Author Archives: Mark Pack

Mark was the Liberal Democrat Head of Innovations until June 2009 and is now at Blue Rubicon. He also lectures at City University and is co-author of 101 Ways To Win An Election. He blogs at www.markpack.org.uk and is on Twitter as @markpack. He likes chocolate. Lots of it.

What the Liberal Democrats believe

“Tell me more about what the Liberal Democrats believe”. Whether it’s a possible new member, a potential council candidate or a new office volunteer asking, I’ve always found over the years that one of the trickier questions to answer. Not because of the inherent question, but rather because of the paucity of materials available to conveniently answer it.

There’s always been a simple short 1 or 2 sentence answer to hand (such as the slogan of the day or an extract from the preamble to the party’s constitution) or a really long answer available, such as Conrad Russell’s superb An

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , , and | 40 Comments

Opinion: Are you a man?

menAre you a man? Have you been or might you be on a fringe meeting panel at Liberal Democrat conference? If the answer to both is yes, I’d like your help…

At the Spring conference just gone in Brighton, I nearly ended up being a speaker on an all-male panel – and one taking place on International Women’s Day no less. The subject – technology and politics – is one where there are a good few female experts in the party, and it was only Olly Grender’s last minute addition which saved my blushes from Mark Thompson’s quite reasonable intention to turn up and put us all on the spot about what was an all-male panel.

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Inquiries into Rennard allegations must be as public as possible

The party’s investigations into allegations against its members are traditionally internal, confidential affairs. There are good reasons for this, particularly as confidentiality can be necessary for people to be willing to given evidence and as the simple existence of an allegation can kill someone’s political career, even if the allegations are subsequently found to be groundless.

They are often so confidential, in fact, that the last time I was asked to provide evidence for an inquiry, I did not know what the precise allegations were, who was investigating them, who the range of people being investigated were, whether or not the …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 8 Comments

How Ofsted outperforms the Department for Education in the email stakes

Yesterday I blogged about how only a third of emailed newsletters and circulars sent out by the Department for Education to schools and teachers are read by the recipients.

I also mentioned that you could choose who to blame for the low readership rate:

Who is to blame for this? If nothing else I suspect these figures are a good test of your political instincts: are you already thinking the blame lies with Michael Gove and the Department for Education for not making their messages more compelling or with the teachers who aren’t reading them in greater numbers?

One way of helping …

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Two-thirds of email newsletters sent to teachers and schools by the Department for Education are not read

Email inboxOnly a third of emailed newsletters and circulars sent out by the Department for Education to schools and teachers are read by the recipients according to new figures I have secured following a Freedom of Information request to the Department.

In 2012 the Department sent out 148,182 such emails, with their systems recording 49,504 of them as having  been read at least once (33%).

Posted in News | Tagged , and | 16 Comments

What Google reveals about the current state of play in Eastleigh

The search results thrown up by Google often provide a neat little insight into what angles of a story are dominating coverage and people’s attention. The angles that get the most prominent coverage and the most interaction and responses are the ones that rise to the top of the search results. So what do they tell us about the current state of play in the Eastleigh by-election?

Posted in News and Parliamentary by-elections | Tagged , , , , , and | 7 Comments

The real political battle isn’t Conservative vs Labour or Cameron vs Miliband

Diversion sign - photo courtesy of Michael Casey on Flickr. Some rights reserved, see http://www.flickr.com/photos/michaelcasey/2959557643/Skim the political news – or brace yourself and watch some of festival of braying adults that is PMQs – and you could easily think that British politics is primarily a contest between Cameron and Miliband, Conservative and Labour, to be top dog. You could – and you would be wrong. It’s a diversion from where the real action is.

The real political contest is both elsewhere and not one single contest. It is not about Conservative versus Labour, except by incidental outcome.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 13 Comments

Maria Hutchings, Eastleigh Conservative candidate, plays hide and seek with the media

Norman LamontOne of my favourite moments from the 1997 general election campaign came when I was stood on a street corner in Harrogate, talking to a report about the challenge from Lib Dem candidate Phil Willis, who was trying to take the seat from the Conservatives. Suddenly, the journalist looked over my shoulder, muttered ‘excuse me’ and ran off down the street, partially dignified, chasing a van that had driven past behind me.

The reason? The van was that of the Conservative candidate, Norman Lamont, who had been spending the whole campaign trying to avoid talking to the press. The result? Much of the press coverage was dominated by stories of journalists trying to track him down around the constituency.

Posted in News and Parliamentary by-elections | Tagged , , and | 1 Comment

+++ Neck and neck: first Eastleigh constituency poll

That 3 point gap is within the margin of error on the poll, and so it is, as they say in the US about such results, a statistical dead-heat.

What is clear is that this is a contest between Liberal Democrats and Conservatives. Nigel Farage was right it would seem to back out of fighting the seat – and Labour too are clearly out of it in Eastleigh.

The Labour vote share is particularly interesting as we’ll see how well the party can do at squeezing a clearly third-place Labour in a Parliamentary by-election. The pre-2010 record is of course very good …

Posted in News and Parliamentary by-elections | Tagged , and | 47 Comments

Majority back same-sex marriage

Wedding ringsFrom the polling published this weekend:

Would you support or oppose changing the law to allow same-sex couples to marry?
Support: 55%
Oppose: 36%

Amongst Conservative voters the results are 44% – 49% (which is a statistical dead heat, when you remember to factor in the  margin of error).

Interestingly, the majority support comes despite the lead-up to the question being a tadge inaccurate:

Posted in Polls | Tagged , , and | 46 Comments

New university data shows everyone was wrong about tuition fees

May I introduce you to my latest graph? It’s based on the new data just published about university applications in England and compares the application rate for university places from the most deprived parts of the country with those from the least deprived. As you might expect, the least deprived areas see a higher university application rate than the most deprived. But look what’s happened to that gap:

Posted in News | Tagged and | 80 Comments

What do the academics say? Being local works

Academic cap and gown - Some rights reserved by NoDivisionWelcome to the latest in our occasional series highlighting interesting findings from academic research. Today – it’s the effect of being local on a candidate’s election chances, courtesy of an article in Political Geography :

In this paper, we the British General Election of 2010 and the British Election Survey, together with geographical data from Ordnance Survey and Royal Mail, to test the hypothesis that candidate distance matters in

Posted in What do the academics say? | 4 Comments

What do the academics say? The incumbency effect for MPs

Academics in caps and gowns - Some rights reserved by herkieWelcome to the latest in our occasional series highlighting interesting findings from academic research. Today – the incumbency benefit sitting MPs can build up, based on an analysis of the 1983-2010 general elections:

This note adapts two models commonly used to estimate the incumbency advantage that US members of Congress enjoy – the ‘slurge’ and the Gelman-King Index – to provide comparable estimates for UK MPs. The results show that

Posted in What do the academics say? | Tagged | 4 Comments

Three ways to make sure you’re talking sense on student numbers, tuition fees and all that

Want to make sure your comments are grounded in solid evidence when talking about the impact of tuition fees on students numbers and the like in England? Prefer evidence that stands up to a little basic scrutiny over that which falls apart the moment you apply a critical rather than a closed partisan mind to it? Then there are three things to remember.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 16 Comments

Government shifts to back full range of medical care for rape victims in armed conflict

Lindsay NorthoverWelcome news from the House of Lords last week, where Lib Dem peer and government spokesperson for International Development, Lindsay Northover, for the first time said the British government believes that girls and women raped in armed conflict are protected under international humanitarian law, even when domestic law in the country in question says something else.

What that means in practice is that the UK government is willing to fund the full range of medical care for the victims, including abortion where medically necessary – even if domestic law in that country …

Posted in News | Tagged and | 2 Comments

Danny Alexander fronts… a Liberal Democrat policy

Danny Alexander sometimes attracts a bit of criticism from party members for the number of times he’s done media appearances where he’s ended up spending much of the time defending Coalition policies which are predominantly Conservative. So good to see him out in the TV studios this morning fronting up a policy that the Liberal Democrats have strongly pushed for – and thereby emphasising the Liberal Democrat contribution:

Posted in News | Tagged and | 3 Comments

How to get Lib Dem Voice by email

Why not join hundreds of other Lib Dem Voice readers in getting our latest headlines by email?

Some people like regularly visiting a site to see if there’s new stories of interest. Some people like subscribing to its news feed (RSS) and checking that way. But if you prefer email, you can instead sign up to get a daily early morning email with a summary of the previous day’s posts from Lib Dem Voice, complete with a note of how many comments each post has got and convenient links to click on if any take your fancy and you want to take a read.

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Here comes the Mid-Term Review (Slimmed Down edition)

Nick Clegg and David CameronRight, time to set the alarm clock extra early for tomorrow morning to do a Radio 5 Live interview as it’s the week of the Mid-Term Review.

Not the original Mid-Term Review, as was planned back in the early days of the Parliament, that is – but the Slimmed Down Super Light edition, which will contain a fair amount of ‘look how we’re doing better than Labour’ and then a clutch of new policy announcements for the second half of this Parliament.

How well or badly the former is …

Posted in News | Tagged , , and | 3 Comments

Tim Gordon scorecard, 1 year on

Tim GordonLast January I wrote an open letter to the party’s then new Chief Executive Tim Gordon, setting out four priorities. One year on, how are things looking?

Here’s what I wrote (with introductory pleasantries skipped), with each of the four points followed by an update and a score. Read on to see how Tim has been doing…

Posted in Op-eds and Party policy and internal matters | Tagged , , and | 12 Comments

Sometimes to win an argument, you need to adopt your opponent’s point of view

Wedding bouquetFraming, that is the way in which a choice is presented, is often key to winning political (and indeed non-political) debates. Consider the following two statements, for example:

It’s dreadful that the government is letting private companies access more medical data about people.

It’s great that the government is letting medical researchers access more medical data about diseases.

They are both ways you could describe the current government’s actual policy. Whether the issue is framed as being about private companies or medical researchers and whether it is about personal data or information about diseases …

Posted in Campaign Corner and LDVUSA | Tagged | 7 Comments

Well done Liz Barker, Andrew Phillips, Chris Rennard and Ros Scott

Continuing today’s theme of congratulations, the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) has picked 10 peers who “have most to contribute to debates on charity issues”, four of whom are Liberal Democrats.

Well done Baroness Liz Barker, Lord Andrew Phillips, Lord Chris Rennard and Baroness Ros Scott.

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Congratulations, Caroline Pidgeon

Caroline PidgeonIt’s great to see Lib Dem London Assembly member Caroline Pidgeon awarded an MBE in the New Years Honours.

She has been, is, and I’m sure will continue to be, one of the most effective London Assembly members of any party. Her MBE rightly recognises her skill and tenacity in holding to account the Mayor and providers of key public services in London.

Congratulations Caroline.

(Personally, I’d prefer it if we had an honours system which normally didn’t give awards to politicians at all, but as we do it’s lovely to see such a good …

Posted in News | Tagged | 13 Comments

A twin-track differentiation policy

Here’s my take on yesterday’s speech by Nick Clegg, along with some further analysis from the IFS’s Paul Johnson and Conservative MP Robert Halpern, all via the World at One:

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 1 Comment

Ad Lib: If you’re reading this, it’s not for you

The first edition of the new Liberal Democrat party magazine, Ad Lib, went out to all party members earlier this month. Future copies will only go to paying subscribers, so what to make of the first edition’s efforts to make people part with their cash for future editions?

Judging its contents I think requires bearing three main factors in mind: it’s a monthly publication, it’s one that is printed on paper and it’s probably not aimed at you.

Both the first two attributes are rather …

Posted in Op-eds and Party policy and internal matters | Tagged , , , , and | 34 Comments

Nick Clegg: Time to rethink drugs policy

The Sun running a story about the attitude of politicians to drugs reform is fairly commonplace. A Liberal Democrat politician calling for the drugs laws to be reviewed is fairly commonplace. What is however rather less common – and so all the more significant – is for the former to feature the latter in a positive light as LDV mentioned earlier today:

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Law Commission sets out details for review of election law

From the Law Commission’s website:

We have commenced work on reforming electoral law.  We expect to open a consultation in late 2014.  A report with recommendations to Government will be published in summer 2015…

The twin aims of the project are to ensure, first, that electoral laws are presented within a rational, modern legislative framework, governing all elections and referendums under statute; and second, that the law governing the conduct of elections and referendums is modern, simple, and fit for purpose.

More details are on the Law Commission’s website but it’s worth …

Posted in Election law and News | Tagged | 6 Comments

The rise of the private renters continues

Back in the summer I wrote about how:

You can fight through a bulging email folder of press releases from politicians wanting to make mortgages easier, cheaper, safer and more numerous before you find one that talks about tackling any of the issues private renters face…

It is notable that the rising trend of private renting and declining numbers of those with a mortgage pre-date the financial crash. In fact, the crash has not caused much of a blip in the trends.

Posted in News | Tagged | 4 Comments

Clegg set to veto Communications Data Bill

Excellent:

Posted in News | Tagged and | 7 Comments

Equal marriage: it’s a matter of religious freedom

There’s been a lot in the media today from opponents of equal marriage about how the state mustn’t go about redefining marriage.

What they keep on skating over is that equal marriage isn’t something cooked up by atheists and agnostics. It’s also - as Lynne Featherstone has pointed out – supported officially by Quakers, Liberal Jews and some Unitarian Churches, not to mention many people of other faiths that officially take a different view.

Insisting that the state continues …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 58 Comments

In praise of people with drawn curtains in the morning

Night time workers. Work at night, sleep at day. That’s not being a scrounger. Shame so many Conservatives and so-called populists crudely label them all as scroungers with their blunderbuss rhetoric for having the temerity to draw the curtains at home when they’re sleeping after a long session at work.

UPDATE: In other curtain commentary news… Jennie has highlighted in the comments her own post. Here’s the link to it; the comments are well worth a read for a mix of the serious and the very funny. And here’s an Olympian

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 21 Comments



Recent Comments

  • User AvatarJoeBourke 30th Aug - 6:03pm
    The economist has a useful piece ahead of the Nato summit next week http://www.economist.com/news/international/21614166-russias-aggression-ukraine-has-made-natos-summit-wales-most-important - writing: NATO can only act by consensus, and some members...
  • User AvatarT-J 30th Aug - 6:02pm
    Ed, what do you mean by 'the Western World'? Because a good portions of the members of the European Union are intimately familiar with life...
  • User AvatarEddie Sammon 30th Aug - 5:55pm
    I feel inspired by the campaigns of Liz and Daisy. I think Sal could also do a good job, but Linda Jack is not in...
  • User AvatarEd Shepherd 30th Aug - 5:22pm
    I disagree with you, David. Putin will be all too aware that members of his family were killed by the Nazi's and he will have...
  • User AvatarRuth Bright 30th Aug - 5:10pm
    At last! An All-Women Shortlist! Daisy - how would you attempt to bring back to the party women who have left because they feel that...
  • User AvatarPaul Howden 30th Aug - 4:30pm
    I think this is misleading as fairtrade is a brand not a movement. Often people shun other better fair trade initiatives in favour of the...