Parachute candidate

A parachute candidate, or carpetbagger in the United States, is a pejorative term[1] for an election candidate who does not live in, and has little connection to, the area they are running to represent. The allegation is thus that the candidate is being “parachuted in” for the job by a desperate political party that has no reliable talent local to the district or state, or that the party (or the candidate themselves) wishes to give a candidate an easier election than would happen in their home area.


Australian Labor PartyEdit

Due to its factions, Labor often has arrangements in place for preselections, which would often result in parachuting candidates. Examples of such include Former Premier of New South Wales Kristina Keneally and Midnight Oil member Peter Garrett.


  • In 2013, Liberal National Senator Barnaby Joyce was preselected as Nationals candidate for the seat of New England. Joyce was raised in Tamworth, within the electorate, but had lived in Queensland for over twenty years, and represented the state in the Senate since 2005.[2]
  • Georgina Downer was Liberal candidate for the electorate of Mayo in the 2018 by-election. Daughter of long-serving MP for Mayo Alexander Downer, Downer had grown up in the area and proclaimed that she was "coming home" in the by-election. However, she had lived most of her life in Adelaide and Melbourne, and sought preselection for a seat in the latter during the 2016 election. She lost to incumbent Rebekha Sharkie.[2]




United KingdomEdit

Parachute candidates are common in the Parliament of the United Kingdom. The Westminster system historically emphasizes party discipline over responsiveness to constituencies. Margaret Thatcher represented Finchley despite living in Chelsea, London.[50]

A 2013 YouGov survey found that support for a hypothetical candidate rose by 12 points after voters learned that his opponent had moved to the area two years earlier, and by 30 points if the opponent lived 120 miles away. The percentage of local MPs rose, according to Michael Rush of the University of Exeter, from 25% in 1979 to 45% in 1997; Ralph Scott of Demos calculates that as of 2014 63% are local.[50]

According to surveys public trust in all MPs has decreased but trust in the local MP has increased, making pre-existing connections to seats more important. Election advertisements mention the candidate's party or party leader less often, and emphasize local connections. Such a change produces MPs that are more attentive to local issues, but may be detrimental to Britain's first-past-the-post system designed to create broad parties that party whips stabilize.[50]

  • Roy Jenkins was so unfamiliar with Glasgow, he later wrote, that on arrival to campaign for the 1982 Glasgow Hillhead by-election its skyline was "as mysterious to me as the minarets of Constantinople" to Russian troops during the Russo-Turkish War.[50] Jenkins won the election, taking the seat from the Scottish Conservatives.[51]
  • Shaun Woodward defected from the Conservative Party to the Labour Party in 1999. He faced much criticism from former Conservative colleagues, particularly when he refused to resign and fight a by-election.[52][53] Woodward did not run for re-election in his safe Conservative seat of Witney in Oxfordshire, instead being selected for the ultra-safe Labour seat of St Helens South in Merseyside. Labour Minister Chris Mullin wrote later in his diaries that "the New Labour elite parachuting [Woodward] into a safe seat ... [was] one of New Labour's vilest stitch-ups ... [it] made my flesh creep."[54]
  • Luciana Berger was an example of Labour parachuting a middle-class southerner into one of its traditional heartland seats, in her case the northern working-class safe seat of Liverpool Wavertree. She was heavily criticised for having no connection to the Wavertree constituency or Liverpool when she first ran in 2010. When asked by a local radio station to answer basic questions about Liverpool she was unable to, and during the candidate selection process stayed at local MP Jane Kennedy's house rather than make any permanent home in the area. The media raised suggestions that she was only selected for the seat because of her close connections to the Blair family.[55] She went on to win the seat in 2010 and retain it in 2015 and 2017. After joining the Liberal Democrats in 2019, she unsuccessfully contested the Greater London seat of Finchley and Golders Green in the 2019 general election. She made the decision to stand there because of the seat's high Jewish population and Remain vote, as well as her affinity towards living in London and choice to raise her children there, rather than in Liverpool.[56][57]
  • David and Ed Miliband were selected to fight safe Labour seats in northern England, South Shields and Doncaster North respectively, despite being Oxford graduates who were born, raised, and living in London whilst working as political advisers. Both would later serve as cabinet ministers and fight against each other in the 2010 party leadership election.
  • Douglas Carswell defected from the Conservatives to the UK Independence Party in 2014, in turn displacing the existing UKIP candidate in his constituency of Clacton. Given Carswell was living in London at the time, he was accused carpetbagging by the former UKIP candidate.[58]
  • George Galloway was expelled from Labour in 2003 and, despite previously representing Glasgow Kelvin, did not contest a Glasgow seat in 2005. Instead, he stood for the Respect Party in the Greater London constituency of Bethnal Green and Bow, where he used his opposition to the Iraq War and the local Muslim population to gain the seat from Labour. Tottenham MP and Constitutional Affairs Minister David Lammy said he was a carpetbagger who had whipped up racial tensions.[59] After standing down from Bethnal Green and Bow in 2010, he had a two-year hiatus from parliament. In a 2012 by-election, he stood for Respect in the West Yorkshire seat of Bradford West, also with a high local Muslim population, where he made a point of not drinking and again gained the seat from Labour.[60] He lost Bradford West in 2015 to Labour's Naz Shah, after a divisive campaign.[61] Since then, he has made further attempts to parachute himself into constituencies in order to return to parliament. As an independent, he unsuccessfully contested Manchester Gorton in 2017 and West Bromwich East in 2019.[62][63] He also attempted to be selected as the Brexit Party candidate in the Cambridgeshire seat of Peterborough in a 2019 by-election, but the party selected local businessman Mike Greene.[64][65]

United StatesEdit

U.S. SenateEdit

U.S. House of RepresentativesEdit

New ZealandEdit

In 2017 Deborah Russell won selection for the safe Labour seat of New Lynn, in south-east Auckland despite being from Whangamōmona, a small town in the Manawatū-Whanganui region. She beat out Greg Presland a New Lynn resident for 30 years who had the backing of the local members but lost to Russell who was backed by Labour's Council because of her finance expertise and a pledge to have more women in electorates. Upon winning selection Russell moved to the electorate.[72][73]

See alsoEdit


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