Author Archives: MIchael Atkins

We are not a party of the centre

There is a frequent claim on these pages and wider commentary: as a party of the centre or centre-left, with Labour and the Tories pulling away from the centre, the Lib Dems should be polling a good deal better than 5-7%. This failure to transform an advantageous position into wider support is ascribed to a lack of vision, distinctiveness, or messaging etc.

I consider this analysis is flawed, and that the ‘solutions’ that follow are unlikely to improve our situation. My contention is as the article title states – we are not a party of the ‘centre’.

Posted in News | 76 Comments

Are by-elections the best use of activists’ time?

Over the course of November I lost count of the exhortations I received to contribute, either financially or through my time, to the Oldham campaign. But is our current approach to by-elections the best for our party, and, if not, what wider lessons can we draw? This article is written to provoke, to challenge, and to inspire debate; equally, it is not written to insult or degrade the hard work or enthusiasm of activists or candidates with which this party is blessed.

Activists are encouraged to get involved in a by-election for a number of reasons: (i) the excellent qualities of the local candidate; (ii) the opportunity to increase our representation at Westminster; (iii) there is value in 2nd/3rd/… place; (iv) to learn about effective methods of campaigning; (v) to spread our national message; and (vi) it’s fun/sociable/exciting! But we have to realise that we are a seriously resource constrained political party. Resources are financial and people-time: activists, party staff, and political figures (e.g. MPs). I would argue that these are all more seriously limited than at any time since I joined the party in 2005, with the possible exception of activists. Even here, many will have full time commitments, a family, other volunteering work etc. 

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 20 Comments
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