Different perspectives on election results

National vote third at 15%, up  45+ Councillors!  Scottish mainland seats gained!  Overall, these elections were an important step forward in recovery for the Liberal Democrats.

However, this was not a uniform set of results.  There were disappointing results in Wales and London, along with some English areas.  We should think twice when discussing with colleagues how we did.

Candy Piercy wrote this which struck a chord with me:

The hard working candidates and teams who lost will be feeling out of step with the rest of the party. It is not just Wales and London feeling the pain. There are many candidates who bravely put themselves forward hoping against hope that they would win.

So how should we be approaching things?  Well, the field of communication skills has some suggestions.

There’s a saying “the map is not the territory.”  People have different ways of interpreting the world.  A mental map of how they interpret things.  Their map may not only different from yours, but different to what is actually going on.

We should understand these different points of view, which comes naturally to liberals.  Avoid assuming people feel the same way about these election results. Instead, ask people “How do you feel we did?”  Listen to their experience. Feel how they feel. See things from their point of view. Empathise if they have lost and you have won.

The next point a process called reframing. It’s how you choose to process events in the long term, as I saw happen last Friday.

In Tower Hamlets, the constituency vote for City and East moved from 4th to 5th behind UKIP.  Initially, glum faces.

However, closer analysis proved for the first time in 4 elections, Tower Hamlets Lib Dems had increased their vote and saved a deposit of £1000 with 5.06% of the vote.

Activists then had a choice. They could focus on 5th place, or on the positive of saving £1000. They chose the latter. I call this THEM – the Tower Hamlets Election Mentality.

It’s worth adopting because communications skills also teaches us that we move towards what we think about. Therefore, having a positive attitude moves you in a positive direction. Acknowledging the negative and then reframing the issue by focusing on the positive is a very constructive way of moving forwards. I believe we need more of in the party.

This is not to take anything away from an area that has lost. Different people process things at different speeds, and in different ways.

For those that had poor results, take the time to process them. Some will do this in hours, for others it will take days, weeks, or months. We should be sensitive and talk to people when and if they want to. Respect where they’re coming from.

In conclusion we’ve had positive feedback overall from these elections, but it’s been mixed.  Therefore it’s acceptable to have mixed feelings.  A Welsh or London activist may feel gutted about what happened in their local area. I fully respect that. They may also feel delighted at the +45 Councillors net we’ve gained across England. It’s possible to hold both views.
Again, Candy provided an excellent way of summing things up:

Thank you to everyone who stood and fought and campaigned – win or lose; candidates and activists alike. I hope you can relax in the sunshine and begin to heal. It will take time so cut yourself some slack. You are the real heroes of this election.

Real heroes.  All of you.

* Simon Foster has lectured in Politics at both University and FE level, and is a former Councillor and constituency organiser.

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7 Comments

  • That’s not reframing Simon, that (in the case of CIty and East) is acheiving (one of) your objectives (namely increase our vote share). Getting a positive direction of travel is about saying, “next time it will be better”, not “this time was really OK”. If you do that latter that very quickly leads to “nothing needs to change”

    I can think of numerous times when a council group has had what initially look like an OK set of results (maybe one net loss) and the reaction is been “we only lost one seat and we still control (or run) the council” – failing to accept that the exact same results next time would see 5-6 losses. When I lost in Calder by 600 votes I didn’t spend the next 3 months telling everyone how it was actually a good result – I did spend it working out how that would not be the case next time.

  • amber hartman 12th May '16 - 8:06pm

    Thanks Hywel.

    NLP reframing doesn’t work on intelligent people.

  • The fact that the first comments were dismissive rather demonstrates Simon Fosters point. We all invest emotional capital in our opinions, it can be hard to change without feeling that we have somehow lost. Right now we are looking at one set of elections so we cant be sure what the results “mean.”
    We gained around 4% in vote share since 2015. Is that part of a continuing process or a “one off” result of leaving Government/The Coalition ? We dont know & we cant know till we get some more data. Right now we are all free to take a “glass half full/empty” position, depending on taste.

  • On the last 3 major elections 2014, 2015, 2016, the voter has told you that whatever liberal policy it is you are trying to sell them,.. they don’t want it. Would it not be more practical to re-frame your mind map to this new reality, and ask voters what they want, and then form new liberal policy around that instead of preaching?
    At present you seem to be like Blockbuster, but with a mindset of,.. ” we need to get the message out better and clearer to these consumers,… they just don’t seem to realise how good our VHS video tapes are?

  • Sue Sutherland 13th May '16 - 4:26pm

    Good point J Dunn.

  • Simon Banks 13th May '16 - 5:51pm

    Fair enough. Most of us do this. We don’t put stuff out to our members saying “We finished behind UKIP in the PCC election” or “A ward next door was lost to Labour”. We stress the positives. We always have done.

    But when communicated to activists, the message needs to be realistic. They know the minuses as well as the plusses and, for example, if our vote rose by 8% but we lost a seat because our main opponents improved their vote by more and the rise in our vote almost certainly owed a lot to a Liberal-leaning independent not standing this time and to a much weaker Green campaign, going “WONDERFUL NEWS – OUR VOTE UP BY 8%!” just sounds like one of those cringe-inducing messages from Nick Clegg. There is also a risk that the people communicating the positive messages convince themselves so well that they fail to recognise and respond to the negatives. Have fun. Celebrate. But celebrate in the real world.

  • Simon Foster 13th May '16 - 11:03pm

    Thank you for the feedback (as I believe there is no failure, only feedback!)

    To Hywel, I think we have different interpretations of what reframing is. Certainly I saw a change in the activists I was speaking to and reframing occur, although I can understand that you see/hear/feel what reframing is differently. The map is not the territory, as the saying goes…;) It’s a different but important point that you’re making which I agree with, to the ones I made in the article.

    To J Dunn – The article is about how we see results internally and treat each other internally within the Lib Dems. Thanks for your comment about how we should deal with the results externally.

    Paul – you hit the nail on the head. It’s about choosing to be negative or positive at the end of the day. That positive can include criticism, but it should be constructive criticism IMHO (which I know where Hywel is coming from).

    When it comes to outright negative criticism which is unconstructive, the following saying comes to mind:

    “A cherry in a bowlful of cockroaches will do nothing. However, a cockroach in a bowl full of cherries will ruin the whole bowl.”

    This is where I think some activists on social media, such as facebook, need to stop and think, and have more consideration for the people around them, and the different points of view that they express. At the end of the day, I believe people should be tolerant to different points of view. Tolerance is, after all, a liberal value.

    Best wishes, Simon.

    PS: Hywel – I have some Lyndon Johnson propaganda (originals no less!) that I picked up for you when I was at the LBJ Library in Austin, Texas recently, for next time we meet, or I can post them to you. Will contact you via Facebook 🙂

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