and concerns, and will be giving those involved, broadly, fairly high preferences, although nowhere near the order Chris has outlined.
Partially because Andrew Hickey has raised some concerns having read through the full set of manifestos already and noticed things I didn't. As I've said in the comments there, I know in some cases his concerns aren't justified, but can't say that for all the candidates.
So, I still need to decide my full running order, but the early ones are fairly close to fixed in my mind.
First up is my old friend Thom Oliver (Thomoli) who I sent many many hours studying with while we were both at Exeter. For a Somerset boy, he isn't that bad, and given I'm not standing, someone I closely agree with on most things and know personally is a good choice. In addition, on his Q&A blog post he raises a very important issue that links into one of the reasons we both favour STV:
the big question is why are only 6 of the 53 candidates women, that's an issue that needs to be addressed.I would like to see the Council representative of those that want change. That low a proportion of women, and a tiny number of visible BME candidates, is problematic, even if the position and nomination criteria are entirely self selected.
Next up is another old friend, Paul Pettinger. I also met Paul in Exeter, but got to know him predominantly through activism-while serving on Exeter city council, he made national and international news when he kicked up a royal stink about prayers at the beginning of each council meeting. When I worked in Cowley St he had recently finished work there for Liberal Youth, and on my last day very nicely took me to lunch in Parliament using his researchers pass. Since then he's done some sterling work for the British Humanist Association (I unknowingly attended an event he'd organised involving Richard Dawkins and thoroughly enjoyed) and now works for Accord, another organisation I agree with and admire the work of. I agree with him on many issues, get on well with him, and think he'd be a credit to the society, as well as able to work with others to push it in the right direction.
My third choice goes to Arnie Craven (ArnieEtc), who was the Leeds coordinator of the Yes campaign, and shared my utter frustration at the tactics, the campaign material and the incompetence. I know him personally through that, and like him. More importantly, I disagree with him politically. He's a member of UKIP, although doesn't agree with the party line on a number of policies, and he's absolutely right that the complete failure of reformers, especially the Yes campaign, to reach out to those on the right who currently default to voting Tory but would rather not was a massive contributory factor to the loss of the referendum-many Tory members and voters used to prominently favour electoral reform, and Tories aren't the only people on the notional british 'right'. He's also been prominently involved in the Reform Groups movement and is part of their slate, and has shown a strong ability to work with people he disagrees with and campaign well.
Fourth is the first female candidate, someone I've not yet met but have heard very good things about, Jessica Asato (jessica_asato). She's a prominent Labour campaigner and also part of the Reform slate. People I know, from across many parties, speak very highly of her and the work she was doing during the referendum.
Fifth is Andrew May (andymay101), author of this blistering attack on the organisational structure of the Yes Campaign and about whom both Arnie (above) and the Regional coordinator for Yorkshire, Jane, have said very good things about. He's part of the reform slate, and is likely to get on the council, due to his exposure.
Up to now, all those I've listed have been pro reform of the way the ERS works, although the top two aren't on the Reform slate. My sixth choice? Is the complete opposite of a reformer. He's someone who's talents and abilities I have so much respect for that even if we do disagree on the future of the society, I'd want him to be heavily involved and giving the benefits of his decades of experience. I refer, of course, to Michael Meadowcroft (Wikipedia entry).
Former Liberal MP, former President-elect of the Liberal Party at the time it merged with the SDP, and then founder and first leader of the continuity Liberal party that continues to this day as a small voice in Britihs politics. He objected to the merger, I agreed with it, but his objections were sound and principled, and he effectively sacrificed his chances of returning to front line national politics as a result of them. In 2007, he decided to rejoin the LibDems (Opinion: Why I joined the Liberal Democrats) after several years working in transitioning democracies in Eastern Europe and elsewhere, and his reasons for rejoining were sound. I've heard him speak in debates at conference and in fringe meetings, his ability to command respect from all around him while making a strong point is something to behold, and his knowledge & experience is not something I would want the ERS to lose despite my belief change is needed.
To be honest, due to my knowledge of how STV and vote transfers work, I'm not sure after the last three I'll have much left to transfer on to others as I suspect and hope the last three I list will definitely get elected due to name recognition. Consequently I'm open to suggestions for my remaining preferences, I plan to vote for at least 15 people (the size of the Council), but a small fraction of quota after Michael gets on is likely largely irrelevent. Worth paying some attention to though, as I may be completely wrong and misread the field.
I'm also open to persuasion/suggestion if you know anyone else on the candidates list personally or politically and feel I've unfairly overlooked them. I may simply go with the order from Chris's above list, but I'm not sure how confident I am about some of those he favours. For example, Amisha Ghadiali is [one of] the only [two] visibly BAME candidates, and she appears competent, however her statement both on the website and in the ballot pack is riddled with typing and spelling errors, in one case her actual meaning is unclear. While I'm notorious for typos and similar, if I'm submitting something important for campaigning purposes, I always get a competent proofreader, that's just basic.
To most of you, of course, this is all completely irrelevent, as membership of the ERS is an unusual thing to say the least. However of my personal friends, the proportion involved is higher than the general population, and I welcome feedback from anyone with any interest or knowledge.
ETA: It's been pointed out in comments that I overlooked Eric Syddique when I wrote that line, it's now amended.