Election Review team announced

A short while ago the Federal Board announced that Dorothy Thornhill would be leading the Review of the recent General Election.

Dorothy was the first directly elected Mayor of Watford, a post she held for 16 years until 2018. Since 2015 she has served as a Lib Dem peer in the House of Lords.

Dorothy has now announced the members of her Review team, and a wonderfully diverse bunch they are:

Carole Ford I joined in 2015 and since then have stood as a council, Scottish parliament and GE candidate.  I am the Scottish spokesperson on Children and Young People, and the national Policy Convener
Rhys Taylor I’ve been a member of the party since 2008, elected as a councillor in 2017 and have previously been a candidate for Welsh Assembly elections and was a candidate in the December election
Annelou Van Egmond Responsible for strategy, operations and finance which grew vote share from 2% to over 15% for political party Democrats 66 (The Netherlands) . Since 2017 Vice-President of ALDE, supporting member parties while preparing for their campaigns through training and sharing of good practices & data, and runs a strategic communication company that specialising in spokesmanship for cabinet ministers and CEO’s.
Juergen Maier Former CEO of Siemens UK. UK Industrialist and Government adviser. NED for the Department of BEIS under Vince Cable’s leadership 2014-16. Strong liberal values and responsible capitalist. Passionate about innovation led frontier industries leading a new prosperity revolution for our regions.
Ben Goodwin Stood as Broadland PPC in 2019. 17 years in the RAF, a fighter pilot with stints at the top level of the Ministry of Defence and NATO as a military assistant to the most senior military officer in both organisations.
Justin Ash A long time Liberal Democrat member and financial supporter with wide ranging experience across a number of businesses.
David Howarth joined the party in the 1970s, became a councillor, leader of the council, MP, and Electoral Commissioner, and is, professionally, Professor of Law and Public Policy at Cambridge
Roderick Lynch I came to the party in 2004  out of admiration of the work of Jonathon Hunt & Simon Hughes MP were doing in the London Borough of Southwark. Stood for Council elections in 2010. Nationally recognised Entrepreneur Businessman and Non Exec. Been a local activist and donor. Chair of LDCRE fighting race inequality & diversity. LIB Dem FASC auditor. BAME Liberal to the core
Sara Bedford A member and activist since student days 35 years ago, I have held posts at all levels of the party. I ‘m now the Leader of Three Rivers District Council and a ‘home and away’ campaigner
Steve Jolly I joined the party (eventually) in 1998 and since then have had a myriad of roles, from deliverer, to branch chair to Head of National Campaigns for the Federal Party. Whilst I have been a paid staffer over the years, I’m now very much a volunteer activist
Helena Cole I grew up in a Lib Dem household delivering my first Focus at 4, stood for Parliament in 2000 and am currently the Chair of FASC. Outside politics I am Finance Director in the defence industry with 20 years experience in accountancy.
Andrew Stunell Gained a seat on 3 different councils, ran ALDC for 8 years, candidate in 8 general elections, winning 4, and in 2019 did posters, leaflets and door-knocking in a target seat.  Election geek from the analogue age
Shaffaq Mohammed Shaffaq Mohammed – Former PPC, Leader of the Lib Dem’s on Sheffield City Council, Councillor for Ecclesall ward in Sheffield Hallam. Qualified Youth Worker in Sheffield, helping young people into education and employment in some of the most deprived areas of the city. Former Liberal Democrat MEP for Yorkshire and the Humber 2019-2020
Dorothy Thornhill I have been Party member since 1987, became Cllr, elected mayor, peer but have always regarded myself as a campaigner and not a party insider!
Elizabeth Desmond I am relatively new to politics having joined the party in 2016.  In my day job, I am a business person and Deputy CEO of a global investment management business.  Since joining,  I have supported the HQ fundraising effort and campaigned locally for my PPC in the last two elections.


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  • Kate Harris 16th Feb '20 - 1:00pm

    Firstly I am glad to see that there are some decent people around, prepared to look at what is so badly wrong with the UK and its politics. Thank you for taking on the task of reviewing the election. Secondly, though, why are you not looking at electoral fraud (or maybe you are?). Thirdly, please reach out to those who hold the country together – they do hard manual jobs, jobs with no prestige – railway workers, factory workers, builders, delivery drivers – all the disenfranchised mostly white males who have never had a chance in the luvvy society. Lots of them have told me how the EU has done nothing for them – they are excluded from the age of about 5 from any real opportunity and so they have fallen into the arms of the right wing populists. Don’t preach to these people, thank them for bringing us to book. I did write to a local Liberal Democrat MP back in the 1990s when I was studying for a night school degree in French with Politics, explaining the French educational system and asking that it be looked at here. But there was no reply. It was not on your horizon then, just as a Chilean or Fascist Spain future is not really on your horizon now. Think carefully please. At best we are in the realms of the book ‘Between Two Fires’. Look it up.

  • Kate Harris 16th Feb '20 - 1:14pm

    My earlier comment refers to the book ‘Between Two Fires’ by Joshua Yaffa, about how people manage in Putin’s Russia.

  • Kate Harris – this is an internal party review of the Lib Dem election campaign. So it will be focused on that rather than on wider issues around the General Election, such as electoral fraud.

  • Paul Barker 16th Feb '20 - 2:07pm

    It also wont be looking at/for Electoral Fraud because all the evidence suggests there was very little & what there was made no difference.
    Anyone with evidence of Fraud should contact the Police &/or The Electoral Commission.

  • Tony Greaves 16th Feb '20 - 5:30pm

    Good luck to all the team!

    By the way there is plenty of electoral fraud in some areas. Most people turn a blind eye.

  • This looks good – if rather large and potentially unwieldy. Do we have anything on process and timescale?

  • p.s. if we are recommending books that shed light on the political big picture of our times, I strongly recommend “The light that failed” by Krastev and Holmes.

  • p.p.s. It might have been useful to have someone from the West Country where the batch of seats the party once held as strongholds have all been lost. I hope the team will make an effort to get the perspective from campaigners in Devon, Cornwall – and our other former ‘lost heartlands’ like rural Wales and the Scottish borders.

  • Rory O'Brien 17th Feb '20 - 10:40am

    It is good that a review is beginning to get underway. But why so SLOW. The election was two months ago and the party is only now beginning a review?
    As a new member I also have little idea of what is happening in the leadership process but Ye Gods it is slow and passionless.
    It is as if the party has gone to sleep after the election; stunned and dismayed by the result. It now seems to be entirely lacking in direction and presence in the media. Whilst the Tories challenge every establishment in the country and the Labour Party get on with cleaning their Augean Stables the Liberal Party is unheard and unnoticed.
    I am sure there is passion and comittment as demonstrated by the by-election results but in the mainstream news and public consciousness, the party is invisible and, as such, is letting the country down.

  • a wonderfully diverse bunch they are:…15 members of a ‘review team? That should ensure that it ‘takes forever’ and comes up with ‘umpteen conflicting ideas’.
    A three person group just asking for inputs from those involved, on the doorstep, in the various regions would get the job done in a matter of weeks.

  • In response to Mary Reid, sadly you have proved my point very neatly. Internal reviews will do approximately zero in the current climate. I really do apologise if I am going to be blunt, but I am going to be blunt. It is one thing to be decent, hard working and caring and indeed these are the characteristics which have held most of society together on these islands since 1945. However, we are now living in a very different universe and whilst it is important personally and internally to retain all the above values, this is at odds with the values holding sway at the moment. I’ve just read, briefly, a report about the maltreatment of an autistic boy in the healthcare ‘system’. How many Liberal Democrats have been trapped in that system? Locked up and drugged. Then there are the 5,000+ abused girls, largely invisible. People connected to what I have aptly heard called ‘the misery industry’ always see themselves as nice. What is happening in millions of people’s lives right now in the UK is very different. They are being nudged into a tidy fascist corner, where they will need to dull their consciences to create a ‘better future’. That is happening right now. If you think this party (and I am a member) can afford the luxury of an internal review of the last general election – unless you can have one two hour meeting and report back – then you too, or rather we too, are playing into the hands of our masters.

  • David Becket 17th Feb '20 - 1:44pm

    @Rory O’Brian
    So right, the party is leaderless and sleeping. Some of this is evident in the party website, which went to sleep last year and appears to believe pictures of Vince canvassing is an answer to the take over by Dom.

  • Far too big a group. As witnesses to a small panel of three ? Yes,…… But as a group of 15 that’s far too big and they’d be better competing with the Halle Orchestra or the Huddersfield Choral Society.

    It should be three people who know how to win parliamentary elections regularly…… and on a constituency campaigning angle…. why not Tim Farron ? He knew how to win and retain Westmorland (which used to be a solid Tory seat) from an excellent grass roots base despite a wobble in 2017.

  • In my mind the team is too big but can live with that. Timescale and terms of reference would be nice to know. I agree with somebody above that it would have been good to have had representation from Devon and Cornwall.But above all else please can our leadership wake up and start getting on with things.

  • @Ian Steve Jolly is from the West Country (Cornwall to be precise).

  • Mary – is this committee still looking for members/activists to send them our views of the election campaign? If so, how do we do this?

  • I don’t mind slow! This is about a General Election and will have a bearing on how we approach the next one which will not be for at least 4 years. Meanwhile the rest of the party has plenty of urgent work to do. We don’t need quick and easy answers. We need some bloody hard thinking and these people should be given the space to do it. I trust they will digest some of the work already done by the History Group and Liberator8 and bring critical eyes to both – even though I think both have produced good stuff! The last two General Election experiences deserve evidence, opinions and reflection taken on board with a healthy mix of open-mindedness and respect for ongoing values.

  • Brian Ellis 17th Feb '20 - 8:23pm

    I note the comment of Ross above. It indeed would be helpful to be advised as to the ways we can contribute to this review. I wrote to Ed Davey and his reply referred me to the forthcoming establishment of this body, but to date I cannot find any contact details,
    a publicised email, or postal address would be useful. Thanks to all involved I recognise many of the names and not that there are some great campaigners who like me will have lived through the parties difficult times before

  • David Evans 18th Feb '20 - 6:05pm

    I think the most interesting question here is not who they are or how superficially diverse they are, but how and by whom they were selected.

    Out of 13 UK based members, two are major donors; two are from the Lib Dems Lords; eight been MPs or candidates in General Elections, one has been head of national campaigns and ten have strong central party connections, although the chair claims not to be a party insider!! The representatives from the North East, North West and South West are as close to past establishment loyalists as it is possible to find, as

    All in all, not a single member of the poor blooming infantry, and not one who has ever pointed out over the last decade what a total mess the party leadership has made of our party and its future. Definitely not one with an eye for detail, who would ask the seriously hard questions and follow up questions ans follow up to follow up questions needed to get to the bottom of why our leadership have repeatedly and spectacularly failed our movement over the last decade.

    Let me make it clear I have nothing against any of the team individually, but as a team they are all too alike to be diverse and too establishment (and many too close to so many others and the party establishment) to have any hope other than to produce another post election fig leaf.

    Oh and could someone mention that it wasn’t possible to stand for Parliament in 2000, because there wasn’t a General Election in that year. Oh dear.

  • Great to see so much private sector and military experience in this excellent panel.

  • Paul Holmes 18th Feb '20 - 9:52pm

    @TCO What especially qualifies someone from the private sector or the military to understand how to fight FPTP elections -or more particularly in this case how not to?

    I would be interested to know, as various people have asked above, who chose the panel and on what criteria, when is it to report (sometime in April I think) and how is it going to take evidence 9I know there is as ession at conference but only a tint % of members get to Conference)? Will the report be published in its entirety or in part rejected and suppressed as in the past?

  • Tony Greaves 18th Feb '20 - 10:23pm

    Have its terms of reference been published? A lot of people have said publicly what they think went wrong (seed the latest Liberator, passim). I am more interested in the future and I am not sure this is the right panel for that. On the other hand I have a lot of faith in the Chair (even if she is a Peer!)

  • Paul Holmes,

    “What especially qualifies someone from the private sector or the military..” Have you not read Plato’s republic?

  • David Evans 19th Feb '20 - 9:16am

    Joe, Please try to be helpful. If you think it is particularly relevant, perhaps you could provide a summary for those of us who studied sciences when we went to grammar school. Otherwise you risk just sounding elitist and pretentious.

  • David,

    I bought a copy of Plato’s Republic in a jumble sale many years ago and still have it on my bookshelf. It is Plato’s best-known work, and has proven to be one of the world’s most influential works of philosophy and political theory, both intellectually and historically. The ideal form of executive government is embodied in the concept of the Guadians. Men and Women aged 50+ with real life experience , particularly military experience.
    In his A History of Western Philosophy, Bertrand Russell identifies three parts to the Republic:
    Books I–V: from the attempt to define justice, the description of an ideal community (eutopia) and the education of its Guardians;
    Books VI–VII: the nature of philosophers, the ideal rulers of such a community;
    Books VIII–X: the pros and cons of various practical forms of government.
    This is a summary https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/fall2017/entries/plato-ethics-politics/

  • Nonconformistradical 19th Feb '20 - 9:47am

    Re Plato – I agree with David Evans

    To just ask “Have you not read Plato’s republic?” sounds pretty arrogant to me.

    There are plenty of us around who won’t have read it and have managed to gain higher qualifications and had reasonably successful lives.

    I (another with a scientific background) haven’t read it either.

    But there is a summary at https://blog.12min.com/the-republic-pdf/ – I can’t comment on its usefulness

  • Joe, To be honest, I don’t care when, where or how you bought yourself a copy of Plato’s Republic, nor the fact that someone, a long time ago, in a society that, while advanced for its time would be found to be substantially short of muster on dozens of counts nowadays, had a writer who thought that military experience was somehow useful in some aspects of life.

    What I am interested is why you think that Plato’s republic is relevant to the points Paul Holmes raised, particularly regarding military expertise. If you can provide that, preferably in something that is short(ish) and pithy, it would help a lot. At the moment you have provided us with a link to a summary that is 30 sides of A4 long that doesn’t contain the word military or soldier.

    Please forgive my bluntness, but that is about as useful as a chocolate fireguard in an online discussion forum. Please provide something useful. Otherwise, as I said, you risk just sounding elitist and pretentious.

  • Both @Paul Holmes and @David Evans would do well to listen to this programme: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m0001x4c

    TLDR: the generation of politicians who had military experience in WW2 fundamentally changed our country for the better.

  • @David Evans “Please provide something useful. Otherwise, as I said, you risk just sounding elitist and pretentious.”

    What is elitist about Greek Philosophy? Are you implying that it’s not for the “lower orders”? If so, that sounds suspiciously snobbish. Surely, as the bedrock of our culture, it’s something that should be open to everybody and, as Joe has done, it’s easy enough to get a cheap copy or borrow from a library and read it.

  • @Martin ” It is disconcerting that Brexit was largely borne by the following generation for whom war and fighting happened on celluloid. ”

    Indeed, sadly I see this with my own Brexit supporting father who was a young child during WW2. To him it was exciting to see troops on manouvres, and then he (and the subsequent boomer generation) were marinated in sanitised war films with no gore and celebration of British pluck. Those who did the fighting were much more circumspect.

  • David,

    Plato’s Republic is a classic work of political philosophy- not out of place on a political website or to anyone with an interest in the development of Western Civilisation, ethics and European concepts of justice. It is the source of the word Utopia (and Dystopia).
    I would recommend it to anyone with an interest in politics along with Homers the Illiad to read the story behind the blockbuster Hollywood movie about the Trojan War and the Odessey that focuses on the ten-year journey home of Odysseus, king of Ithaca, after the fall of Troy.
    The idea of “might makes right” may be attributed to Greek historian Thucydides, who wrote the History of the Peloponnesian War. In the work, you will find these words: “Right, as the world goes, is only in question between equals in power, while the strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must”. The Thucydides trap is a common reference in international relations, as this article does in discussing the summit where Donald Trump told Chinese President Xi Jinping that American missiles had been launched at Syrian air bases https://foreignpolicy.com/2017/06/09/the-thucydides-trap/
    These are great works of literature as much as Shakespeare, Dickens or Orwell and eminently more useful to any student of politics than days spent on twitter
    I am sure, David, you will have heard Churchills phrase from time to time “Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it.” Not bad advice for those to aspire to govern a country.

  • Paul Holmes 19th Feb '20 - 4:47pm

    @Joe Bourke. Yes I have read Plato and Aristotle (much the better of the two) and Augustine, Aquinas, Hobbes, Locke, Machiavelli, Paine, Rousseau, Mill, Marx and many others (all next to me on my bookshelves as I write this).

    None of them revealed any specific knowledge of how a small third/now fourth Party can use a good Target Seat strategy to overcome the obstacles they face under the Westminster First Past the Post Electoral system -as in 1997, 2001 or 2005. Or to question how a completely different set of Target Seat criteria plus our most centralised campaign ever, could see our number of seats fall in 2019. Despite our vote increasing from 7.4% to 11.4% and despite our spending more on that election than on any other in our history. Neither, to return to the original point, does having a military or a private sector business background provide any specific insight into such things either.

    As a trained Historian myself I do indeed agree with Churchill’s 1948 quote (which reworked the earlier one by George Santayana in 1905) i.e. -“Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” Which is why I want the Review Team members to be asking some very hard questions about the difference between the electoral strategy and tactics ‘we’ have adopted over the last 10 years as compared to the successfull approaches of the 1990’s/2,000’s.

    PS I have Shakespeare, Churchill, Orwell and Dickens sat on my bookshelves too and none of them throw any light on the failure of our 2019 electoral methods either!

  • Paul Holmes 19th Feb '20 - 4:56pm

    Joe -ref Plato’s elitist and undemocratic tendencies (with military experience being a desired route to citizenship and governing wisdom) you will find a good modern interpretation of them in much of Robert Heinlein’s excellent science fiction. Starship Trooper is the best single ecapsulation of that view and was of course turned into the equally excellent movie, which deliberately played on totalitarian/nazi themes, images and clothing to highlight the point.

    Not a route I would have expected a Liberal Democrat to recommend.

  • @Paul Holmes “Which is why I want the Review Team members to be asking some very hard questions about the difference between the electoral strategy and tactics ‘we’ have adopted over the last 10 years as compared to the successfull [sic] approaches of the 1990’s/2,000’s.”

    As a trained historian, you might also ask the question that why would people who fought elections successfully 15-30 years ago, in a world without social media, smartphones, enhanced software, electronic publishing, postal voting on demand, diminished influence of print media, multiple news channels etc etc be equipped to fight successful elections in an era when all those are present and have completely changed the nature of the contest.

    To use a military analogy, if I may, it would be like the French calling in their cavalry generals to understand why they were comprehensively defeated by Blitzkrieg.

  • Paul,

    I expected you had read such works. When you write “What especially qualifies someone from the private sector or the military to understand how to fight FPTP elections -or more particularly in this case how not to – what is your point?
    Does such life experience disqualify people in anyway from being able to analyse electoral strategies or more importantly being able to understand why voters make the choices they do.
    What is it you are looking for? A committee based on professional politicos only or only those deemed to have the right way of thinking about campaigning. That begs the question – deemed by who? Let’s leave the Socratic questioning there before what began as a lighthearted quip about the historical relevance of military experience to political discourse turns into an extended discussion about nihilism and totalitarian regimes or even worse, Sci-Fi movies.

  • Agree with Paul Holmes on Plato.

    I’d recommend Karl Popper’s take on Plato in ‘The Open Society and its enemies’. According to Popper Plato’s hatred of democracy led him, “to defend lying, political miracles, tabooistic superstition, the suppression of truth, and ultimately, brutal violence.” Popper feels that Plato’s historicist ideas are driven by a fear of the change that liberal democracies bring about. Also, as an aristocrat and a relative of one-time Athenian dictator Critias, Plato was sympathetic to the oligarchs of his own day and contemptuous of the common man. Popper also suspects that Plato was the victim of his own vanity, and had wished to become the supreme philosopher king of his vision”.

    Nuff said. I’d Leave it to the Tories to be sympathetic to the oligarchs of this and every other society. Give me Rabbie Burns any day :

    “What though on hamely fare we dine,
    Wear hoddin grey, an’ a that;
    Gie fools their silks, and knaves their wine;
    A Man’s a Man for a’ that:
    For a’ that, and a’ that…”

  • Well, fancy that, the next part of a famous Rabbie Burns poem edited out on LDV .

  • David Evans 19th Feb '20 - 9:26pm

    Joe and I’m sure you still haven’t answered the point I raised which was that What I am interested is why you think that Plato’s republic is relevant to the points Paul Holmes raised, particularly regarding military expertise. If you can provide that, preferably in something that is short(ish) and pithy, it would help a lot. At the moment you have provided us with a link to a summary that is 30 sides of A4 long that doesn’t contain the word military or soldier.

    You simply haven’t engaged with my comment at all, just repeated what are in fact and whatever TCO may imply are a bunch of elitist comments that show you either can’t or don’t want to explain to someone like me (who hasn’t read what you have read) what you meant, even though I had pointed out that what you had linked to didn’t provide any answer at all.

    It’s very sad when a Lib Dem won’t engage even with a fellow Lib Dem with different experiences other than to point to 30 pages that are irrelevant to the specific point and then go on to point to another even wider list of things, none of which are directly relevant either. Hardly a respect for diversity, is it?

  • TCO All the things you mention make very little difference in fact to how you fight the ground campaign in a Target Seat let alone how you select those supposed Target Seats.

    Your French 1940 analogy is also a weak one. The French mechanised forces in 1940 were larger and better equipped than the German Pànzer Divisions and were certainly not old fashioned cavalry units. The problem was in how they were used being thinly spread everywhere rather than being concentrated at the key points.

  • David,

    In Plato’s Republic, Socrates’ ideal society in the ancient world is constituted by three classes:
    Producers or Workers: The labourers who make the goods and services in the society. The producing class is the largest class of society; it is a catch-all group that includes all professions other than warrior and ruler. Framers and craftsmen are producers, as are merchants, doctors, artists, actors, lawyers, judges, and so forth.
    Auxiliaries/Soldiers: Those who keep order in the society and protect it from invaders
    Guardians – responsible for ruling the city. They are chosen from among the ranks of the auxiliaries, and are also known as philosopher-kings.
    To combat corruption, Plato describes how these Guardian-rulers are expected to live and govern in his ideal society:
    “Then let us consider what will be their way of life, if they are to realize our idea of them. In the first place, none of them should have any property of his own beyond what is absolutely necessary; neither should they have a private house or store closed against any one who has a mind to enter; their provisions should be only such as are required by trained warriors, who are men of temperance and courage; they should agree to receive from the citizens a fixed rate of pay, enough to meet the expenses of the year and no more; and they will go and live together like soldiers in a camp.”
    Contrary to societal values at the time, Socrates suggests that sex should not be a factor in deciding who should rule, so women as well as men can rule. Socrates proposes that the Guardians should mate and reproduce, and that the children will be raised communally rather than by their biological parents. The children’s biological parents will never be known to them, so that no Guardian will prefer his or her own offspring over the common good.

  • David Evans 20th Feb '20 - 1:16am

    Joe, and yet another comment from you that does next to nothing to answer my point. If you ever do decide to do so, let me know, otherwise as far as anyone can see, you are just wasting your time and mine by refusing to engage with me while engaging in an apparently unending series of irrelevancies to somehow camouflage the fact.

    To give you a hint – Any response that doesn’t include the word military and explains what you think is relevant in what Plato’s Republic has to say about it to the task to be undertaken by the review team, nearly 2,400 years later and in a political system millions of miles away from anything Plato could have envisaged – Does not count!

    So far the sum total of the vaguely relevant bits of your responses to me on this point with my knowledge of the era (in parentheses) sum up as
    “An old geezer,
    (who lived a very long time ago),
    (in a small country with a population much less than Bristol),
    (and was regularly fighting wars)
    thought that people with military experience had something special about them that made them and not any others the right people to govern it.”

    Why you think this is in any way specially relevant to the Lib Dems’ Review team in 2020 is still clouded in mystery.

  • @Paul Holmes “TCO All the things you mention make very little difference in fact to how you fight the ground campaign in a Target Seat let alone how you select those supposed Target Seats.”

    You recommended people who fought elections 25 years ago as being the best to advise on this. I pointed out that one “might also ask the question that why would people who fought elections successfully 15-30 years ago, in a world without social media, smartphones, enhanced software, electronic publishing, postal voting on demand, diminished influence of print media, multiple news channels etc etc be equipped to fight successful elections in an era when all those are present and have completely changed the nature of the contest.”

    What’s your view on this?

    “Your French 1940 analogy is also a weak one. The French mechanised forces in 1940 were larger and better equipped than the German Pànzer Divisions and were certainly not old fashioned cavalry units. The problem was in how they were used being thinly spread everywhere rather than being concentrated at the key points.”

    You’ve completely missed the point, which is that calling on generals from the age of cavalry (ie pre-1914) would not be the best way to understand why a mechanised army of 1940 lost to a superior mechanised and air-supported army.

  • Analogies with the second world war are pointless and tiresome, and simply point to the age and interests of those posting them.

    The key and undeniable point was that our campaign was rubbish; a string of misjudgements of varying degrees of obviousness that people with experience, ability and skill should have been able to see coming a mile off.

    We have the chance to do a self-critical, self-aware and genuinely independent review, that looks not only at the decisions and tactics we got wrong, but also at the personnel and decision-making processes beneath, to try and make sure we don’t go down the same road again.

    Or we can do what some in Labour want to do and retreat behind easy answers that allow people to dodge the hard conclusions and their implications. In Labour some are finding it very tempting to duck their issues of leadership, scandal and policy and decide instead that it was all down to Brexit. Within the LibDems the equivalent temptation is arguing that it was all down to fear of Corbyn, as if without Corbyn Prime Minister Swinson would by now have hung her curtains in Number Ten.

    Older members like me have been waiting for the chance to exercise the leverage of coalition and/or to breakthrough against Labour for our entire lifetime, only to see the party blow both such opportunities within the last decade and near destroy itself in the process. Despite all the talk of growth in vote share, our average “per candidate” vote share is still back at the level the Liberal Party scored in the 1950s/60s.

  • David,

    Plato was writing his dialogues at the time of political upheaval and societal change in ancient Greece. In Plato’s days, citizens would gather at the Pnyx to engage in political debate. Today much of that debate is on social media However, human nature being what it is, much of the debate consists of denigrating others. just as it did in Plato’s day when Athenian citizens would be openly scornful of the achievements of other more able men in politics, business, law or in military campaigns.
    Plato railed against this cheapening of political exchange within the Athenian Demos warning specifically of the susceptibility of an unsettled population to populism and the rise of demagogues; just as we see in America and the UK today.
    John Stuart Mill in writing On liberty in his time drew heavily on the writings of the Greek philosophers.More recently, Charles Kennedy speaking of the weaknesses inherent in democratic systems of government, specifically the causes of political alienation and voter apathy, opined:
    “Politicians are to blame..because they do raise unreasonable expectations…The great difficulty is… you can’t go into the next general election … and say ‘Vote for us and we will manage your decline more competently than the other lot can.’ You’ve got to sell your activists hope, you have got to sell the public hope if they’re going to come and vote for you.”
    These are not exactly new lessons to be learned, . No doubt they will be thoroughly considered by the newly appointed election review team and they will be able to bring their varied life and campaigning experiences to bear in undertaking this important task on behalf of the party, for which I thank them in avance.
    When the Spanish philosopher, George Santayana wrote “Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it” he was making the obvious point that those who do not read history are doomed to repeat it. Those who fail to learn from the mistakes of their predecessors are destined to repeat them.
    What we see happening around us today is not exactly new, David.
    ” What has been will be again,
    what has been done will be done again;
    there is nothing new under the sun.”
    Ecclesiastes 1:9

  • @Ian you may believe that “Analogies with the second world war are pointless and tiresome, and simply point to the age and interests of those posting them”, in which case perhaps you will give us your view about why people who fought elections thirty years ago in completely different times are best suited to review today’s failures. Hint: “in my day we always did this and it worked then, so it will work now” may not be appropriate.

    @Joe Bourke I have found all your posts on this threads to be interesting, illuminating and lightly didactic. I come away from reading them better informed and more thoughtful. If only everyone had the humility to open their minds and challenge their thinking.

  • Peter Martin 20th Feb '20 - 3:16pm

    @ Martin,

    “Few, very few of those who served in WW2 are still with us. I wonder how many supported Brexit, From those I have known, I would guess very few…..”

    I’d say you’d be guessing wrong! Many of the Labour postwar political generation had served in WW2 and were at the same time Eurosceptic for good socialist and democratic reasons. Tony Benn is the name that springs to mind. A slightly less known name would be my own late father! If we could ask them, I’m sure both he and Tony would say that they’d fought so that everyone had a democratic choice on all matters: including the question of EU membership.

    Sure, they would both argue that we would be better off staying out, but also that was secondary to the fundamental democratic process.

  • @Martin – That is one fear that it is easy to put to rest:

    – calling the election at the perfect time for the Tories, straight into the SNP trap (they wanted the Tories to win) was a mistake. Plus the handicap darkness and winter presented to our method of campaigning;
    – not recognising that a referendum can ONLY be trumped by another referendum was a mistake, as was suggesting that a majority under a voting system we have always criticised as unjust could do so;
    – promoting Jo as ‘next PM’ was a mistake, as was a presidential campaign based around someone voters had never heard of;
    – wasting our share of media coverage on the ITV court case was a classic own goal; there was no upside and it just underlined our hubris;
    – sending out patently dishonest tactical squeeze letters was a mistake; sending them to so many utterly no-hope constituencies was an abject waste of time and money; sending them out so early that even prominent supporters of ours rubbished them on social media was idiotic;
    – targeting too many seats in the closing stages of the campaign, despite the evidence that we were in for a drubbing. Sending activists into by then no-hope seats such as Portsmouth S and Cambridge was a mistake, depriving seats with better chances of help. Doing so into Labour seats while telling the media that our campaign was focused wholly on stopping Boris getting a majority was dishonest;
    – employing and letting people at HQ forge emails and the other stuff that was reported was terrible;
    – having both leader and president in interviews in the closing stages of the campaign talking at length about gender reassignment etc. was self destructive;
    – having little of worth to say on any major subject other than Brexit was disappointing;
    – relying on quantity of literature rather than quality of messaging;
    – dropping defectors into unwinnable seats where they had no personal vote and throwing so much focus and resources in their direction was stupid;
    – if we did much on social media, Facebook etc. it had little impact.

    If anyone needs evidence as to the breathtaking inability to judge events and lack of flexibility to adapt our campaign to stem its impending failure, scroll down and re-read the message from campaign director to members and activists a week or so before polling day. Clueless and out of touch doesn’t begin to describe it.

  • Paul Holmes 20th Feb '20 - 9:54pm

    TCO -As you hide behind anonymity I have no idea what your experience of running elections is (for my part I ran my first in 1987 and my most recent ones in 2019). Your assertions that elections today are utterly, totally, different from those a few years ago does not remotely match up to my experience.

    Much more pertinent is the fact that the majority of our ‘Target Seats’ this time would never have ‘made the cut’ in 1997, 2001, 2005 or 2010 as we had very low starting points in them in terms of past vote level and current constituency campaigning ability.
    Not one of those ‘unusual choices’ as Target Seats was won this time despite ‘benefiting’ from the most centralised and highest spending campaign in our history.

    Lets repeat that. Our campaign spent more than ever before in our history, including record levels on social media. We ran the most centralised campaign ever with the modern professionals in London calling the shots, writing the literature, monitoring everything via the ultra modern CONNECT system bought in from the USA only a few years ago. We started the election on 20% in the Polls and even though that fell dramatically to 11.4% in real votes it was still a significant increase on the 7.4% achieved in 2017.

    Yet our number of MP’s fell.

    Something went very badly wrong and I would suggest that selecting approx 70% or more of our Target Seats on a basis that rejected everything we ever learned in the record breaking elections of 1997-2005 was part of the explanation.

    I still wait to see any rational explanation as to why having a military or private sector background is an ‘excellent’ sign that the answers are going to be identified. Whether they have read Plato or not.

  • Ian, I expect the conclusions of the committee will not be so different to those of Nick Harvey in Liberator magazine. He wrote:
    “The most dispiriting feature of our third electoral catastrophe in four years was the mistakes we repeated. Some were down to factors beyond our control, but some were not. We also made new ones!”
    “…much of our misfortune was beyond our control: Johnson securing the illusion of a good deal, Farage copping out, Corbyn driving people to the Tories. But much was self-inflicted: miscalculation, hubris, fuzzy lines of command leaving the leader far too much say, as in 2015, when the campaign belongs to us all; and forgetting that splendid bit of ALDC artwork: ‘Warning – keep it local’.”
    “But we now have time – five years; resource –more solvent than before; and momentum – in local government. We must rebuild patiently and strategically, both from the bottom up and getting things right at the top. Back to basics, as John Major
    might say.”

  • Peter Watson 21st Feb '20 - 1:27am

    @Martin “On scientific background, I do hope the team has sufficient scientific and mathematical (particularly statistical) expertise”
    All that Plato’s Republic stuff is a long way outside by area of knowledge, but I noticed on its Wikipedia page that compared to “two years of military training” those philosopher kings should “receive ten years of mathematics” so it looks like Plato would also want a bit more mathematical than military expertise on that team!
    However, I agree with David Evans about the impression that can be given to visitors to this site, however unintentionally. The explanations in this thread are educational and informative and one of the things I like about LibDemVoice, but Joe Bourke’s original curt comment itself, “Have you not read Plato’s republic?”, did look like intellectual snobbery, coming across as elitist and exclusive, not because it referred to Greek philosophy but because of the way it did so. A few more sentences in that post (or even a smiley!) might have avoided some of the heat that followed.

  • “dropping defectors into unwinnable seats where they had no personal vote and throwing so much focus and resources in their direction was stupid;”

    This. Have any of them stuck around to help rebuild the party that they were so vocally keen to be elected for?

  • David Evans 21st Feb '20 - 2:42pm

    Jo so once again

    No explanation as to why you think military experience is in any way specially relevant to the Lib Dems’ Review team in 2020. Just another episode in what is increasingly looking like an endless boxed set of Ramblings across Liberal Philosophy.

    Sorry Jo, you may not mean to be, but to me you are a prime example of the old saying “There are two sorts of people in politics – Simplifiers and Complicators. You can always recognise a Complicator because they never reach a conclusion – they just go on, and on, and on …”

  • John Barrett 21st Feb '20 - 4:56pm

    With so many people on the election Review Team there is one obvious problem which I fear with make the task of the group difficult, if not impossible.

    Some will no doubt go into the review convinced that the campaign was a success, as our vote increased from 7.4% to 11.4% between 2017 and 2019 and thinking that if only we had PR we would have had a reasonable number of MPs elected.

    Others will no doubt go into the review convinced that the campaign was a failure, as we were on roughly 20% in the polls before the campaign started, which then dropped by half to the final result of just over 11%.

    Having read and watched on tv many comments about the campaign here and from other news sources since the election, there is no consensus on this and until there is, it will be difficult for such a large group to work out whether it is the lessons from the success that we should take forward to the future, or the lessons from the failure we should not repeat.

    On balance, I am with Paul Holmes on this one.

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