Author Archives: Michael Kitching

“However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results”— Winston Churchill

Two months ago I wrote an article for this site. I spoke about how for the Liberal Democrats, tactics have become our strategy. In the time since, an election review has kicked off and internally there have been many conversations about what our strategy should be in the coming years. Most of what has been suggested, however, has not been about strategy. It has still been about conflating strategy with electoral operations and tactics.

That’s why I’ve responded to Mark Pack’s request for feedback on our strategy and what it should look like in the future, with this letter. I hope you will input your thoughts too!

We still fail to articulate what the vision and grand strategy is for our party. What sort of a party do we want to be in ten years, when the conservatives most likely face the election that will remove them from power? Who do we want to stand for and most importantly what course of action, at the topline, most basic level, must we take to get there?

Simply cobbling together a disparate core vote, that we adapt slightly after each failed election campaign will not take us to the end of that journey, especially while our national politicians choose short term opportunism over the alternative.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 12 Comments

When tactics become strategy

The great strategist B H  Lidell Hart wrote: “The only thing harder than getting a new idea into the military mind is to get an old one out.” We can take from this many of the problems facing our party today. Following a decade of relative failure, we face an existential crisis and are in dire need of a rethink.

Many, including me, have written here in recent months about specific failings we’ve made, things we’ve overlooked or miscalculations that have occurred. But I think that much about how we operate as a party is fundamentally flawed – because we fail …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 32 Comments

Listening to people about immigration

When I wrote another Lib Dem Voice article a couple of months ago to share some thoughts following the General Election, I had one line in it that said we need to come up with Liberal answers to some people’s genuine concerns about how immigration has affected them, beyond calling them racist. Following that I was called racist myself and told that I shouldn’t be welcome in the Lib Dems.

So before this article I feel it necessary to say strongly, I support the free movement of people, and we should fight tooth and nail for it. In fact if anything, a freer and more open system that encompasses far more of the world would clearly be of great economic and social value to our country and our freedoms.

We cannot, however, deny that a large part of the electoral coalition the Conservatives have built, is around concerns about how migration has affected local communities. Many of these voters are undoubtedly people who in the past ten or twenty years, voted Lib Dem.

In many cases, particularly in rural communities where populations have increased by 20% over the last decade or so, there are very real issues. These stem from a lack of housing to take account of inward migration, a lack of investment in basic public services and a clash of culture and language in some cases, when previously entirely homogenous communities are changed so quickly. We should, of course, support the rights of individuals seeking to work and live in the UK. We should also work with communities to ensure that we invest to reduce the negative effects that some can see. Public service improvements should come alongside new migration, not in reaction to it twenty years later.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 37 Comments

More out of Hope than Love

I rejoined the Liberal Democrats this weekend.

I left some 18 months ago, agreeing with many that the party had lost its way over Europe. Our MPs voted for a referendum and then we denied its legitimacy.  It was a fair call to demand any deal be put back to the British people – but it was not fair to block and obfuscate at any attempt to ensure that deal kept us close to our European friends. I felt really angry that values we all shared had been eroded for short term political convenience.

In the end the party became a single issue Revoke campaign that appealed to absolutely nobody. We have ultimately failed to stop or lessen what amounts to a Hard Brexit. Combined, this is a crushing defeat.

So why rejoin?

This time for me, it’s more out of hope than love. I had a go at being part of something new, but as the last few years have shown, all these movements have been beset by the problems of ego and insular thinking. I came to the conclusion that the most likely way to create the country I’d like to see is by being part of changing our party from the inside. I don’t think it will be easy. Nor do I think there will be much point hanging around if, after a terrible election campaign, the party fails to listen and adapt.

Having had the chance to look from the outside and analyse our rivals, it’s quite clear the Lib Dems have lost their way as a campaigning force. As a former organiser I know how heretical it is to question our field campaigns – where simply slogging it out and dumping tonnes of paper through doors, regardless of what it says, will lead to ultimate victory. It hasn’t and it won’t.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 31 Comments

Why Local Parties need to get serious about fundraising

Piles of money. Photo credit: czbalazs - Politics is changing. Money buys elections (mostly) and there is no doubt we saw that in May. The Conservatives pumped money and resources in to marginal constituencies and backed by their aggressive national messaging, won.

Being a Liberal Democrat usually means the same old story, lots of enthusiastic volunteers at election time and everything on a shoe string budget, with the big money reserved for a few strategic seats.

Posted in Campaign Corner | 9 Comments

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