Author Archives: Mark Pack

Mark was the Liberal Democrat Head of Innovations until June 2009 and is now at Blue Rubicon. He also lectures at City University and is co-author of 101 Ways To Win An Election. He blogs at www.markpack.org.uk and is on Twitter as @markpack. He likes chocolate. Lots of it.

The starting pistol is fired on the leadership election!

Last week, we published the frank independent review into the 2019 general election. It rightly received plaudits in the media for its candour.

This review challenges us to change as a party and to change the country for the better.

We now need to get on with that work – and that’s what we’ve done with a set of key decisions by your Federal Board.

We’ve set a timetable for electing our next party leader – running from June through to August. With the widespread use of online hustings and online voting, we …

Posted in Leadership Election and News | Tagged | 68 Comments

The party President writes…Key party decisions coming up at the Federal Board meetings next week

How do we improve as a party and achieve greater success in future elections? That’s the theme running through the bumper set of key decisions the Federal Board is looking at next week at our meeting. (Or rather meetings, as to avoid Zoom fatigue, we’re splitting one long meeting into halves on consecutive nights.)

Included in that will be the Board’s first considerations of the independent election review, headed up by Dorothy Thornhill and coming out later today. Thank you for all their hard work to her, her colleagues and everyone who contributed evidence to the review.

Even without that review, there are some things we already know we need to change, in particular our use of technology. That’s why the Board will also be looking at major plans to overhaul our approach, learning from the best of those outside politics and from politics overseas. A big part of the plan is much better use of volunteer expertise.

Posted in Party policy and internal matters | Tagged , , , , , , , and | 17 Comments

+++Update on the Leadership Election

Last month, the Federal Board decided to postpone the party leadership election, due to kick off in May, until May 2021, so that the party can focus on dealing with the coronavirus crisis instead.

Following this decision, an appeal against it was made to the Federal Appeals Panel (our internal Liberal Democrat equivalent of the Supreme Court). The Appeals Panel has agreed that the Federal Board can suspend the leadership election while exceptional circumstances exist, but not delay to a fixed date next year. It has asked the Board to keep the timetable for the leadership election under review, as circumstances continue to develop.

Posted in Party policy and internal matters | Tagged and | 14 Comments

Thank you candidates, agents and campaign teams

News of the delay in this May’s local elections by a year is a sign of just how serious the coronavirus outbreak is.

It also means that for many candidates, agents and campaign teams who were gearing up for May, there’s now an unsettling vacuum in their political lives. What was going to be a peak of effort, with big impacts on the lives of people who are or aren’t elected, is now suddenly put off.

There’s also the weird situation that some councillors – along with their families – find themselves in. Those who were expecting to retire in a few weeks, sometimes after many years of voluntary public service, instead face an extra 12 months before they get to stand down.

Posted in Campaign Corner | Tagged | 11 Comments

How to send your views to the Lib Dem elections review

Over 22,000 (yes, twenty-two thousand) submissions have already been made to the party’s independent review into the general and European elections. But that’s not stopping the review team, headed up by Dorothy Thornhill, from wanting to hear more…

One opportunity to do that in person is at the party’s spring conference in York, from 10:10am on Saturday 14 March in the main conference hall.

But don’t worry if you can’t make it to the party conference.

Posted in Party policy and internal matters | Tagged and | 8 Comments

Lib Dem spring conference in York and coronavirus

We’re keeping under close review our plans for the York conference in the light of the spread of coronavirus. Based on the health advice from the NHS and government, along with that from York Council, there are no current plans to cancel the conference.

We will, however, be ensuring that those coming to conference are reminded of health advice, such as the need for regular hand washing and the circumstances under which people should self-isolate. Hand sanitizers will also be made widely available.

Obviously if the advice we receive changes, we may have to revisit these decisions as the health of our colleagues and our suppliers must come first. It would be a decision for the Federal Board to take.

Posted in Party policy and internal matters | Tagged and | 17 Comments

Shaun Roberts stands down as Lib Dem director of campaigns & elections

Writing in a public Facebook post, Shaun Roberts has announced his departure as the party’s Director of Campaigns & Elections:

Posted in Party policy and internal matters | Tagged , and | 4 Comments

Andy Corkhill selected by LibDems to be Liverpool City regional mayor

Good luck to Councillor Andy Corkhill who has been selected as the Liberal Democrat candidate for the Liverpool City Region (LCR) Metro Mayor

Selected by party members for this May’s Metro Mayor contest, Andy Corkill stood in Wirral West at the 2019 general election and has been a councillor in Wirral since May 2019.

Posted in Party policy and internal matters | Tagged and | 1 Comment

Getting our finances right – report back from February Board meeting

At our latest meeting, the Federal Board welcomed our newest member, Lisa Smart, who has been elected the new chair of the Federal Communications and Elections Committee (FCEC), taking over from James Gurling. Welcome on Board, Lisa!

We also welcomed back to the Board Tony Harris as Registered Treasurer and Chair of the Federal Finance and Resources Committee (FFRC) and Mike German as Federal Treasurer.

Details of the outcome of elections for other key posts around the party are available on the party website. Congratulations to everyone elected and thank you also to everyone else who applied, helping to give us a strong set of names to choose from.

After our January Board meeting agreed the timings and got the ball rolling on key elements for our success this year, such as an independent elections review and our leadership election, the Board concentrated this time in particular on the Federal Party’s budget.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 3 Comments

Mark Pack writes… Lisa Smart takes over as chair of the Lib Dem Communications and Elections Committee

Welcome to Cllr Lisa Smart (on the right in the photo), freshly elected as the new chair of the Federal Communications and Elections Committee (FCEC).

She’s written a piece for the party website introducing herself and her priorities:

Last week I received a call at home. I’d been fighting for a blue disabled parking badge for a local man with a hidden disability. He’d filled in all the forms, the reply came back, “Sorry, computer says no…” He’d complained, the reply still came back, “Sorry the computer still says no.” Then something

Posted in News | 17 Comments

Our party president and co-leader on the big challenges ahead

There are two versions of 2019 which future historians of the Liberal Democrats may write about. One is about a party that was on the road to recovery since 2015, took a big hit in December, but then continued upwards afterwards. It’s a story in which the successes of the first half of 2019 were the ones that pointed to the future. Or there is the version in which the Liberal Democrats were in continued decline after 2010, showed brief signs of life in early 2019 but where it was the disappointments of the general election that pointed to the future.

Either could yet turn out to be the one that’s written. Which one gets written is down to us here in the present.

That means getting our own house in order. It means learning the right lessons from last year – and acting on them, successfully electing a new leader and also making a success of the May elections.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 13 Comments

Our President and co-leader writes: How you can get involved in helping to run the party

The Liberal Democrats are about to fill nearly 50 important posts, responsible for everything from oversight of our campaigns through to improving our record on diversity and making sure our finances are in good shape.

Please do both think about going for one of these posts yourself, and also who else you might want to encourage to put their name forward.

We need the best team possible – which means people with brilliant skills, time to do the job properly and a much greater diversity than we often manage with such exercises.

If anyone would like to know more about what a particular post involves, I’m very happy for you to put them in touch with me and I can either directly help or put them in touch with someone with experience of the post.

More details of the posts are over on the party website.

Posted in Party policy and internal matters | Tagged , and | 34 Comments

Mark Pack writes…The challenges ahead for the party

I am honoured and delighted to have been elected as President of the Liberal Democrats.

The news is overshadowed by the results of the general election where, in amongst the individual brilliant results, there were so many disappointments and tragedies. After such a promising start as our party leader only a few months ago, Jo’s own defeat is particularly saddening.

Our increased share of the vote, more second places and enlarged party membership, added to the fantastic growth in our local government base earlier in the year, does, however, provide us with the foundations to recover from. As does the welcome progress in making our Parliamentary Party more diverse.

It will be a big and challenging agenda for the party’s new leader, supported by us across the party and one I will now have the responsibility of helping shape and deliver as your President.

Thank you especially to everyone who helped get me elected, to my campaign manager and agent, Janet Grauberg and Pete Dollimore, and to the party staff for running the contest at such a busy time. Thank you also to Christine Jardine for a campaign carried out in such good humour.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 74 Comments

Mark Pack writes…Thank you, candidates and agents

As you read this, the final rounds of nomination papers are going in for Liberal Democrat candidates around the country. Between candidates and agents, that is well over a thousand people who have volunteered to add even more burdens, strain and work to the next few weeks above and beyond even what all the rest of us are going to go through.

Even in the most fantastic election result for the Liberal Democrats, at the end of it many hundreds of them will not have a victory to show for it. The party, and our cause, will however, thanks to them, have much to show for it. 

Losing campaigns can still be the step to winning next time – whether that is more victories in the next local government elections, more victories in the Scottish, Welsh and London elections or even moving on to win in the general election after this one. Those campaigns too help spread our message, grow our party and increase our political relevance.

So thank you, those who are leading the political and organisational charge to help achieve that. Especially as you will see, and I am sure understand, so much of the party’s attention, resources and assistance be diverted increasingly tightly to those who are in with a chance of winning.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 6 Comments

Mark Pack writes…Parrots, canvassing and factsheets

Parrots feature more often in canvassing that you might expect. 

A few years back, Kelly-Marie Blundell revealed her canvassing experience one day in Guildford:

“Canvassing flats, often elderly people will call out through the door before opening as a measure of precaution. When I was canvassing some flats in Guildford, I knocked on one such door, or so I thought.

“‘Excuse me, can I help you?’ came the thin, elderly lady’s voice. I replied, ‘Yes, my name is Kelly-Marie Blundell and I am your…’

“But then she repeated it, speaking over me. So I spoke a little louder and clearer, presuming she was hard of hearing. ‘Yes, my name is Kelly-Marie…’ Then I heard it again, ‘Excuse me can I help you?’

“Rather baffled, I started again. ‘My name is Kelly-Marie…’

“And then I heard a squawk. That’s right. The repeated phrase was clearly coming from a parrot!”

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 8 Comments

Mark Pack on “the other elections”

Quite rightly, nearly all our attention now is on winning public elections: winning those council by-elections coming in before the general election and winning then in the general election too.

There is also the tail-end of the party’s internal elections, with voting closing at 5pm on Friday next week (8 November) and most likely, given some of the problems with the voting system, quite a few members still to vote. (If you haven’t yet received your ballot paper, [email protected] can assist.)

Those internal contests matter. They will determine, for example, who is on the Federal Policy Committee (FPC), the group that will …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 11 Comments

Mark Pack writes…How we can do better than ever before

I’m the son of immigrants, one parent from Germany, the other from Poland. My family history is in miniature the troubled history of Europe, scarred by the horrors of extremism and war – and then my parents making a new home together in our country. 

It’s why our liberal democracy, despite all its flaws, is so precious to me. And why we have to protect it against the extremists and populists. 

To do that, we need to build a grassroots liberal movement, mobilising the millions who share our values. Such a movement can continue our successes this year winning more power, through campaigning and elections.

Winning elections at every level gives us more of that precious power to stop Brexit, to protect our planet, to heal the divisions in our society and to meet the needs of our local communities.

That’s why winning is so important – and that’s why I’ve put helping you win at the heart of my pitch to be President. 

The key task for the next President is to ensure we have the right strategy and the right organisation to win bigger than ever before – in local government, in the London Assembly, in the Welsh and Scottish governments, in Westminster and in future European elections too.

That’s a task well-suited to my record and my skills, including:

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 1 Comment

Mark Pack writes…Winning at every level: the Lib Dem recipe for success

We should never forget that elections at all levels matter. They directly give us the chance to implement our vision for a liberal democrat society in more communities, and they also are the springboard to future success in elections at other levels. We saw that so clearly this May, where put more Lib Dems into power and set us up win a record number of MEPs, not to mention putting us very much back on the national political map.

But the truth is too much of our organisation, especially at the federal level, often defaults to acting as if only the next Westminster contest really matters.

It’s understandable why over-stretched staff, tight budgets and busy volunteers can fall into this trap. But to build sustained, long-term success across all of England, Scotland and Wales, and to get even more Liberal Democrat policies put into action in even more communities, we need to think broader and longer-term. The next general election is crucial. But so too are the local elections coming next May, the next Scottish Parliament elections and the next Welsh Assembly elections – not to mention the general election after next. 

Seeing all these elections as part of one overall mission for the party is a central part of the core votes strategy which David Howarth and I pioneered after the 2015 debacle and which has underpinned our recovery. Concentrate on those who share our values so that we build a durable, sustainable bedrock of support across all elections – and on which specific campaigns can then add the personal votes of candidates and tactical support. Stick with that task and we’ll be ready to win bigger, year after year.

That political strategy requires an organisation to match. That’s why improving and enlarging our organisation is at the heart of my pitch to be President and the five priorities I’ve set out (read them here)

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 8 Comments

Take 2: Mark Pack writes…Why I want to be Party President

Apologies to Mark – we accidentally crashed his time at the top of the page with an ad for our fringe (do join us at 1pm in the Dorchester North at the Marriott asking what sacrifices we are prepared to make for the planet.). So it returns to the top of the page for an hour or so. 

Although Liberal Democrat conference has only just started, I already feel a bit like a child who has wandered into a chocolate shop, bubbling with excitement at what they can see all around. Here in Bournemouth, that excitement comes from bumping into so many brilliant – and wonderfully diverse – prospective candidates, so many of whom many even be MPs by Christmas. What a Christmas present that would be for them, their communities, the party and the nation: a massively expanded voice for liberalism at the heart of Parliament.

Many are people I’ve campaigned with for years. Such old friends will, I hope, forgive me for being just as excited about how many are new to the party, bringing in a new generation of talent in the last few years. Melding together the old and the new – in members, in campaign tactics and in the ways we organise ourselves – is crucial for our long-term success. 

That’s why, at this pivotal moment in the party’s development, with a new leader, so many new members and such a huge increase in our political potential, I believe there’s a vital role for our next Party President in making this happen.

It’s very natural for the Leader and Chief Executive to get drawn into focusing so strongly on the next Westminster general election. It is crucial. But it’s not the whole story. We need to remember the other types of elections out there. And that there will be a general election after the next one too. 

We need to think broader and longer-term to bring the sort of sustained long-term success that will deliver a liberal society, a safeguarded environment and high-quality, responsive public services.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 6 Comments

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:

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 43 Comments

Looking for more women

Margaret WintringhamThe Liberal Democrat History Group faces a double bind when it comes to finding authors and topics for our articles, books and meetings cover the history of the Liberal Democrats and our predecessor parties.

The superficial explanation is that our output is bound to be dominated by men because that is how political has been. Just look at the ranks of male party leaders, for example. And look at how nearly all the biographers of our party leaders have been men. So whether we’re looking at topics or authors, you might think we’re bound to be dominated by men for understandable reasons. No problem there. Move along please.

Except it there is rather more to it than this, for when you scratch under the service it is clear things do not have to be quite this way.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 24 Comments

Conference Countdown 2015: Would you abolish One Member One Vote if it was already in place?

A good test of a proposed new rule is to imagine: if it was already in place, would you be convinced by arguments to abolish it? So imagine with me that the Liberal Democrats had one-member, one-vote (OMOV) in place, instead of our conference representatives system, for electing our federal committees and for voting at party conference. A world with all party members able to vote in both.

It would not be nirvana. You can imagine some being concerned about the time and cost involved in coming to conference and the members who therefore miss out. You can also imagine complaints when ballot papers come round that members do not know enough about what the candidates are like or their track records.

So take one more step down imaginary lane with me and picture me at a podium in front of you, laying out all these problems and revealing – hooray! – I have an answer.

Posted in Conference and News | Tagged , , and | 15 Comments

Opinion: Help, I’ve got lots of new members. What do I do? #libdemfightback

It’s a nice problem to have. It’s an unexpected problem to have. But it’s still a problem: quite what should local parties do with all the new members flooding in since polling day, the vast majority of whom are new to political parties.

Party HQ itself is getting much right that it hasn’t with previous bursts of new members: prompt member surveys, new member packs, welcome calls and getting people signed up to direct debit (much easier to renew) are all things done a bit in the past but now happening much more systematically.

Yet that isn’t a substitute for local embrace of new members and the record of local parties – as my mystery shopper showed – has been rather variable. So here are my five top tips:

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 15 Comments

Opinion: Need, not a magic number, should determine size of the state

Union flag photo credit: Some rights reserved by ianonlineIronically, one of strongest views expressed about the size of the state in The Orange Book was by Vince Cable, subsequently more usually associated with wanting more state spending during the recession but at the time of The Orange Book wishing to see a cap introduced on the level of state spending.

Jeremy Browne has more recently talked of wanting to reduce the size of the state to around 35-38% of GDP but more significant has been David Laws’s comments which in effect put any push by people such as himself in the party for reducing the size of the state into the deep freeze. He attacked the Conservatives, saying:

“Their desire to shrink the state by continuing to cut spending long after the deficit has been cleared trumped their rhetorical commitment to expanding opportunity for young people. Clearly a political dividing line on fiscal policy matters more to them than the effort to reduce poverty and expand life chances.”

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 39 Comments

Opinion: DRIP under the microscope – should Liberal Democrats support this Bill?

Samsung Galaxy Note 3Unusually for me, I’m starting writing this piece without knowing what conclusion I’ll come to by the end of it. Normally it’s straight forward enough to marshal evidence, decide on view and then write it up (unless the curse of writers’ block strikes of course).

But the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Bill (DRIP) takes the usual perils of journalism turning most stories into a simple good versus bad dynamic, throws in the paucity of expert mainstream coverage of many technical issues and adds a dash of juggling different uncertainties.

Certainly if …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 29 Comments

Opinion: Queen’s Speech – the success and failures of coalition in a nutshell

Nutshell 2One part of the Queen’s Speech – or rather one absence from it – neatly encapsulates the Liberal Democrat experience in coalition government, both good and bad. It is the absence from it of an immigration (dislike thereof) bill.

A solo Tory government would have introduced one and – thanks to Labour’s attitudes towards immigration – even a minority Tory government might well have got an anti-immigration bill through Parliament. It’s the Liberal Democrat presence in government which has stopped it.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 23 Comments

Opinion: Get your voters out electronically

HTC HD7 8It’s not a surprise to say far more people use social media now than when I first learnt political campaigning because Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and the whole lot didn’t even exist back then. Nor even did (glory be, you might think) Internet Explorer. Back when a beta version of Netscape was cutting edge, the scope for successful online political campaigning was tiny compared to now, when there are more people on the electoral register who use social media than will vote next week.

But the story of the last few decades isn’t just about the rise of the online world. It’s also about the increasing problems with traditional ways of communicating with voters on the ground. Fewer phone numbers are in the phone book; fewer households have someone in when you call round; and fewer properties have accessible individual letterboxes.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , , , and | 2 Comments

Opinion: Yes, Labour really has given up on winning votes from the Conservatives

Labour Party logoI’m not fully signed up to the mockery for Labour’s recent TV and online films mocking Nick Clegg. Why? Because for all the naff content themselves, the broad message of them has been massively reported in the media, reaching a much wider audience than the films themselves.

I doubt that was a deliberate strategy as you can’t count on calibrating something to be just bad enough to get lots of coverage but not so bad as to sink under it. It’s a handy silver lining, however, especially as it diverted …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 34 Comments

Book Review: Revolt on the Right by Robert Ford and Matthew Goodwin

Farage ukip - Some rights reserved by Astral MediaOne of the political debates over UKIP is the question of whether it is primarily taking its support from disgruntled Conservatives or not.

Leading the charge for the ‘yes’ camp are several recent large-scale polls (or conglomeration of separate polls) from reputable polling companies. Looking at how people who currently say they’ll vote UKIP behaved in 2010, the pattern seems clear: UKIP’s growth in support predominantly comes from ex-Tories.

Posted in News | Tagged , , and | 5 Comments

Jeremy Browne, South Korea and ‘Race Plan’

jeremy browne_Reform_Race_plan_coverIs Jeremy Browne really a secret lover of state intervention and a sceptic of free markets, believing in big state spending, government economic planning and regular intervention in the market? For all of the veneer of free marketeering in his book Race Plan, not to mention his choice of Reform as the publisher, it’s a question that comes to mind because in-between praising specific free market, small state policies, Browne regularly praises the results of governments such as the Chinese and the South Koreans, who are anything but.

It’s his praise of South Korea that is the most intriguing, for China can simply be put to one side as dramatic but its own unique case (though, as Stephen Tall has said, it is still an odd example for Jeremy Browne to trumpet).

South Korea is, as Browne rightly points out, seen by many developing countries as the one to emulate, transforming itself from a poor dictatorship to a wealthy democracy with globally successful industries in less than half of one person’s life time.

Posted in Books and Op-eds | Tagged and | 17 Comments
Advert



Recent Comments

    No recent comment found.