Tag Archives: general election 2017

A candidate’s tale: Part 2

Today Richard continues his account of his campaign in Macclesfield in the General Election. You can read Part 1 here.

We planned a campaign to make maximum use of social media – the leafleting of the 21st Century. (Don’t worry. We had plenty of leaflets too!)

Having practiced our high-visibility public-facing events – canvassing and hustings – we captured them in photos and posted through Facebook and Twitter, so people could see we were out there talking to the voters, taking the campaign seriously. A weekend’s events could be spread …

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A candidate’s tale: Part 1

I was the Liberal Democrat candidate for Macclesfield in Cheshire at the June General Election.

Six weeks earlier, after Theresa May’s as-it-turned-out vainglorious decision to go to the country, Macclesfield Liberal Democrats had found themselves in need of a candidate. And I answered the call.

The last time Macclesfield elected a Liberal was William Brocklehurst (junior) in 1910, and for the last 100 years they have returned only Conservatives (or Unionists) to Westminster. Alas, I was not able to celebrate William’s centenary by retaking the seat.

But I did hold on to the lion share of our vote from two years ago, and held on to our deposit, in the face of a fierce squeeze from Labour backed up by the tactical voting sites and some pretty underhand use of questionable numbers.

And, in spite of being in safe Tory territory, I never felt it was a no-hope seat.

In fact, I remain convinced that a seat like Macclesfield is winnable by a Liberal candidate. Maybe more in five to ten years than five to ten weeks. Where the Tory MP gets 53% of the vote this time, same as last time, Labour’s surge mopping up UKIP votes isn’t ever going to be enough. To reach into that 53%, you need to put together a coalition that picks up not just the moderate Labour voters, but the centrist, Remain-inclined Conservatives too along with the core Liberal vote. And only a Lib Dem is going to do that.

I was incredibly lucky to have a local party who were full of enthusiasm, fired up to resist Brexit, absolutely certain that our message was the right one for Macclesfield – which it is. On top of that, we had a team full of the talents we needed: organising people; organising logistics; designing literature; running social media. No one expected us to be much more than a paper candidacy, but we were determined to be as much more than that as we could manage.

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Lord Tony Greaves writes…Where now for the Liberal Democrats? Part 2: What we do about it

Yesterday, I laid out the issues facing the party. Here is my analysis of what we should do about them.

I suggest there are four or five things that should now be priorities for the party as an organisation and a movement. They may look rather different from each other but I suggest that they gel together more than may be immediately obvious. This is not an order of importance – I think they are all equally important.

First, in view of the election result we need to insure against the threat of another General Election in the next 12 months or two years. The very survival of the party requires a presence in the House of Commons. That means making sure that the 12 seats we held will be held again – no more carelessness or complacency. It means a similar level of intensive continuous work and campaigning in the 25 or so seats that are realistic targets for gains in an early poll. And those seats need to build up their local organisation to a level where they do not depend on support from lots of people in the surrounding areas and beyond when the election comes.

Second, from a longer term perspective, we need to rebuild and recreate the party as a campaigning organisation and movement. Campaigning in recent years has been diminished to mean just election campaigning, and a lot of that is now done in an arid “painting by numbers” fashion. The campaigning that gives political activity its interest, its excitement, its achievements, and its fun (and who is going to do it for year after year if it’s not fun?) is campaigning on issues, on projects, on protests, on getting things done. Community politics. It’s something the party almost abandoned during the Coalition. And campaigning of this kind is not just about elections – they are part of it but only a part. It’s much, much more, and genuinely all the year round stuff.

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The nature of predictions

This General Election campaign has given me pause for thought about the nature of prediction. When we make a political prediction we use information that is available to us such as polls, statistical calculations based on data such as turnout and past performance and what we hear on the doorstep when campaigning. But we also use our past experience of such matters and our hopes. Computing all of this we come up with a prediction of likely outcome. Our predictions are important to us personally as they reflect the quality of our judgement, an aspect of our being that we hold dear, as it relates to our sense of competence and thus strongly relates to our sense of self. Because of this we can become over attached to our predictions which can lead to negative effects.

If our prediction is positive such attachment can lead us to be overconfident and unresponsive to the reality of what is going on around us, as possibly happened to Theresa May at the start of her campaign.

If the prediction is negative such attachment can lead us to becoming despondent in our campaigning, playing down our message when talking to people, not bothering to campaign so vigorously for example not delivering that extra round of leaflets and demotivating our fellow campaigners. Such negative responses can contribute to our negative prediction becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy. To avoid such negativity we need to develop equanimity in relation to our prediction always having the humility to say, at the back of our minds, “but I might be wrong”. With this balanced approach, in spite of whatever prediction we make, we will continue to campaign in a positive constructive way. During campaigning obviously the results of polls are useful in deciding the sensible direction of the campaign but we should always take them with a pinch of salt and not allow them to make us negative in our approach.

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Lord Tony Greaves writes… Where now for the Liberal Democrats? Part 1: Where we are

The morning after another disastrous General Election for the Liberal Democrats, the party’s press office issued a statement which started with the breath-taking words: “It has been a good night for the Liberal Democrats.”

It went on to say: “We hoped to hold our ground but instead we have increased our number of MPs by 50%. We welcome back big hitters to our ranks in Jo Swinson, Vince Cable and Ed Davey, who all regained their seats with emphatic majorities. We have won stunning victories in Eastbourne, Bath, Edinburgh West, Caithness and Oxford West & Abingdon.”

Well yes, and I cheered every one of them. But we lost five of the nine seats we were defending including four which had been held at the calamitous election in 2015. Many more seats that we recently held or which were strong targets fell back badly so that the number of possible winnable seats has shrunk to levels not seen for decades. We lost 375 deposits and it was clear that the basic Liberal Democrat vote in large parts of the country was still close to zero and that the much-vaunted fight-back in many areas had simply not happened at the Westminster level.

So let’s start again. It was a disastrous night for the Liberal Democrats. The best that can be said is that in an election when the very presence of the party in the House of Commons was in danger, we survived. The increase from eight seats in 2015 to 12 this time is welcome but only gets us back to the position in 1966. The truth is that over much of the country hardly anyone voted for us. The countrywide core vote we had been building up in the first decade of the 2000s has gone and shows no signs of coming back.

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Why Lib Dems should be proud

At Spring Conference last March, Tim Farron set the bar high – calling on us to replace Labour as the official opposition after the next election. With this in mind, I understand why some Lib Dem members may be angered by our performance last Thursday. It’s true that our national campaign failed to get off the ground, and that it added little value to our hard-fought local victories. But despite this, I think the party should be proud of how we fought hard, targeted well, and avoided a disastrous result.

We were never going to become a national force again on the back of a menu of carefully thought through policies on health, education and drug reform. With our Parliamentary team so diminished, we had no choice but to pile our chips against one defining issue, and hope that it would catch on. I think that we were right to make this cause our opposition to Brexit. Brexit is the biggest issue facing our country, our position on it is unique, and it is completely in line with our values as a party. It’s just unfortunate that when this snap election was called, opposing Brexit was not the main issue on voters’ minds. It’s been a year since the referendum, and leaving the EU hasn’t really affected most people’s lives at all. Compared with austerity and the decline of our public services, Brexit seemed like a side show. Corbyn’s vision was much more in line with the public mood – and he gained momentum at our expense.

It’s easy to blame the Lib Dems for not getting Brexit higher on people’s priority list, but there was only so much we could do. Parties with 9 MPs don’t get to shape the agenda. They can only respond to it, and capitalise on the public mood as much as possible to regain popularity. With the effects of Brexit still not being felt, it’s no surprise that most people were primarily concerned with other matters. 

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The emotions of an election count

Editor’s Note: Ed sent us this post on Thursday night but we were all out at our own counts so didn’t get the chance to put it up. It is all the more poignant given that Mark Williams was defeated by a mere 104 votes, meaning that we no longer have an MP in Wales. 

I talked to Ed and we agreed that his heartfelt post should still go up, so here it is….

As I arrived at the count, the ambition of our hopes crashed to the floor as what was hoped for and planned had slipped away. And so it was that I lost (third) in the closest result in mainland Britain in 2010: Hampstead and Kilburn.

Tonight I will return to the General Election fray and will go as a staffer: the Election Co-ordinator for Mid, North and West Wales for the Liberal Democrats. I will attend the Ceredigion count in far rural west Wales to support Mark Williams, Leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats.

Election counts are odd, grim and puzzling – you are enclosed in a tight space, the count changes little and it is the verification that matters. Few elections are knife edge close – it’s the campaign that has the drama and the frisson is the declaration at the end.

For my own part I now find I struggle at counts: you have a job to do scrutinising and getting the box count data, you need to co-ordinate the team and spot the gaps and potential problems and be in control of your emotions and all senses racing. Adrenaline is a real drug and you get no choice as it courses through your veins and the only antidote is calm and fixed smiles. For my own part I resist triumphalism and yet the venom often expressed at said occasions lingers in your mind, in your memory and in your heart. My own election count of 2010 is seared into me and will never leave. For several years after 2010 I lost all emotion and it has taken a long time to come round to understanding my own psyche since. Now I can cry at the smallest, simplest and most natural things – then I suppressed emotion and pressed on.

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