Watford’s Lib Dems must be glad that an end to the bruising "will-she-won’t-she" saga is on the horizon.

Since elected Mayor Dorothy Thornhill announced she was running for a fourth term at town hall last year, the question over whether she’ll stand for the Lib Dems in the General Election has dogged the party.

This week it emerged the process of selecting the Liberal Democrat’s parliamentary candidate will begin later this month.

The mayor has maintained that if she does apply, she will have to undergo the same selection process as any candidate. But you’d assume the candidacy is hers if she wants it.

Mayor Thornhill is the totem around which the Lib Dems’ rise and eventual takeover of Watford Town Hall is built. No other politician in the town has anything resembling her profile or electoral track record. 

The received wisdom around town hall is that if she applies, it will be a coronation rather than a selection.

Nevertheless, there are a few indicators that suggest the contest may not be such a straightforward affair. 

Firstly, the association’s selection ballot is anonymous. This gives cover to those minded to vote against her. Also, party members would not have to be card-carrying members of the anti-Dorothy brigade to opt for another candidate. 

I imagine more than a few members would be sympathetic to the idea of her staying in situ and focussing on the job she was elected to do until 2018.

And then there is the legacy issue. Over the last three and a bit terms Mayor Dorothy has built a strong record in the town which the party will be able to point to when she finally departs. A revamped town centre, Charter Place rebuilt, the Metropolitan Line coming into the town centre.

There have been losers during her administration and she is not universally loved in the town.

But the resounding majority she won in May (at a time when her party’s poll ratings were in the toilet nationally) show she still has a gravity-defying electoral magnetism in Watford.

Yet if she runs for Parliament while remaining as mayor she will risk seriously damaging this legacy.
This may not be of huge concern to Dorothy, who has said this will be her last term as mayor. It may be more so to local association members who have to pick up the pieces afterwards.

While the risks of her running for parliament are writ large, the benefits are less clear. 

Say Dorothy defies the considerable odds and makes it to Parliament as Watford’s first Lib Dem MP? The local party will then have a mayoral by-election on its hands as well as the task of explaining to voters why Mayor Dorothy ran in 2014 when she only intended to do a year in the job.

Not an appealing prospect for whoever succeeds her. 

If Dorothy loses next year, she’ll have to sit out three more years as the mayor who chose Westminster over Watford.

Either way, a gamble on a risky Parliamentary run will have implications for the Lib Dems’ chances of holding onto the town hall after Dorothy.  

And if a credible challenger comes forward making such an argument, the mayor could have more of a selection fight on her hands than the received wisdom anticipates.