With Paddy’s appointment as Chair of the General Election Campaign, an imminent start to the 2015 manifesto process, and clarity on the GE electoral boundaries, the party has very clearly entered a new strategic phase. This requires an organisational shift to ensure that we are focused on both the 2015 General Election task ahead, as well as the series of vital elections before then.
There were five key priorities for Liberal Democrat Headquarters (LDHQ) to consider when approaching the restructure:
- Strengthening our ability to fight elections on the ground, including building our membership and supporter base
- Increasingly disciplined and focused political communications
- Building digital capacity
- Raising more money
- Increasing operational efficiency and effectiveness
In addition, I am keen that LDHQ can work increasingly flexibly towards shared core objectives (winning seats being foremost of them). Although it will always be a priority for me to ensure the overall effectiveness and efficiency of the HQ team, this is not the time in the electoral cycle to be making cuts to staff resource – so overall, my aim was to keep staff expenditure broadly neutral.
At the heart of this will be a proposal for greater interaction with our members. One of the key things that we will be doing is replacing the weekly Liberal Democrat News newspaper with a monthly magazine – more details for subscribers will follow.
With editor Deirdre Razzall retiring next month after 14 glorious years at the helm, and in response to recent member surveys on internal communications, the time has come for a new approach. The new look Lib Dem News will come with a new name (soon to be unveiled) and a glossy, monthly magazine format.
Don’t worry – it will still provide the news, views, debate and information our readers pick up Lib Dem News for, but these will be combined with a new focus on interviews and features that will enable us to attract an increased readership. Each issue will come with a cover interview, in the style of Total Politics or House Magazine, with a senior figure in the party.
New regular and one-off features will give readers the inside track on what is going on in Westminster, Brussels, Cardiff, Holyrood and council chambers across the country.
As you would expect there will be plenty of policy detail and heated debate to get stuck into as well, but it won’t all be serious stuff. The Liberal Democrats are a family – we have our serious debates but we are also fun, self-deprecating and gossipy. The magazine format will allow us to be a bit less formal a bit more fun.
We will also be establishing new Facebook and Twitter platforms to make it easier for readers to interact and feedback with the editorial team.
The new HQ structure, in place as of last Monday, involves the creation of five new Directorates, reflecting the key priorities:
- Elections and Field (strategic seats, member and supporter development, candidates, diversity and training, call centre)
- Political Communication (media, internal communications, ground communications, strategic research, policy and international)
- Digital (digital campaigns, connect, digital infrastructure, digital content, data)
- Commercial (fundraising and conferences)
- Finance and Operations (finance, payroll, HR, compliance, HQ admin)
Within this structure I am delighted to announce the appointment of Hilary Stephenson as Deputy Chief Executive, with Directorate responsibility for Elections and Field, and Tim Snowball, who will head the new Political Communications Directorate. Nigel Bliss will continue to head Finance and Operations. Given the necessity of success on the income side, I will head the Commercial Directorate personally. We will recruit externally for a new Digital Director, who can bring specialist management and new energy to this area which is increasingly critical to so much of what we do.
I am very grateful for the advice of all those who I was able to consult during the process, and to all the staff at LDHQ for the positive manner in which they have embraced the changes proposed.
* Tim Gordon is Chief Executive of the Liberal Democrats.