I, the Returning Officer for the aforesaid Regional List...

And so, it can, apparently, be told. A schedule for the selection of our European Parliament regional candidates lists for 2019 has been agreed, and Returning Officers are being appointed.
There will be those of you who might think that this is all a bit premature, especially given the small detail of the referendum on 23 June, and you may well be right. However, any advert isn't due to be published until after that, so in the event that there is a vote to leave the European Union, not so much effort is wasted. It is, I think, probably better to be prepared on the basis of optimism.
European selections have been a thread of activity during my time as a faceless Party bureaucrat. I ran my first one in 1989, and have been involved in every round subsequently. In 1997, I was Returning Officer for the South East region, when seventy-two applicants came forward for what turned out to be eleven places on a list and, eventually, two seats in the European Parliament. It would be fair to say that it wasn't an easy selection, but I was lucky enough to have a shortlisting committee who were a joy to work with.
I was back in 2002, which was rather easier, and then 2007, a selection made simpler in many ways by the fact that I met and proposed to Ros in the middle of it. It would be fair to say that both shortlisting committee and the candidates encountered a more generous than usual Returning Officer...
By 2012, I was in a new Region and a new role, as Chair of the East of England shortlisting committee. It was a very straightforward job - we never met, and agreed to wave all of the applicants through to the all-member ballot.
It won't be that easy this time. We will surely do better than we did in 2014 (it can't possibly be that bad, can it?), which means there is the potential for gains in regions such as London, the South West and the North West. Without incumbents, contests will be, potentially, far more open, making the job of Returning Officers rather more challenging.
And so I'm back, from Outer Space, in my newly appointed role as the Returning Officer for London. I'm looking forward to working with a new shortlisting committee, and to meeting a bunch of interesting candidates. I'm probably a gentler Returning Officer than I once was, and it could be fun. Time to start preparations, I suspect...