Towards a party strategy

Optimists and pessimists alike can find plenty to feed on about the current state of the Liberal Democrats. Dramatic council by-election gains. Stuck in single figures in the opinion polls almost constantly for over seven years, with our best monthly average only 11%. A massive growth in party membership taking us to all-time record levels. A local council base that has been shrinking steadily since the peak of 22.3% of councillors being Lib Dem in 1996. A distinctive position on the big policy issue of our times, providing plenty of political space for the party.

The list could go on. What even this short sample shows is that the Liberal Democrats have huge potential, the need for us to successfully argue the liberal and democratic position has never been greater and yet we’ve not yet found a way to turn that into sustained success.

It’s a challenge to us all to work out how we can raise our game, be smarter in what we do, raise more money and involve more people.

Which is where the strategy motion coming up at Southport conference comes in. Any party member who can make it to conference has the chance to debate and vote on it. It’s not a strategy from on high, but one based on widespread consultation with members last year, including two all-member surveys and on which members get the final say.

It is also, quite deliberately, a strategy. It is not a manifesto, a vision statement or an HQ business plan. It is not the one magic document that contains all the solutions for what the party needs to do. We will also need, for example, great manifestos for future devolved and Westminster general elections. So don’t expect to find the answers to everything in the strategy motion – it is (just) our propose strategy.

It is also, as any good strategy should be, a deliberate choice of priorities. There are plenty of things that could be in it which aren’t. That is because to prioritise everything is to prioritise nothing. You will, I suspect, have some things you’d love to see in the list of organisational priorities which aren’t there. I can certainly think of some I’m tempted to add. But even in an organisation overflowing with money, staff and volunteers, let alone in the reality of the Liberal Democrats, you need to prioritise to make meaningful progress.

So what the proposed strategy does instead is to set out a clear political approach for us – one which combines the mutually supporting aims of electoral success with the broader challenge of making our society and political system more liberal – and then sets out what sort of organisation we need to achieve that and how to get there.

If we get that right, we can rise to the challenge that the news brings us almost daily and turn far more of what we believe should happen into political change that makes our country more liberal, more green and more successful.

The text of the motion is below:

F15 Ambitious for our Country, Ambitious for our Party: Liberal Democrat Party Strategy

Our aim is to build and safeguard a fair, free and open society, in which we seek to balance the fundamental values of liberty, equality and community, and in which no-one shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity.

Our ambition for our country and the wider world is set out in further detail in the Vision for a Liberal Britain drawn from thousands of party members over the last two years, the paper on party philosophy, It’s About Freedom, and the policy overview paper The Opportunity to Succeed, the Power to Change (2016). Now we need a strategy to deliver that vision.

Conference believes that the best way to deliver that vision is to:

  1. Create a political and social movement which encourages people to take and use power in their own lives and communities at every level of society.
  2. Win elections at all levels from local government through to Westminster, so we can use political power to bring about change from within the political system.

III. Run issue-led local and national campaigns to help create a liberal society and secure immediate change though combining pressure from outside the political system with our own power within it.

Conference further believes that we can best achieve this by:

  1. Creating a much larger base of long-term loyal supporters (a ‘core vote’) for the party, based on people who share our values.
  2. Building beyond our growing core vote with successful local campaigning, combined with effective targeting as the electoral systems require it, to win at all levels of local and national government.
  3. Developing a mass campaigning movement both within and outside the party that is of a scale and effectiveness to match the scale of our ambitions, which supports both elections and issue-led campaigns.
  4. Working with those who share goals with us to build a progressive alliance of ideas that puts aside tribal differences to achieve shared goal.
  5. Generating political momentum through tangible signs of progress, including membership levels, fundraising totals and council and Parliamentary by-election successes.

Conference agrees that we stand for an open society, an economy which challenges inequality and for powerful communities at every level, and that in order to build our wider party appeal, we must focus the communication of what we stand for on:

  1. i) Restoring fairness as the basis for our society and politics, in which everyone plays a fair part and is treated fairly.
  2. ii) People and communities increasingly controlling their own lives and the direction of our society and politics.

iii) Our belief that a better future is possible, if we work together.

  1. iv) The need to heal the nation’s divides.

In order to deliver a party organisation fit for these objectives, Conference further agrees that our five organisational priorities are:

  1. Communicating our values effectively, through our key messages, issue-led national campaigns, and signature policies which symbolise what we stand for.
  2. Increasing our capacity, through:
  3. a) Empowering our members and providing them with a rewarding experience.
  4. b) Improving training, support and management of party staff.
  5. c) Promoting a culture in which people bring in new ideas, experiment and share best practice both from the grassroots and from the centre.
  6. d) Recruiting, motivating, and supporting local leaders.
  7. e) Promoting greater commitment and success in fundraising by the party and candidates at all levels.
  8. Improving our diversity and inclusion so that we demonstrate our values in practice, as well as bringing in new approaches and skills and enhancing our electoral appeal.
  9. Digitising the party, maximising our effectiveness in using digital opportunities to make the most of our supporters’ skills to overcome the traditional biases against us in the ways politics is funded, the media is owned and our electoral system works.
  10. Local campaigning, developing and supporting local leaders, working with our communities on the issues and problems they care about, listening to them, helping them directly, campaigning with them in innovative and effective ways, and representing them.

Conference notes that while this motion sets out a strategy and priorities for the party as a whole, it is for state, regional and local parties as well as party bodies to make their own decisions on how best to contribute towards our democratically agreed strategy.

Conference affirms that while the party organisation has a crucial role to play in implementing this strategy, we will ultimately succeed when it inspires every member to find their own way to put it into practice and help bring about our vision for a Liberal Democrat society.

* Mark Pack is Party President and is the editor of Liberal Democrat Newswire.

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  • Venetia Caine 7th Feb '18 - 2:00pm

    Sorry to be picky, but as of 14.00 on 7th Feb, the numbering system’s up the spout!

  • OnceALibDem 7th Feb '18 - 3:19pm

    To be fair the numbering is pretty much the thing I would most criticise with this! There does seem to be a lot of Mark in this – which is probably a good thing.

  • David Evans 7th Feb '18 - 3:23pm

    Sorry Mark, but you are wrong. We did find a way to turn it all into sustained success. But our leader and his close supporters betrayed all that in coalition and no-one senior has done anything to address that betrayal since. Tim Farron “You know, there are those that would like me to take this opportunity to distance myself from the past five years, …, to say: ‘I disagree with Nick.’ But I don’t. So I won’t.” Vince Cable “I don’t think the Lib Dem brand is toxic.”

    It seems too many of us will close our minds to the horrible truth, rather than face up to it. And the longer we prevaricate the more embedded our decline becomes. To many on the left we remain toxic. To most of the rest we are unimportant.

    Most people aren’t listening and any strategy that does not address the consequences of the coalition years is simply yet more window dressing.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 7th Feb '18 - 3:27pm


    This is so good as to need more to digest and appreciate it.

    I have skimmed the surface and await the time today to do the full cream bit.

    I like and admire your work already but this is what we need to be doing ie to add head to heart, not a slogan with Wizard of Oz drawings, in action and in hearts and minds.

    We need though, to be far more canny with the public and media. Brexit fatigue is a condition to deal with.

  • David: our best ever general election result gave us around 1 in 10 MPs. That’s certainly pretty impressive compared to where we are now. It’s also a long way short of having the power to change the country in the ways we believe. To have as our peak something that was still only a fraction of the way towards winning overall should, I think, be a sobering caution on saying how wonderful the past was.

    (I’ve used Westminster Parliament as the example here. Similar points apply to the other levels of elections, all of which are important in their own rights too.)

  • @Mark Pack and @David Evans

    I have before likened the coalition to a “new” Coke moment. There was much good about both and good reasons for both – and the bad reputation of both was to do with bad handling of publicity rather than the product itself. But new Coke drove away “core” Coke drinkers, just as the coalition drove away “core” Lib Dem voters.

    We have to decide how to address our “new Coke” failure and indeed whether to. Personally I advocate a return to “classic”.

  • David Evans 7th Feb '18 - 3:57pm

    Mark, I’m afraid like so many others you are just avoiding the point. The 62 MPs Charlie Kennedy got in 2005 or even the 57 Nick managed in 2010 was a great success and were further steps on a long march over a great many years gradually gaining the power to make a difference in our communities and the country.

    However to dismiss it with your “To have as our peak something that was still only a fraction of the way towards winning overall should, I think, be a sobering caution on saying how wonderful the past was,” shows how deeply embedded it is in so many of the party to somehow blame the failure of coalition on the success that got us to that point.

    The past up to 2010 wasn’t perfect, but is was better for the future of our party and our values than the disaster that was coalition and what has followed. Indeed your strategy could have been written in the 1970s and 80s, because to a large extent it was what we did. However, in those days the image of the Liberals was one of nice people working hard in their community.

    However now our image is of breaking pledges and giving the Conservatives time to roll back the welfare system and implement massive cuts, while doing a few nice bits around the edges. To succeed we need to get people to vote for us but the strategy you promote seems to assume that we can simply ignore why so many people stopped voting for us.

  • paul barker 7th Feb '18 - 4:27pm

    I f I was going to sum what we should & should not do, I would say :
    Stop obsessing about The Past (leave that to Tories & Labour, they both love it)
    Talk about how we see The Future.
    This Motion looks like a good place to start from.

  • @paul barker

    “Stop obsessing about The Past”

    I think we need to realise that while the electorate do not exactly obsess about the past they do frame their views of parties on the immediate past especially when they were in government. After all they were able “to taste the product” when they were in power.

    I would suggest that success for a party that has been in Government has only come when they have signalled a significant break with the past which had been found to be “distasteful” by a (significant) chunk of the electorate – Blair, Cameron, Corbyn. Normally this comes after TWO general elections.

    Admittedly this motion is not about policy.

  • It’s got a lot of words in it.

    Is it going to be some sort of catechism that new/ old members must learn and then recite in front of their Executive as ‘a rewarding experience’ ?

    A few popular eye catching radical policies that caught the imagination of the public might be a tad more helpful to boot up the 1.6% flag flyers.


  • Katharine Pindar 7th Feb '18 - 5:18pm

    David Raw. Hi, David, lovely comment! How about Michael BG’s Basic Citizen’s Income as one of the radical eye-catching policies in due course? As for me, I want our economists to come up with an Emergency Motion at Southport noting the impending rise in Council Tax and urging the policy we want to make it fairer, and less burdensome to people of limited income.

  • OnceALibDem 7th Feb '18 - 7:02pm

    “Sorry Mark, but you are wrong. We did find a way to turn it all into sustained success.”

    We didn’t though. MPs fell in 2010 and the party was losing councillors (2007, 09 and 10) and MEPs under and before Nick’s leadership before you even get to the coalition years.

    And of course Mark’s point applies.

  • Hi Katharine. Lovely comment as usual from you.

    I’m doubtful about MBG’s basic income policy on three grounds

    a) Like Land taxation it’s complicated. In true Lib Dem fashion it’s got a lot of words (the Southport Conference agenda pushes the Book of Jeremiah for length) – so it’s hard to understand and sell.

    b) Does everybody get it including Sir Philip Green when he turns up occasionally in Mayfair ?

    c) Has it been run through the Treasury computer and been interrogated by competent accountants (certainly not Carillion or Northamptonshire Council’s accountants). I don’t know the answers.

    The really underlying problem is the party’s credibility. I’m convinced Dr Cable has to address this. It just won’t go away. I watched poor brave Wera Hobhouse get chewed up in the Commons on the local government settlement today because of the Coalition legacy. It’s not her fault. When she started saying stuff I believe in about local government, academy schools, outsourcing, privatising and the public sector the poor lass looked frazzled and shell shocked when she got shot down in flames.

    Vince has got to say, the sooner the better at Southport, “We got it wrong”. Until he does we can’t turn the page.

    More cheerfully, HTAFC finally won away 4-1 so its not all doom and gloom and I’ll keep you posted about the blue plaque to Catherine Marshall at Hawse End. You ought to readmy friend Jo Vellacott’s book about her. I won’t say DONATE – we’re getting a grant.

  • Peter Watson 7th Feb '18 - 7:42pm

    “Conference believes that the best way to deliver that vision is to:
    1. Create a political and social movement which encourages people to take and use power in their own lives and communities at every level of society.”
    I am no longer a Lib Dem member or voter so I am not the target audience for an article about party strategy but might expect to be slap-bang in the middle of the audience that strategy is supposed to help the party reach out to.
    My concern is that the emphasis on encouraging “people to take and use power in their own lives” does not seem to be balanced by a desire to help those who do not have the resources or capabilities to take advantage of that. I would prefer to see the two sides of that coin reflected in the headlines for delivering the vision outlined in the opening paragraphs. As it is expressed here, this seems to be a strategy to attract soft Tories and a continuation of something that has not been successful for the party.

  • @Peter: the wording you quote, about helping people to take and use power very much covers the sorts of points you go on to mention. The motion doesn’t say just give people legal rights – it talks about helping them “use” power. That’s a very deliberate difference – because for people to use power they need not only legal rights but also the sorts of skills and resources to put those rights to work.

  • I think I must have a different definition of “strategy” to everyone else.
    That looks like Vague Aspirations to me, not Strategy with a capital S. I would expect strategy to include more in the way of what we are actually going to do and how to achieve things…
    But then, I am a mere cog, etc. I am told this is normal for party Strategy documents.

  • Sean Hyland 7th Feb '18 - 11:03pm

    It is a good vision document but without out the teeth of relevant detailed policies from the party it feels like just saying the same old thing to the faithful.

  • OnceALibDem 8th Feb '18 - 12:11am

    “As it is expressed here, this seems to be a strategy to attract soft Tories and a continuation of something that has not been successful for the party.”~

    The wording used there is pretty much that which has underpinned the idea of community politics. Even if that was often ignored by the party!

    Jennie has a point that it is lacking the sort of can’t acheive world domination in 5 years unless we smash the Roman state in the next 12 months type objectives. But I don’t think that is a bad thing. A lot of party ‘strategy’ in the past was effectively a plan for the next general election, set of local elections or at its worst the next by-election

  • Peter Watson 8th Feb '18 - 8:15am

    @Mark Pack “the wording you quote, about helping people to take and use power very much covers the sorts of points you go on to mention.”
    On reflection, I think that I misread part of the article.

    The two points (actually 3 including the oddly numbered one) beneath “Conference believes…” are about the vision for the party rather than the party’s vision for the country.
    The later points 1 and 2 beneath “we must focus the communication of what we stand for” are in line with what I believe the Lib Dems should be about, and do indeed emphasise fairness alongside empowerment as a vision for the country.

    Sorry about that.

  • John Probert 8th Feb '18 - 9:38am

    At this stage we must have clearly defined policy goals on three high profile target issues (e.g. National Health, Housing and a referendum on the final Brexit deal) on which to campaign nationally and in local elections. If any one strikes a chord, people can identify with us and vote for us. Historically there has often been a very scattergun approach; there was even a Liberal policy on Green Shield Stamps.

  • Nigel Jones 8th Feb '18 - 10:49am

    I agree with Jennie that this is not really a strategy. Maybe the statements in the ‘strategy’ are not vague, but they are about aspirations and party organisation rather than giving much clue about how we achieve progress on the ground. For example what is our core vote and how do we enlarge that ? How much should we depend on a core vote, and how much should we be working to convince other people to actively support us ?
    David Raw is right to say we have a credibility problem and it is big and deep; David Evans gives the key reason why, though his implication that we go back to the methods we used before 2010 may not be right. We certainly should be looking forward and doing this with inspiring vision.
    My impression is that our recent local gains are from people who like our individual candidates or the local hard work we do, but still say they will never vote for us nationally. In spite of that this local vote is a small part of what we can do to start building again and the ‘strategy’ makes no mention of a local government base.
    We also need to be looking at what kind of people we should be targeting, what policies local and national we should be emphasising and what sort of campaigning (not just elections) around these issues we need to be doing to start convincing people to support us. In this respect the ‘strategy’ speaks of becoming a mass campaigning movement, involving people who may not be voting for us at the moment, which I agree with, but how do we achieve that ??
    Another issue is the extent to which we focus on government, when the idea of a mass campaigning movement suggests the work starts outside government as a movement that wants to change our politics. At the moment our people and financial resources are severely stretched, so what are our detailed day to day priorities ?
    Likewise the implication for our organisation; should we strengthen our AOs and SAOs to enable us to link with people outside the party in a mass campaigning movement ?
    So there a lots of questions this ‘strategy’ does not answer.

  • David Evans 8th Feb '18 - 11:26am

    Once a Lib Dem, I think you must have prepared your post before reading my response to Mark’s comment, but you seem to be misinterpreting what I said about sustained success as implying that it was all roses up to coalition and of course that was never 100% the case as we all know.

    To me sustained success means growing and sustaining the party’s elected representation in elected bodies over a long period of time. So let’s look at the facts.

    In 1979 we had only 11 MPs (up from as low as 6 in the 1950s) and 1,059 Liberal councillors. Up to 1996 we gained councillors every year when we had 5,078 Lib Dem councillors (22% of the total) and a less spectacular growth to 20 MPs. After that our share of councillors varied between 20% and 22% of the total, but our MPs rose on the back of the past growth from 20 to 62. I would have liked to have seen our councillor base kick on further, but we were still making significant progress overall.

    So as I said “The past up to 2010 wasn’t perfect, but it was better for the future of our party and our values than the disaster that was coalition and what has followed,” and yes it could have been better, but it was nowhere near the catastrophe we are now in. Yes 2007 was a poor year for our councillors and we fell from 21.4% of all councillors to 20.1%, but remember at that time we also had a record number of MPs and MEPs. As for 2009 which you specifically mention, Wikipedia has us down as losing 2 councillors out of 486 and 2010 was indeed a poor year for councillors as well. As MEPs, as far as I can see, Paddy lost one MEP in 1999. Apart from that, we were steady or slightly up.

    So no I disagree with you as I said “We did find a way to turn it all into sustained success.” Not perfect but sustained over decades, and up, certainly until 2006, but the step change wasn’t then, but came with the mistakes of coalition in 2010.

    As I said to Mark, and I still stand by it.

    “It seems too many of us will close our minds to the horrible truth, rather than face up to it. And the longer we prevaricate the more embedded our decline becomes. To many on the left we remain toxic. To most of the rest we are unimportant.

    Most people aren’t listening and any strategy that does not address the consequences of the coalition years is simply yet more window dressing.”

    David Raw is right, we and Vince have to address what happened in coalition.

  • Sue Sutherland 8th Feb '18 - 12:19pm

    Yes! We have to do this because at the moment it seems as if different bits of the party are doing their own thing, sometimes with innovation, sometimes using tried and tested methods, sometimes with great success and sometimes receiving a raspberry from the voters. We have many new members who need support in what they want to do for the party.
    If we don’t do this then we will carry on with the same disjointed conference agendas as the one we have coming to Southport because the way we work, with great attention to detail, is incomprehensible to most people, including me quite often, and we never seem to get the trick of sifting our overarching raison d’etre from that detail and hammering it home to the voters.
    I’m glad that this includes a statement of our political aims too because I have become very concerned that the expression of those aims is being lost with the disappearance of the Wallace paper from the Lords on the Left Behind. Perhaps it hasn’t disappeared permanently but now I have no idea what the party is going to do about helping the people who expressed their lack of hope in a vote for Brexit.

  • Phil Beesley 8th Feb '18 - 1:29pm

    @Michael 1: “We have to decide how to address our “new Coke” failure and indeed whether to. Personally I advocate a return to “classic”.”

    New Coke and Classic Coke were not the only carbonated beverages on the market in the 1980s. Coca-Cola faced “the Pepsi challenge” from a strong competitor which used new promotional techniques such as pop concert promotions. Pepsi may have influenced Coca-Cola into making a strange decision. Or maybe small niche brands did it.

    At which point carbonated beverage comparisons dribble rather than gush out of the spout.

    Lib Dems have a new competitor in Momentum — working in a different way — when it comes to campaigning. It is unrealistic (undesirable?) to expect a Lib Dem equivalent. It is also unrealistic to assume that past successes can be recreated in the same way as before (return to Classic Coke?). Lib Dems and the Alliance won centrist and disgruntled voters — but never captured the charity shop volunteers, Amnesty International donors, environment clean up volunteers etc. They are people who don’t think the state will provide everything but Lib Dems have failed to establish a core vote there.

  • David Evans 8th Feb '18 - 2:05pm

    Phil, you say “Lib Dems and the Alliance won centrist and disgruntled voters — but never captured the charity shop volunteers, Amnesty International donors, environment clean up volunteers etc.”

    It’s an interesting point, but i haven’t seen it claimed anywhere else. And to be honest, I don’t know enough people in those groups to form even an inkling of a view.

    Can you point me to your source?

  • Phil Beesley 8th Feb ’18 – 1:29pm………………but never captured the charity shop volunteers, Amnesty International donors, environment clean up volunteers etc. They are people who don’t think the state will provide everything but Lib Dems have failed to establish a core vote there………………

    I disagree entirely…”When I were a lad” and right up to 2010 they were our core voters…David Raw is involved in food banks and I in helping the homeless/rough sleepers…
    We are by nature (excuse me David) on the left/radical side of the party and I and many others were denigrated and unwanted in the dash for the centre right ground during the coalition years….Radicals are, again by nature ‘doers’; these are the people lost by the Clegg/Laws/Alexander years…

    As has been said many times until we accept that “We Got It Wrong” we will be an irrelevance at the national level…

  • Lorenzo Cherin 8th Feb '18 - 2:47pm

    David Raw talks a lot here, but it is sensible a lot of the time ! David, you mock the use of many words as if they negate the content, but Mark here is very constructive.

    As to whether we call it strategy, does this word matter, it is a good list of things to do, a things to do list sounds like and is a strategy in a sense.

    I am of the view we do not need to do so much apologising, as reaching the public who do not think about the minutiae , we need to reach what Nixon, yes he, referred to as , the silent majority.

    Too much on Brexit not enough about Britain.

    Your Liberal Britain would do better if it emphasised Britain.

    People are not hung up on labels. They care about this country.

    All that rubbish about refuge for scoundrels mistake is the man never meant it to sound as it is quoted.

    Nothing wrong with patriotism. We could even sell the best of the coalition as motivated by it, saving our economy.

    Nobody believes enough in us as we seem to not believe in Britain enough.

  • Phil Beesley 8th Feb '18 - 2:49pm

    @David Evans: “Phil, you say “Lib Dems and the Alliance won centrist and disgruntled voters — but never captured the charity shop volunteers, Amnesty International donors, environment clean up volunteers etc.””

    For the first, I will cite the David Butler general election studies.

    For the second, I rely on my recollection of surveys within social groups. Quaker voting stats, perhaps? And I rely on verbatim reports from the time when 1960s and 70s Liberal survival depended on charity shop volunteers etc, which as potential core vote slowly switched to Labour.

  • OnceALibDem 8th Feb '18 - 3:42pm

    @David Evans

    You may well be right. If you are then where is your strategy. Will you be bringing forward and amendment(s).

    Because if not then the party doesn’t have a strategy and my view of a couple of years back that it was moribund and on its way to dying is correct.

  • Phil Beesley 8th Feb '18 - 3:52pm

    @David Evans: “Phil, you say “Lib Dems and the Alliance won centrist and disgruntled voters — but never captured the charity shop volunteers, Amnesty International donors, environment clean up volunteers etc.””

    The source of Lib Dem votes has been recorded in the David Butler voting histories.

    Liberal Party, Alliance, Lib Dem votership — they vote Lib Dem because they want something to be done. They do things for themselves and for others, without state reliance.

  • Phil Wainewright 8th Feb '18 - 4:26pm

    While this motion does a decent job of setting out a strategy, it stops short of defining a strategic plan. How this gets executed is what counts.

    So while I welcome this as a starting point – I particularly like the four points numbered 1. i) to 1. iv) under “communication of what we stand for” – here are three crucial questions that it leaves unanswered:

    1) How much of a *shake-up* is needed at HQ and elsewhere in the party’s organisation to make all of this happen? (For example, I’m intrigued to know what we’re going to stop doing in order to focus on the five organisational priorities set out at the end!)

    2) What are the main *obstacles* to progress and what we are we going to do about them? Among those obstacles, as other commenters have mentioned, is the recent history of coalition and how it’s perceived. The perennial issues of media visibility and FPTP are equally huge obstacles.

    3) What are the crucial *mechanisms* for putting the strategy into effect? I do hope these will emphasise support for grassroots self-organisation that motivates our very large membership to get involved.

  • @David Raw
    “I’m doubtful about MBG’s basic income policy on three grounds”

    It might be better to discuss UBI in the post on it but on your points:

    a) It is a very small share as a democratic universal right in the resources of the country to which we all contribute.

    b) Yes – he will also get his state pension in about a year’s time

    c) The finances are not complex. Multiply the number of adults in the UK by the amount of UBI to get the cost. Decide how you can to pay for it (best discussed elsewhere) – borrowing, LVT, partially by replacing the personal allowance – some combination of all three.

  • Tony Dawson 8th Feb '18 - 5:08pm

    Generally, I have tended to see most so-called ‘strategy’ documents proposed for the Lib Dems over the years as being tactics rather than strategy. This document appears to me to have gone the other way in terms of being aspirational, more ‘motherhood and apple pie’ than ‘how we will get where we want to be medium-to-long-term’ which is what a genuine strategy is.

    I have to say that I do not see the point of a GENUINE ‘strategy’ being debate and published in the full face of the people who wish to stop us succeeding and who already are over-aided by the voting system to do us down even when they don’t know what we are up to. The words ‘navel’ and ‘gazing’ spring to mind a wee bit.

  • Katharine Pindar 8th Feb '18 - 10:14pm

    This document entirely sums up my beloved party by being huge and sprawling, as happens when everyone is being nice and democratic and listening to each other and accepting everyone else’s point as valid. And many responses here are equally typical, in suggesting a mild disappointment at not having something brief and strong and memorable to come away with, but accepting that that wouldn’t be appropriate and refraining from criticising except in pointing out the odd omission.

    So I tried to see what I would remember from it myself.
    1.Encourage people to take and use power in their own lives and communities.
    2. Run issue-led local and national campaigns.
    3. Create a core vote, extend it through campaigns, and develop a mass campaigning movement.

    After that i felt more attracted to John Probert’s request that we have three high-profile target issues, National Health Service, Housing, and Referendum to campaign on both national and local levels. Exactly what was suggested in a meeting last night by one of our oldest Cumbrian Lib Dem troupers, except he limited it to the first and the third. I think a small body of top people, as was done for the Manifesto, should also undertake to group and narrow down our policies into say half a dozen key threads for public consumption. Then ask our large membership (as you suggest, Phil Wainewright) to publicise some of them through social media and leaflets – or just what matters locally plus Exit from Brexit.

    Sue, you are right that we shouldn’t forget the William Wallace paper on the ‘Left Behind’ citizens and communities. I have a copy. The conclusions include the necessity for higher public spending, addressing the regional imbalances, and emphasising what we think most important of our educational proposals. We can beat Labour on those. But also ‘encouraging the growth of locally-owned and locally-based enterprises’ seems vital to me; job creation is going to be a key area of political thinking, and not to be left to Labour.

  • Katharine Pindar 8th Feb '18 - 10:43pm

    @ David Raw. Hi again, David! The third Michael (I wish he would tell us who and where he is, being an obviously experienced and useful member) has answered your query on Michael BG’s thread, I guess. I still think one of our economists ought to be reviving the suggested policies on making Council Tax fairer, though.
    Interesting about poor Wera’s experience that you mention, but don’t both she and Layla do well? They are impressive new performers, and I’ve been fortunate myself to hear them both now at conferences.

    I also was glad to see HTFAC had a boost, just sad to see their position now in the Premier League and of course hope they can survive there. I look forward to hearing more about the Catherine Marshall blue plaque – and hope the latest little grandsons and their mother are thriving. Best wishes and goodnight!

    (Equally so to Lorenzo. And Sean Hyland – pleased to see you back with us, Sean!)

  • David Evans 9th Feb '18 - 12:22am

    Phil Beesley. I’m afraid you will have to be a bit more specific. I looked up David Butler voting histories and found a vast morass of stuff. Can you point to a specific paper or two?


  • David Evans 9th Feb '18 - 1:13am

    Katharine, I’m afraid what I see here is another Lib Dem fudge to kick the can ever further up the road, where people trot out their usual responses, but then do not engage with others with a strongly counter view except at a very trivial level and then usually just for one post.

    My posts have been based on three facts
    1) The last pair of elections has given us the lowest share of the vote (7.9% and 7.4%) has been lower than at any time since the results in 1955 and 1959 (2.7% and 5.9%).
    2) As stated by Mark, we have been flatlining in the opinion polls at that sort of level since about 2011. In fact if anything drifting down.
    3) The thing that caused it was coalition.

    However, all we have done for the last four years of coalition and nearly three years since is pretence and self delusion. Pretence that we can get away with not saying anything about why it was so bad, pretence that people are listening to us when they clearly are not, and pretence that the development of policies will magically turn us around.

    Now we have something that is called a strategy paper, but in fact contains nothing we haven’t been doing for the last fifty years, with the exception of a few almost meaningless generalisations as a nod to Information Technology. The key thing it does not address is the effect of coalition.

    Ultimately the only meaningful outcome from this is that the party will have a fig leaf that it can say is a strategy.

    Sadly without change of attitude by so many in the party and an acceptance that we are in a crisis, all we will see is the party continuing towards what will soon become an almost inevitable conclusion – back to a party of consistently very few MPs (and quite possibly even none in fifteen years time) each holding on due to personal charisma and a concentration of workaholic supporters.

    We will cease to be a party of democratic action and achievement, and instead turn into a glorified lobby group of the concerned middle class, who talk a lot but achieve very little. Indeed we are almost that now.

  • Phil Beesley 9th Feb '18 - 12:13pm

    @David Evans
    I’d start with “The British General Election of 1979” by David Butler and others, then the 1983 history in the same series. You may need to use inter library loan to find copies. They provide context for the merger of the Liberal Party and SDP.

  • OnceALibDem 9th Feb '18 - 4:22pm

    A further musing from Mark – which really illustrates how this is a start not an end

  • Peter Hirst 9th Feb '18 - 4:32pm

    I’d argue for a flexible strategy that experiments and takes into account what works and what doesn’t. Our electoral system is a major barrier to implementing any strategy so part must be to change it. Any worthwhile strategy must increase both the national vote and numbers of elected representatives; keeping those two in balance should be a key aim.

  • “I’d argue for a flexible strategy that experiments and takes into account what works and what doesn’t. ”

    That is a valid point but conflates strategy, tactics and techniques and is probably covered by point 10.

  • Phil Beesley 11th Feb '18 - 3:53pm

    It is not something which Lib Dems can determine, but Lib Dems need a lucky turn in the ballot for 10 Minute Bills. Or for Labour just to foul up.

    The old Liberal Party won — moderately — because it captured liberal ideas. It is not sufficient to capture centrist ideas — there are loads of parties going for those voters.

    Lib Dems have to create a liberal imagination — something beyond liberalisation of possession of small quantities of drugs, something less technical than LVT.

    If I had the imagination, I’d proffer an essay.

    And when the Labour Shadow Chancellor says that he likes co-operatives, I’d ask him what he thinks about the Baxi Partnerships.

  • Alex Macfie 11th Feb '18 - 5:17pm

    @David Evans: Your eternal counsel of despair, as always, harks back to the Coalition and how it represents a permanent block on our future success that no strategy can ever overcome unless we admit we were “wrong”. Well, in that case, we might as well stop and wind ourselves up now. Your idea that that an apology or mea culpa over what we did in government would help address our credibility issues shows similar political naivety to Nick Clegg’s when he went into government with Cameron.
    Of course we are haunted by the Coalition. This is only because our political opponents, principally Momentum, lose no opportunity to go on and on and on about it. And obviously it is THEIR version of our Coalition record that they are peddling, not ours. To “apologise” for it would be essentially to accept our political opponents’ spin on the Coalitoin years, and it would open us up to further ridicule. Instead of “The Lib Dems can’t admit they were wrong” it would be “Even the Lib Dems admit they were wrong” about entering government. It would keep the Coalition years even further to the front of public political discourse, and not in a good way for us.

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