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 and is on Twitter as @markpack. He likes chocolate. Lots of it.

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

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  • User AvatarDavid Raw 21st Mar - 2:11pm
    @ Jennie sorry, Jennie lass.
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    It seems anything goes as long as we leave the eu, thus fulfilling the will of the people. The government have got themselves in a...
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    Oh, dear. here we go again. John Marriott is completely right. The post from Mr Morrison is flawed from the start by including a statutory...
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    @Lorenzo The idea would be to streamline the system so we'd no longer be electing 2 sets of MPs - 1 for the Assembly and...
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    Bill le Breton I resigned my party membership when Charles Kennedy was forced to resign. I didn't agree with the direction the party was heading...
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    We already have two sets of MPs from Scotland and Wales, the idea that what the country needs is yet another layer of overpaid politicians...