Category Archives: Campaign Corner

Some questions for the next head of campaigns

The interviews for the post of Liberal Democrat Head of Campaigns are presumably fairly imminent now. If I were on the interview panel –indeed even though I am not – here are some questions I would want to ask of the candidates.

These are not about political strategy or policy matters but to do with Campaign methods and organisation. Neither are they meant by any means to be an exhaustive list just my particular current bugbears. Perhaps too I should preface these questions by noting that I started out as a voluntary Campaign Organiser in the 1980’s and 1990’s for numerous Council candidates, two General Elections and two Euro elections. Then, after the side routes of being a Cllr for 16 years and an MP for 9 years, I returned to being a voluntary Campaigns Organiser for others from 2010-2014 and, strictly as a one off, as a full time paid Constituency organiser from 2014-2015.

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Inside the Hillary Campaign in Florida

Florida

ORLANDO, Florida.  A state with a rich political history, of hanging chads and contested election results back in 2000. A vital state in the primary calendar for the American Presidential election, given its winner takes all rules for delegates.  The perfect place to campaign for Hillary on International Women’s Day.

The Democratic race is fairly straightforward here. Hillary is going to beat Bernie in Florida, and Bernie knows it.  However, perception is everything in the US media, and so Bernie is campaigning to close the gap.  The Democratic debate here is on Wednesday 9th March. Barring a mishap, Clinton will be fine.  Canvassing 100 advance ballot voters (sorry, postal voters), Hillary is clearly ahead, but the talk is all elsewhere.

It’s red on red (*) Republican warfare in Florida.

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Watford Action Weekend

Watford march action day

After many months up in Hull, where I’m currently at University, I jumped at the chance to get back to my home turf of Watford for an action weekend, and what a weekend it was.

First things first, much of the credit has to go to Nassar who managed to get such a great turn out, including a large number of fellow Liberal Youth members, as well as an appearance by Mike Thornton, Jo Swinson, Duncan Hames and Norman Lamb. It was a fantastic weekend and if I heard correctly we managed to knock on over 5000 doors on Saturday alone! We all know what a challenge it is to organise Lib-Dems.

Secondly a massive thanks to the wonderful Richmonds who put up their home as our base of operations; to stand having 20+ Liberal Youth in your home is a feat that would make Hercules himself sweat with fear.

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Campaigning with C.A.R.

Campaigning

The North and East Liberal Democrat AGM was held last Friday.  We had a good turnout, enjoyed the wine and mince pies (thank you!) and had a really interesting and brilliant talk from Baron Jeremy Purvis of Tweed.

Jeremy posed some real issues for us Liberal Democrats in terms of identity.  After all, in a liberal society where everybody claims to be small ‘l’ liberal, what is the use of a liberal party?  Especially in a system where everybody from both left and right have to converge upon the centre ground in order to gain power.  The SNP and Conservative “love-in” has changed things though.  Each present themselves as the only alternative to the other  This situation led to the SNP almost sweeping the board in Scotland (50% vote share) and to the Tory majority government on 37% of the vote.  There is nothing as useful in politics as having a good enemy.  This viewpoint, however, leads only to insularity, acrimony and bitterness.

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Design for Europe

The referendum on Europe will probably be the most important political event of our lives. Our choice will have consequences for decades, or even centuries.

Britain is better off in. Europe is better with Britain. The planet has better prospects with a strong Europe, living up to the best of our history and the brightest visions of our future. The Europe I fight for is one that changes, learns from the mistakes of the past and becomes a better Union tomorrow than it has been.

This campaign is our chance to fightback against the peddlers of spin and division, to tell people …

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You should stand for Police & Crime Commissioner

 

Next May, the entire United Kingdom will vote. It will be the first national election since the General Election and will be seen as a test of all parties one year into the new parliament.

Police & Crime Commissioner elections will take place in England & Wales, on the same day as devolved elections.

If you care about human rights, as Liberal Democrats do, policing is where human rights come into sharp focus. No other civilian agency in entrusted with powers so affecting liberty and so at risk of political demands based on popular misunderstanding. Policing needs checks and balances from a liberal point of view, and strategy founded on evidence.

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Why Local Parties need to get serious about fundraising

Piles of money. Photo credit: czbalazs - http://www.sxc.hu/photo/1236662British 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.

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Tales from the campaign

election

 

I spotted these two handwritten notes side by side when I was out delivering last week. In case you can’t see this too clearly on your device, they say:

“I will vote for the party who doesn’t waste paper. Give me a leaflet and you’re off the list ..”

“I am undecided. Keep the leaflets coming …”

Ah – a dilemma indeed.

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William Wallace writes … Be careful about Canvasser’s Heel

 

I’ve gone down with Canvasser’s Heel.   Well, the doctor called it plantar fasciitis: her first question to me after I had described the symptoms were, ‘Does your job involve a lot of standing and walking?’

The NHS defines it as ‘excessive, constant abnormal pulling and stretching of the fibrous bands that support the arch, causes the heel bone to become inflamed and painful. This constant irritation can sometimes lead to a heel spur (bony growth) forming on the bottom of the heel bone.  The patient usually complains of pain with the first step in the morning, some relief following activity, but the pain returning after extended amounts of time standing or walking.’

I’d thought I’d bruised my heel somehow, and had gone on canvassing (and limping) over several weekends, until it was clearly getting worse rather than better.  The cure starts with icepacks applied, then rest, physiotherapy, walking gently, and wearing well-padded shoes.

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Peers visit 1000 constituencies

IMG_1603Early Friday morning, as others made their way to Liverpool for Conference, I set off to Hereford, following in the footsteps of a large number of my colleagues in the Lords. Our local candidate Lucy Hurds has been hugely successful in getting our Peers out of the House of Lords and onto the streets of Hereford including John Shipley, Jenny Randerson, Nigel Jones, Sally Hamwee, Shirley Williams and Chris Fox. She’s clearly been effective in getting others out too and it was great to see a good number of Lucy’s campaign team out with us and working hard to reclaim the seat for the Lib Dems.

Dick Newby, our Chief Whip, called for 1,000 visits to be made before the election. After many months of hard campaigning this was our 1,000th.

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Baroness Ros Scott writes… Campaigning over recess

Despite what you hear in the press about a “zombie” Parliament, life in Westminster has been pretty busy for the Lib Dem team in the House of Lords. We’ve secured important improvements to the Counter Terrorism legislation, used the Deregulation Bill to reintroduce Sarah Teather’s provisions on retaliatory eviction, introduced measures dealing with revenge porn, and done battle with the Tory dinosaurs seeking to derail Michael Moore’s Bill intended to enshrine the principle that 0.7% of our wealth goes to the poorest overseas countries.

But this last week we, like the Commons, have been in recess, and many of us have been out and about campaigning with colleagues seeking re-election in May. And why wouldn’t we? Not only are we committed to our Party and its success, but many of us have been elected as Councillors or MPs and know how important an extra pair of feet can be! Some of my colleagues fought unsuccessfully for years to be elected to Parliament, and in doing so, laid the groundwork for their successors.

For me, recess means being at home in Suffolk where we are busy not just supporting our neighbours in Colchester, Cambridge, Norwich South and North Norfolk, but defending council seats in all-out District elections. For me, this one is personal, as it was winning Needham Market ward in 1991 which started my political career, and I want to make sure that the hard work of our current team is recognised.

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On the campaign trail… Guildford

kmb-nickbelfitt2This weekend, I introduced two new, keen politics students to the art of door-to-door canvassing in Guildford.

I wanted to make it clear that most people are pleased to see us on the doorstep, and are polite even if when they’re not supportive. In nine years, I’ve only had two people swear at me. The worst you’ll get is generally polite ‘not interested’.

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How you can help us make history in Ashfield

I remember the feeling of despair.  It was the early hours of Friday, 7th May 2010.  Our team had failed to gain Ashfield by 192 votes.  That’s 192 votes out of nearly 50,000.  How annoying is that!  I looked at our exhausted team and vowed to finish the job.  A team who had worked their socks off and given their hearts, souls and just about everything else over an exhausting, yet strangely exhilarating campaign.

Everyone said we couldn’t do it.  I suppose they were right – we didn’t.  Starting the campaign nearly 15,000 behind and in 3rd place it was always going to be tall order.  A 19.5% swing was an incredible achievement though.  It was difficult to see at the time, but this was the moment our job really started…

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How to help Lib Dems like Vince Cable in the run-up to the election

Vince Cable - Some rights reserved by Liberal DemocratsPerhaps you’re a Lib Dem Voice reader, who would love to help get Lib Dems elected next May in the General Election, but you’re not sure how to go about it. Whether you are a member or not, if you’d like to help, this article is for you.

In the coming weeks and months, there will be many action events in key seats throughout the country. For example tomorrow, Saturday 6th December, there will be a big Regional Action day in Vince Cable’s seat of Twickenham.

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Local and European campaign review

Fortis Green by-election 2004: volunteers at work stuffing envelopesAs Chair of the Party’s democratically-elected Campaigns & Communications Committee, Nick Clegg has asked me to conduct a review into the Local and European election campaign and result. I will be joined in doing this work for Nick by a small group comprised of Cllr. Abi Bell of Hull City Council, Cllr Ruth Dombey – Leader of Sutton Borough Council, and George Lyon – former MEP for Scotland.

I have spoken to Nick and we have agreed that this review will be a full …

Also posted in News and Party policy and internal matters | 51 Comments

Rebuilding our campaigning base in York

Image courtesy of freefoto.comYork is a classic example of an English city where the Liberal Democrats developed a strong local base as voters became disillusioned with both the Conservatives and later Labour in the 1990s and 2000s. After two decades of Labour control we won a landslide victory in 2003 and formed the administration on City of York Council for eight years. As elsewhere, in 2011 we took a hammering from the voters, our first electoral test as a party of government.

The unitary authority of York is split into two parliamentary constituencies including the marginal (famously ‘doughnut-shaped’) York Outer, a seat that the Conservatives won with a majority of less than 7% over us at the 2010 general election.

Within months of a disappointing general election result, we rightly anticipated a tough fight in all-up local elections in 2011, especially against the unfavourable national picture. A resurgent Labour Party took eight council seats from us to win overall control, including five seats in York Outer that they won from third place.

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Ride the wave! Two chances to celebrate…

Want to celebrate the fantastic result in Eastleigh?

Why not join a working celebration at Regional Action Days in either Watford or Lewes, tomorrow, Saturday 2nd March.  There’ll be good company, free food and invigorating campaigning.

Normally, the local teams for these Regional Action Days need at least a few days notice. However, normal promotion hasn’t been possible this time round, so for these events we’d welcome last minute registrations.

But please do register, even if it’s in the early hours of Saturday morning, here for Lewes and herefor Watford.

As far as we can, the teams want to …

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Marginal gains

Silver bullet - some rights reserved by eschipulToo often people come into political campaigning searching for a silver bullet which will revolutionise their candidacy and transform the electorate into ardent fans overnight. It’s the most common mistake of first time candidates. Those of us who have already spent decades stuffing letterboxes know that a quick fix doesn’t exist.

That isn’t to say there aren’t campaign game-changers – the advent of television or how some candidates have harnessed the internet, but in truth they are few and far between. Instead candidates and campaigns

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Sometimes to win an argument, you need to adopt your opponent’s point of view

Wedding bouquetFraming, that is the way in which a choice is presented, is often key to winning political (and indeed non-political) debates. Consider the following two statements, for example:

It’s dreadful that the government is letting private companies access more medical data about people.

It’s great that the government is letting medical researchers access more medical data about diseases.

They are both ways you could describe the current government’s actual policy. Whether the issue is framed as being about private companies or medical researchers and whether it is about personal data or information about diseases …

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Now here’s a good email to send to local members and supporters

Top marks Haringey Liberal Democrats for taking up my idea on this (properly formatted version here). Simple, practical and providing people with useful information:

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Not all is quite so new in the world of political messaging and behaviour change

On my way to windmill spotting in Lincoln recently, I happened across this example of an 19th century election leaflet for the City of Lincoln’s local elections:

It’s a neat example of a point I’ve made before, that what can seem new and exciting in the world of communications often is really long-established ideas in slightly new clothes.

In this case, note two particular features of the message. First, the reference to electors having previously elected Mr Page four times before. In other words, …

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Romney’s polling day technology meltdown: Orca

The usual post-electoral defeat search for explanations and people to blame has an added edge for the Republicans after Mitt Romney’s defeat earlier this month. Not only did Romney lose, he lost in all the states that were picked as being in serious contention, the Republicans actually lost ground in the Senate (when they had hopes of making gains) and the initial voting analysis shows the Republicans with a big problem: the parts of the electorate that are growing are the parts which vote against them the most heavily.

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Campaign Corner: The four groups in good local party membership strategy

I’ve written before about ways to recruit more party members and related issues such as the need to respond well to people who are interested in joining or helping. Underpinning that latter post is an important point – a good strategy for getting more people involved and helping isn’t just about formal membership of the party.

Pretty nearly all local parties recognise that these days. The idea that the “members newsletter” only goes to paid-up members, as used to be the case, is now a rarity. Instead …

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What do the academics say? Ashcroft’s campaigning worked

Welcome to the latest in our occasional series highlighting interesting findings from academic research. Today – the impact of the Ashcroft-funded Conservative key seats campaign in the run-up to the 2010 election.

The latest edition of the Journal of Elections, Public Opinion and Parties (Volume 22, No.3) includes, “Laying the Foundations for Electoral Success: Conservative Pre-Campaign Canvassing before the 2010 UK General Election” by David Cutts, Ron Johnston, Charles Pattie and Justin Fisher:

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6 things Lib Dem campaigners can learn from Boris Johnson and George Galloway

Boris Johnson has twice won a contest for a directly-elected Mayor. George Galloway has recently won a Parliamentary by-election.

That is why, for all the many reasons Liberal Democrats have for criticising both, smart Liberal Democrats also know that there are lessons to be learnt from their electoral successes.

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10 ways to make your local party AGM better

The nights are getting shorter, the football has started and the first few “x days to Christmas” signs are appearing in shops. Yes, it all  means that the local party AGM season is approaching.

To help local parties get the most out of them, here then is a reminder of the simple factsheet giving 10 tips to lift an AGM from being a boring, business meeting that no-one comes to into an interesting and successful event. Though written in conjunction with London Liberal Democrats, the tips are applicable across the country.

Hope you find it useful – and of course please do share this post (or this pdf) with whoever is involved in organising the AGM in your own local party.

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How to write, with the help of Mark Twain, Ernest Hemingway and Tim Leunig

How to speak. That’s a common topic in training for would-be candidates and a frequent chapter in books for would-be campaigners. How to write? Much less so.

That’s an omission I plead guilty to, for 101 Ways To Win An Election has a chapter called “Making speeches” with no accompanying “Writing words”. Implicit in many of the other chapters are ideas that will help you to write effectively. Yet on reflection there should really have been explicit advice too.

Short, sharp writing has always been important for leaflets and news …

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How a deliverer can recruit two deliverers

There are martyrs who will do anything for the Liberal Democrats … except ask for help.

They drive themselves to an early grave delivering thousands of leaflets, canvassing, and organising everything else in their local party.

Nothing scares them … except asking for help.

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The sensible campaigner is the campaigner with backups

The office wall in one of my former jobs had a cartoon with two drunks slumped in an alleyway bemoaning their fate. One was saying to the other, “It all started to go wrong when I realised the backups hadn’t been working…” He at least had been trying to use backups.

Sometimes people fear trusting data to computers, worried that a wrong key press may result in valuable information being lost. That is to get things wrong: data is safer on computers because it is much easier to do regular backups.

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A campaign thought for the weekend

Laptop and mobileThe latest Ofcom survey shows that 94% of UK households use mobile phones.

Now consider what proportion of UK households have a usable letterbox for delivery of campaign leaflets; i.e. exclude those rural homes without a letterbox, those urban blocks of flats with just a door to push leaflets under, the multiple occupancy houses with a communal hallway but no personal letterboxes and so on.

And then there’s that property on the electoral register which, despite you circling the block four times, taking a peak from the skies …

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