Time to ditch Connect?

The party has used two systems for computer based campaigning. EARS, developed in the UK for UK elections and more recently Connect, which was developed for use in US and Canadian election systems. Some elections ago the party made a decision to start using Connect instead of EARS as its main computer tool for digital and on the ground campaigns. This was largely because at that time EARS had not been able to demonstrate that it could provide an internet based service of the sort the party wanted.

So there began an experiment with this USA based computer tool that promised much but often failed to deliver it. I know umpteen people who after many training sessions on this election software are no nearer being able to use it than when they started. There are a number of things that make Connect a failure.

  1. As it is web based, with no backups on computers in each constituency, when it crashes or when the servers go down, we’re stuffed. There is reason to believe that Connect going offline during recent General Elections cost us seats we might otherwise have held or won. There is nothing worse than losing all your data on polling day and that has happened more than once, often for several hours.
  2. You can’t actually get the data you want to deal with on screen in front of you in an easy readable format.
  3. The Connect system seems unable to cope with the requirement for stable walk orders and printing out canvass cards that bear any relation to what’s on the ground is, if not impossible, beyond the ability of many of its users.

Now to be fair, the one part of Connect that made many of us willing to persevere with it is Minivan. It really is superb to be able to canvass, knock up and take numbers on a tablet or a phone and for it to go straight onto the system. Even then that only works if you are connected to the system via phone or wifi.

The reality is that this software developed for the US and Canadian election systems has adapted poorly to the UK. However, in line with the oft-cited inability of politicians to admit mistakes, those who continue to push Connect, seem blind to the difficulties experienced on a daily basis by many who use it.

So much time and party money has been invested that there is a reluctance to look at any alternative

I would argue that the time has come to abandon Connect, because the EARS platform is now superior to it.

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What now for the centre?

‘When the autumn weather turns the leaves to flame/One hasn’t got time for the waiting game’. So sang Frank Sinatra on September Song and it is hard not to mirror his impatience. In many ways the June general election was a disappointment for Liberal Democrats, but the way that politics has fragmented in the fallout from the vote does offer some points of reflection- not all of which are negative.

One theme of the summer was a revived interest in a new ‘centrist’ party that could lead the fight against Brexit. I’m sceptical about the need for another party, but it was interesting that few responded with the line ‘What about the Lib Dems’? As hard as it may be, Liberal Democrats have to face up to why- as a pro Remain and centrist party- they are not seen as a natural answer to this question.

A major problem for the Liberal Democrats is an inability to get a foot hold into the news cycle and its associated commentary and review platforms. The Liberal Democrats will need to start punching above their weight in order to get noticed and Vince Cable’s ‘I can be the next prime minister’ rhetoric was clever in this regard. The party also needs to stop feeling bashful about its role in the coalition government; much good was done and some mistakes were made, but owning it and being proud of that time and the good things achieved will be crucial.

One big opportunity for the Liberal Democrats is also a potential problem; namely Brexit. The party has managed to forge itself as the predominate political party opposing the UK’s exit from the European Union. While this did not result in an increase in votes at the last general election, there is good reason to believe this may change as the government’s handling of Brexit and the Labour Party’s mixed messaging starts to become apparent to the public. However there are two major negatives in the Liberal Democrat’s pro EU line. The first is the danger of being seen as a single issue party, there will need to be an offer to the public that goes well beyond the narrow arguments about the Brexit process. The second issue is that- after the financial crisis of 2008 and the following ‘austerity’- many voters see the EU as part of the ‘status quo’ that has seen people’s pay and opportunities diminish. Insisting the Liberal Democrats are the sensible and moderate party who oppose Brexit may well reinforce the view that we are the ‘business as usual’ party. 

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Observations of an ex pat: Scary

Be scared. Be very scared. In fact if you saw, listened to or read about President Donald Trump’s UN address than you are probably terrified.  If not, then think again.

Trump used the occasion of his first speech to the General Assembly to draw red lines across the  map and dare his opponents to cross them. North Korea, Iran and Venezuela are the new axis of evil.

In one breath he called for an international order based on a respect for national sovereignty and with the next bullied those those who oppose him.

The United Nations and international cooperation enjoyed early support, but …

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Lib Dems GAIN two Council seats from Labour

About 20.5 years ago, I was part of the campaign which beat Labour to win the Holmebrook ward in Chesterfield in a council by-election. A certain Keith Falconer won. Later on, his wife Glenys Falconer also represented the ward. In fact, since I wrote this, I have learned that it is the third time Keith has won this seat in a by-election. The first was in 1986, before my time in the East Midlands. He then represented the ward for 22 of the 25 years until 2011. He fell victim to an utterly unprincipled and nasty Labour campaign in 1995.

Anyway, that campaign was a really good springboard for the General Election. If I remember rightly, there was a newspaper which screamed “Poll sensation for Tony Rogers” on its front page.

20 years on, the Liberal Democrats have taken a fair few knocks in the Derbyshire town. They may be down but they sure as hell aren’t out – and they are still capable of an audacious result.

And the winner? A certain Cllr Keith Falconer.

ALDC celebrate in suitable style.

Now I know my dear friend Paul Holmes will come on here and say “We never talked about any of that Brexit rubbish.” And I might just let him gloat for a bit. But, seriously, I am thrilled to bits for all my old friends in Chesterfield who were part of this. I wonder if they are off drinking in the Tullamore like they used to after a good by-election win.

However, I do think that the Brexit stuff is responsible for Vince’s rather good poll figure. The man’s almost in positive figures, for goodness sake.

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Vince is on Question Time tonight.

Poor Vince. He was in Bournemouth on Saturday cos he spoke at the Lib Dem Voice fringe meeting on adult education.

Then he had to go back to London for Marr on Sunday morning.

Then back to Bournemouth on Sunday afternoon for his Q & A, home on Tuesday and then back to the west country tonight to appear on Question Time.

So, some bits of that programme will actually be bearable for a change.

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Vince Cable backs opt-out organ donation system

I’ve seen people go through the pain of losing someone they love because a transplant didn’t happen in time. I’ve seen people, in shock at having lost someone suddenly and tragically being put under the added pressure of deciding whether their loved one’s organs should be donated. Maybe they hadn’t even had the conversation and didn’t know what their wishes would be. Maybe it was pain too far.

I’ve always made it clear to my family that should it be me, anything that would make anyone else have a chance of improved life should be used. I’ve signed up to the organ donor register. However, not everyone who would be happy to donate their organs has got round to filling in the form.

That’s why I’ve always favoured an opt-out system. It means that anyone who objects to their organs being used has the right to ensure that it doesn’t happen to them. And if you do object, you will make sure that you have opted out. This is one of these issues where there are liberal arguments for both sides. For me, as long as there are proper safeguards for people, opting out is the way to go.

So I was very pleased to see that Vince Cable has backed The Mirror’s campaign for an opt out donor system.

He told them:

“There are around 6,500 people in the UK waiting for a transplant. I urge the Government to listen to this campaign and the calls of countless families across the country.

“We can ensure more lives and more children like little Max are saved. I’m proud to be a registered organ donor. I carry my card everywhere. It was an obvious choice.”

The “little Max” he was talking to is a 9 year old who had a heart transplant after a wait of 8 months.

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A response to the Conference debate on the Balfour Declaration

Shalom alechum, alsalam ealaykum, peace be with you.

Peace, Peace in the land between the river & sea is what we should be working for.

And, to put it mildly, the motion we passed at Conference on Sunday does not do that. Indeed, by passing it, it means we probably won’t get another chance to debate the Palestine/Israel conflict again for some time.

I tried to get the motion referred back to the FPC and to ask them to bring back a better, more comprehensive motion next year as the one we passed today is the lowest common denominator that is acceptable (begrudgingly) to two interest groups in the Party, Lib Dem Friends of Palestine and Lib Dem Friends of Israel.

It does nothing to say what we, as a small political party far away from the area, can do to advance the cause of peace between Palestine & Israel and, believe me, there is much we can do.

We could be learning more from groups like “Solutions not Sides”, we could be inviting speakers from One Voice, YaLa Young Leaders, Ta’ayush and similar organisations, we could be listening to those who work every day to break down the barriers (both physical & mental) between the two nations.

The motion also contains factual errors, for example, line 35 refers to “pre-1967 borders” but no such borders existed as they were Armistice Lines that marked the end of conflict in 1949, they were never meant to be the final demarcation between Israel & its Arab neighbours.

What is worse, all amendments to correct errors and improve the motion have been rejected by FCC. No reason has been given for this rejection.

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Recent Comments

  • User AvatarNigel Hunter 22nd Sep - 10:34am
    Technology soon becomes outdated. If connect is not fit for purpose, ditch it
  • User AvatarDavid Evershed 22nd Sep - 10:30am
    Keith Bates hits the nail on the head when ha "We need to articulate what the Lib Dem USP is for the ordinary person, defined...
  • User AvatarGlenn 22nd Sep - 10:13am
    Arnold' The EU is a political project, not a mere set of trade deals. It is nothing like NAFTA. Pro-EU ideologues tend to try to...
  • User Avatardavid 22nd Sep - 9:56am
    Brilliant results. Thanks to all involved. I am sure it will boost morale across the country. And to beat the socialists too!
  • User AvatarDavid Raw 22nd Sep - 9:49am
    Centrism - one big yawn. A little but of this and a little bit of that adds up to a little bit of nowt.
  • User AvatarStewart 22nd Sep - 9:33am
    @Floating Voter. This may rile you but the Sinn Fein connection? I genuinely don't care. Corbyn's good on civil liberties and human rights. His desire...