Building on the European Election results

The Liberal Democrat campaign for the European elections made an emotional connection with voters that the Remain referendum campaign missed. It spoke with clarity and trustworthiness. That’s in stark contrast to many people’s response to they dysfunction both tin the government and the Labour party. We need to connect with people in this space to help the country find a saner alternative.

After the European Parliament elections

The actual results were exciting, with pro-Remain parties getting more votes than pro-Brexit ones and many people voting Liberal Democrat who would not have done so a year ago. 

Polling from Lord Ashcroft  since then suggests that many of these voters would follow this up by voting Liberal Democrat in a UK General Election.

The campaigner in me instinctively thinks this is the time to be out and visible, particularly in places where people don’t hear from us very often. It’s one thing for people to vote Liberal Democrat in exceptional circumstances and quite another if it’s followed up by enough contact to mean this is not a flash in the pan. On top of the usual task helping newly-elected councillors to dig in, this is a golden opportunity to recruit members and deliverers. 

But things are not so simple. 

Anxiety on the doorstep

To get a sense of the general temperature, I did some canvassing in Hertford and Stortford constituency shortly before the European elections by knocking on every door in certain areas (rather than just going to those likely to support Liberal Democrats or Remain). What I encountered was a seemingly-small (though often strident) number of people who were going to vote for the Brexit Party, others happy to say they were voting Liberal Democrat, and a smaller number, loyal to Conservatives or Labour, following their loyalty with some unease. But a strikingly-large number of conversations were with people who said they were worried and didn’t know how to vote.

At first I wasn’t sure whether these were supporters of Remain or Leave. On autopilot I took the conversation to Remain United’s advice to vote Liberal Democrat if people wanted to remain in the EU, thinking that I would get pushback if the person supported Brexit. But instead of pushback, these conversations were often ending in the promise of a Liberal Democrat vote.

This experience doesn’t put the Brexit Party in first place and contradicts the voting figures for the district: the Brexit party first on 14,374 followed by Liberal Democrats on 11,090. But the overall turnout was 36.9%. This leaves me wondering how many of those “worried and not sure how to vote” didn’t actually vote.

Connecting emotionally with the “worried and not sure how to vote”

The “Bollocks to Brexit” slogan at last brought some emotion to the foreground on the Remain side and brought a major swing to the Liberal Democrats. 

But the “worried and not sure how to vote” are not feeling positive. The worry is real. Things are disorientating. The Tories are a long way from stable government, and Labour just as far from being a credible government-in-waiting. The Scottish government is proposing another independence referendum by 2021, and the phrase “existential crisis” being used

One of the positives of “Bollocks to Brexit” is that it does point out that we can end the #BrexitMadness by choosing to remain in the EU. This is about sanity and stability, as well as identity, culture and economics.

On top of this, Liberal Democrats and Tories are both going into leadership elections, but they couldn’t be more different.  The Tories have removed a leader who failed to do the impossible, and are faced with a parade of candidates who send a shudder down the spine. The Liberal Democrats have a leader standing down after brilliant election results and what looks like being an orderly campaign to chose between Liberal Democrat contenders who come across as trustworthy and proficient. This too is a contrast which says to the electorate “There is a sane option”.

Connecting with the public on the doorstep, on social media and in print offers a stability that is sadly lacking from Conservatives and Labour. This is a golden opportunity to put the case for an Exit from Brexit and for Liberal Democrat values. This is also to do our bit in finding a way out of the present mess. Along the way, that it will make it easier for people who voted Liberal Democrat in the European Parliament elections to continue doing this.

* Mark Argent was the candidate in Hertford and Stortford in the 2017 General Election

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4 Comments

  • A bit off topic but the Times is to publish a yougov poll that shows the Lib Dems leading!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    https://twitter.com/TimesPictures/status/1134206843511869457

    LDem: 24% (+6)
    Brex: 22% (+4)
    Con: 19% (-5)
    Lab: 19% (-5)
    Grn: 8% (+2)

    https://twitter.com/britainelects/status/1134207549249654786

  • The Brexit Party is a ‘one-trick pony’ and it’s important that we aren’t seen as one too.
    We have an audience who are starting to listen and we need to seize the opportunity.
    The BBC reported yesterday on the reduction in GPs and the shortage of resources for adult social care. Now is the time to follow up on our 2017 election promise on the lines of
    “It’s clear that the Brexit promise of £350M a week for the NHS isn’t going to materialise. Let’s put 1p on income tax for the NHS and care for the elderly.”

  • Bill le Breton 31st May '19 - 12:11pm

    pmknowles, you may be right that the Brexit Party is a one trick pony, but you may be wrong.

    Have you read this : https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2019/may/21/brexit-party-nigel-farage-italy-digital-populists-five-star-movement

    If not please do so.

    You need to have a close look at Matteo Salvini and how the Northern League has morphed recently. And how Casaleggio and the Five Star Movement are campaigning.

    These guys want power and they know how to adapt to get it.

    We underestimate Farage at our peril. For instance Farage probably wants a referendum (and paradoxically doesn’t want Brexi). If there is a referendum he either wins it (and he is probably more prepared to fight it than any other Party/organisation, or if he loses he has his campaign mapped out for him.

    Also you need to think about how useful the EU apparatus would be in five or ten years time to these people if they were to gain a majority in the EU Parliament and a large chunk of people on the Council. Seems unimaginable. Sure. But if you build a powerful system for ‘running’ Europe then expect the far right to see the value of capturing it.

    It will be easier (but hugely difficult) to stop them now than it will be in 5 or 10 years time especially if we don’t start delivering opportunities to the very communities to which they are presently appealing – see the Newsnight report on Tuesday this week of a Brexit Rally in Merther.

    And the only thing that will stop their Movement is a Liberal Movement.

  • Bill, yes you are right that we mustn’t underestimate Nigel Farage which is why we need to talk about more than just the EU. Anything we say on the EU he will brand as Project Fear. If we aren’t attacking him he doesn’t get the oxygen of publicity.
    Personally, I think (hope) that The Brexit Party will start to implode when he tries to impose his manifesto on the disparate groups that make up his MEPs. He has set the Party up as his own personal vehicle and any dissent will not be tolerated. The mask will slip and many people will see him for what he really is.

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