Getting back onto the doorstep, getting back on the campaign trail…

I wanted to let you know about my experience door knocking over the last couple of weeks. Over the last fortnight, I’ve spent two evenings a week knocking on doors in Portsmouth, where I’m the Lib Dem Leader of the Council.

The feedback from voters here in Portsmouth has been brilliant, they were very pleased to see us.

I’ve been out in small groups, each of us in masks, keeping 2 meters from anyone. If people weren’t in, we posted leaflets through letterboxes to let them know we’d been.

It was great to be back talking to residents, as we’d only been communicating by leaflets since the lockdown started.

Ultimately, it’s for your local team to decide if you feel safe to return to knocking on doors. Our feedback from voters has been that they really appreciate us going to see them, to enquire about any problems in their local area and also to ask how they are going to vote in May.

So I would say think about your local area, but don’t be frightened of knocking on doors.

If you don’t feel comfortable doing this, please don’t stop campaigning altogether. You can call people by phone or move to an all paper & digital campaign.

But if you move to a paper-only campaign, both Lib Dem HQ and ALDC are recommending that you should think about significantly stepping up how much you do. ALDC are recommending doubling the volume of literature.

The Campaigns and Elections team have developed a template volume plan that includes a comprehensive range of literature resources, including digital options, along with a bulk-buy literature and postage deal each month. This will help get your volume up, and make production easier for you.

So do keep safe, but don’t be frightened about knocking on doors, our residents want to see us.

It’s obviously a fast-changing situation with rules changing frequently – for up to date guidance on campaigning please regularly visit our website.

* Gerald Vernon-Jackson is leader of Portsmouth City Council, Lib Dem Leader at the Local Government Association and Chair of the English State Party of the Liberal Democrats

Read more by or more about .
This entry was posted in Campaign Corner.


  • “Ultimately, it’s for your local team to decide if you feel safe”.

    No it’s not. What about how safe the recipients of your visits feel…… and do you wear a mask ?

  • Back on the campaign trail ? Council by-election in Aberdeenshire last Thursday to replace a Tory Councillor who’d gone off to be a Westminster M.P.

    Not much joy for Lib Dems though…. vote share halved in what used to be Malcolm Bruce’s old Lib Dem constituency of Gordon between 1983 and 2015.

    Ellon and District (Aberdeenshire) By-Election, 15 October, 2020.
    First Preferences:
    SNP – 1683 (42.4%, +10.5)
    Conservative – 1658 (41.7%, +0.8)
    Lib Dem – 405 (10.2%, -9.5)
    Labour – 114 (2.9%, -4.7)
    Green – 112 (2.8%, +2.8)

  • David, the post explicitly says they were wearing masks.

    I’m going out on a limb here, but as leader of Porstmouth City Council, it’s unlikely he was involved in by-election campaigning in Aberdeenshire. I know you like to see the worst in everything, but for those who like a more rounded approach, those particular results need to be viewed in part as voters and candidates adopting a more FPTP mindset to voting as it was for a single candidate, instead of several as happened at the last election under STV.

  • People need to hear more from the Lib Dems in between elections – that has been a perennial problem.

    Going around and talking about the agenda of a fairer deal for carers and disabled people would be well received at the moment.

  • @ Fiona Quite right, Fiona, I stand corrected on the masks, although as someone in the shielding category for medical reasons I am somewhat wary about opening the front door to unannounced callers.

  • Yes we have to be noticed.Deliver the leaflets in not in,have a chat if in.As said today if we talk about caring we will get good results. Equally due to this virus with all the fear, isolation, ‘lockdowness’ talk, seeing someone is a boost to the person that some ‘socialising ‘can happen.
    Is Scotland becoming a battleground of Nationalist v. future fascists? Divide and conquer? and care for people low in the pecking order?

  • Malcolm Todd 19th Oct '20 - 3:33pm

    Fiona 19th Oct ’20 – 12:58pm
    “those particular results need to be viewed in part as voters and candidates adopting a more FPTP mindset to voting as it was for a single candidate, instead of several as happened at the last election under STV.”

    Sounds reasonable. I checked.
    In fact, at the last Council elections in that ward, there was only one candidate each from the Lib Dems, the Labour Party and the Conservatives. The SNP had two candidates, both elected.
    Ellon & District was in fact one of five wards (out of 19) in which there was only one more candidate than the number of seats available.
    In another nine wards, the number of unsuccessful candidates was fewer than the number elected (5 candidates in a 3-seat ward, 6 or 7 in a 4-seat ward).
    The Labour Party and the Liberal Democrats put up only a single candidate in every single ward. The Tories put up a second candidate in three wards; only the SNP consistently offered a choice of SNP candidates to the voters.

    I have long been sceptical of the touted benefits of STV, with its alleged empowerment of voters to choose between candidates as well as parties. Its adoption in Scotland is often mentioned on this site and touted as a “success”. It’s the first time I’ve looked at an actual election in any detail, and it seems to me that the Emperor STV has a rather vainglorious tailor.

  • What happens if one of your team, who handles your leaflets, tests positive..
    Considering that the virus can live 3-5 days on glossy surfaces do you consider it acceptable to post unsolicited material into premises whose occupants may be at very high risk?

  • David Raw: “ Council by-election in Aberdeenshire last Thursday to replace a Tory Councillor who’d gone off to be a Westminster M.P.”
    I thought it was an SNP Councillor who was elected as Gordon MP last December (defeating the sitting Tory) causing the by-election.
    I’ll agree on the comments about our performance there, my local contact wasn’t impressed either!
    Also the Tories hoped to gain this by-election, threw a lot into It and failed, despite topping the first preferences last time.

  • @ n Hunter. As an expat Yorkshireman who has served as an elected Councillor in both countries, I can assure Mr Hunter that Scotland is infinitely better and more competently governed than the south east of England dominated England. Indeed his flights of fancy illustrate what can only be described as the English problem.

  • I’m obliged to Andy Hyde for correcting my error.

    However, the council by-election result mirrors the fact that the Westminster Gordon Lib Dem vote has gone down from 45% in 2005 to 10% in 2019. Lib Dems who think I’m seeing the worst of everything need to face up to the fact that the coffee has gone cold.

  • @ David Raw

    Yes but the popular vote of 2005 and 2010 was a house of cards. It lacked foundation and was prone to collapsing in a variety of directions.

    Is it arguably better to have a smaller but loyal voter base who know the values they are voting for?

  • @ Marco You’re getting in a bit of a muddle, Marco. The name of the game in politics is winning in order to put your ‘values’ into practice. A ‘loyal’ 10% ain’t going to butter no parsnips.

    These days Lib Dems seem to talk more to themselves about their obsessions rather than to the good old general public. Far too much Diogenes….. not enough Dynamism.

  • Paul Holmes 19th Oct '20 - 7:09pm

    @Marco – no it isn’t. 10% elects nothing. All these people who keep going on about small Core Votes of ‘true Liberals’ clearly are not interested in actually getting Lib Dems elected.

    In any case we had held Gordon for 32 years not just 2005 and 2010 so our Westminster vote was hardly ‘ …a house of cards…’.

  • Paul is correct, and it’s even worse in the Scottish Borders…. where a seat held for fifty years until 2015 polled only 8% last December ……. The Lib Dems are on 6% in the latest Scottish opinion poll and have less MSP’s than the Greens.

    Marco’s idea would have more success shooting a Flying Haggis on the glorious Twelfth.

  • @ David Raw and Paul Holmes

    Firstly, national vote share does not tell you how many MPs you are going to get elected. In 2019, 12% led to 11 seats but next time with the votes in the right places 12% could result in around 30 seats.

    Secondly the way to win whilst being a serious party of government is to gradually build up a core support who share the party’s values and won’t desert us when we go into government. A long term problem for the Lib Dems was a mismatch between the parties values and the votes needed to win the target seats. However the unwritten story of the 2019 election is that it was groundbreaking in that we exchanged the old list of target seats for a new list of target seats where – for the first time possibly ever – the demographic in these seats is favourable to a liberal party of the radical centre.

    So the Lib Dems are in a relatively strong position compared to similar parties (in English speaking countries at least PR or no PR). Ireland, Australia and New Zealand don’t seem to have Liberal parties with a foothold (in the NZ election there was a party called The Opportunities Party with an interesting agenda of UBI, reduce prison population, legalise cannabis, support small business and reform planning law to encourage house building. Unfortunately being new they only got 1.4% of the vote. Hopefully we will hear more from them in future but it shows how hard it is to get a foothold even if there PR.)

  • Marco -your ‘relatively strong position’ of 12% of the vote and 11 seats compares very badly to 2005 (22%of the vote and 62 seats) or 2010, or 2001 or 1997. Your future hypothetical of 12% and up to 30 seats compares badly too.

    Indeed across all the General Elections 1974-2010 we averaged 20% of the national vote although we only started to be successful in turning that into record numbers of seats when we introduced a proper Target Seat strategy from 1997.

  • When Charles Kennedy was leader I had a fairly good idea what the Lib Dems stood for. I liked the man, many of the Lib Dem policies and voted for them. Now, besides hating both Trump and Johnson (and it seems their supporters), there just doesn’t seem to be a lot there. Stop trying to save the world and get out there supporting causes that help everyday people that are struggling. Try putting a smile on your faces, people don’t vote for miserable looking (expletive deleted by editor).

  • Peter Watson 20th Oct '20 - 1:41pm

    @James Young “a very welcome from people concerned about over development due to ridiculous central government housing targets.”
    As Ollie Bradfield writes elsewhere, “To NIMBY or not to NIMBY”! (

  • As LDs we are generally creative, surely with Covid, numerous lockdowns and a high no of people not feeling safe. This is the best opportunity we have to do our campaigning differently.
    The world will look utterly different as Covid and Brexit hits, our campaigning and interactions must do as well.

  • @ Paul Holmes

    In 1989 the vote share was an *

    We then got to the levels of 1997 – 2010 with a very disparate alliance of voters with different values and interests but only 1/3 were loyal and eventually deserted us. Some were students lost because of tuition fees but some votes were actually lost to UKIP in the 2026.

    Charles Kennedy said in a speech in 2013 that his advisers discouraged him from acknowledging the Lib Dem’s pro-Europeanism for fear of alienating voters especially in the South West.

    The SDP- Liberal Alliance was also a house of cards and involved some rather authoritarian people hence following the merger we went down to an *.

    30 seats is a target for the next election but in 3029 we should be aiming for 60-70. I believe that is an ambitious but achievable target. We need to target seats but due to the breathtaking swings achieved in 2019, choosing between target seats and values is less of a problem now.

  • *2029 not 3029!

  • Paul Holmes 20th Oct '20 - 7:15pm

    Marco -your so called asterisk was an opinion poll not real votes. Our 1992 GE vote share was not radically different to our 1987 GE vote share and both were far better than in 2015/17/19.

    As for your hypothetical future projections they are actually worth even less than a one off opinion poll. The anti Brexit voters who supported us in the so called ‘golden halo’ seats (but not many other places) cannot remotely be counted as a ‘Core Vote’ of true believers until such time as they have stuck with us for 2 or 3 or more General Elections. Then and only then can you compare them to average 20% we took across 10 GE’s from 1974-2010.

  • Paul Holmes 20th Oct '20 - 7:20pm

    On the question of delivering leaflets, we have been out delivering regular cycles of literature ever since Lockdown ended in June. We have had not one single complaint from anyone, which did surprise me as I thought that at least the usual suspects/hard core opposition supporters would take the chance to moan.

    More than a few welcomes and “you are the only ones we ever hear from” though!

  • 1987 – 22 seats
    1992 – 20 seats

    Not that much more than today and in the 1989
    European elections the vote share was 6%.

  • Marco -you may not regard a 100% higher number of MP’s as ‘not much more’ but I think most people on LDV would much prefer 22 to 11 MP’s. Although I did note that we didn’t start really turning votes into more seats until a proper Target Seat strategy kicked in for the 1997 election. From when we successively gained our 3 record highs of 46 (1997) , 52 (2001) and 62MP’s (2005). The latter being our highest number since 1922.

    On voting %’s you keep shifting your ground. First you said we were an asterisk in 1989 -but that was an Opinion Poll not votes. So then you shifted to the 6% in the EU elections, which I remember well as I was Election Agent for one of the very few EU Constituencies where we saved our deposit that year. But you are not comparing like with like. The UK electorate always treated EU elections as a chance for protest votes By Election style and there is no pattern at all of EU election results being reflected in subsequent Westminister elections. Something that the ace strategists of the 2019 GE farce seem to have forgotten.

    Sticking to like for like comparisons we took 22.6% of the vote (22 MP’s) in the 1987 GE and in 1992 we took 17.8%of the vote (20 MP’s). Across the 10 GE’s 1974 -2010 we averaged 20% of the vote. The outliers in that 36 year period were 13.8% (11 MP’s) in 1979 and 25.4% (23 MP’s) in 1983. But we also took 22.6% in 1987, 22% in 2005 and 23% in 2010 -and for that matter almost 20% (but only 14MP’s) in Feb 1974.

    Now, whether its 10% or 20% across the UK that average level would not elect a single MP under our FPTP, single member constituency system. In a given constituency you have to be able to be credible enough and campaign hard enough, to gain a winning level of votes. Concentrating your policies and campaign resources on supposed ‘Core Voters’ who are ‘true Liberals’ will not achieve that critical mass – indeed by deterring ‘considerers’ or floating voters it can very well make the task even harder. If ‘Revoke’ is too sensitive a subject lets look at the ‘Socialist Labour’ Manifestos of 1983 (worst post war Labour result) and 2019 (worst Labour result since 1935) as examples.

  • @Paul Holmes

    The problem is that today the politics of liberalism is faring badly against the politics of fear, nationalism and the populist left.

    What is the point though of a liberal party if it won’t stand up for liberalism? The country doesn’t need a Potholes Party.

    In many countries Liberal and progressive parties have disappeared and attempts to create new ones have failed, and not just where there is FPTP.

    If you lived in Ireland or Australia who would you vote for.

    The Lib Dems are not in a bad position. In some ways stronger than 1992 because of the alignment of target seats and target demographic.

    As far as I can see the main difference between 1992 and today is the loss of seats in Scotland, Wales and the South West but we are stronger in London and the South East. If you have any ideas of how to stop the SNP ascendancy everyone would like to know.

    Another factor is that in the 80s 90s and 00s there was a lot of churn of seats. We would win a handful and lose another handful at the same time which supports my house of cards theory.

  • Marco:

    1. No, 12% of votes and 11 seats is not a stronger position than 17.8% and 20 seats in 1992.

    2. Your personal target demographic may be concentrations of affluent, urban, educated professionals in a handful of constituencies dotted in and around London and the South East but that cannot be the objective of a national political party. Why would anyone ‘north of the Watford Gap’ or west of London see any point in joining or voting for such a minority interest, geographically unrepresentative body?

    3. You have -and can have -no evidence whatsoever that such isolated pockets of voters now constitute a ‘Core Vote’ who will stick to their voting pattern in Dec 2019 for election after election after election in the future. Especially as most of these so called ‘Golden Halo’ seats did not actually even get as far as electing a Lib Dem MP in 2019.

    4. I am unaware of any ‘absence of Liberalism’ in our campaigning over the last 40 years or so. Paddy and his campaign for passports for Hong Kong citizens? Opposing the illegal invasion of Iraq? Opposing Identity Cards? Arguing aginst the unchecked extension of DNA databases? No it wasn’t Labour or the Conservatives campaigning on these issues, it was us -and as an MP for the period of the latter 3 issues I have my leaflets, Parliamentary speeches and arguments in Standing Committee to prove it. More recently of course there was the pro EU/anti Brexit campaign -which I very actively participated in up to Referendum Day in 2016. Of course, in those days of record electoral success, we also campaigned very very hard on the bread and butter issues that the electorate were and are most concerned about. We were also a much more Social Liberal Party in the 1997/2001/2005 GE’s -rather than an Economic or Classical Liberal Party.

    5.You suddenly switch arguments again by asking how I would stop the SNP ascendancy. Well I’m not Scottish, have never lived in Scotland and have never run any Scottish election campaigns (although I helped in a couple of Parliamentary by elections) so I’m not really qualified to answer that. Although I realise that lack of knowledge or expertise is no bar to many armchair strategists! However I am pretty sure that focusing Lib Dem policies, messaging and campaign resources on a few affluent constituencies scattered around London and the South East is not going to do it.

  • Our sister party in Ireland is Fianna Fail, which joined ELDR/ALDE in 2009. In Australia, the flag-bearer of ‘small-L liberalism’ (as it’s always called there to distinguish it from the politics of the conservative Australian Liberal Party) is the Australian Democrats (which have been in the doldrums for over a decade).
    Populism hasn’t succeeded everywhere. In France, the far right candidate for President was defeated by Emmanuel Macron, whose party belongs to the ALDE sister group in Renew Europe and can be regarded as liberal. In New Zealand, the UKIP-equivalent New Zealand First was kicked out of Parliament, and although Jacinda Ardern’s Labour party is not nominally ‘liberal’ it is from the mainstream (non-populist) centre-left. Also the classically liberal ACT New Zealand (which doesn’t seem to be affiliated to Liberal International) did well in the recent election (from 1 seat to 9).

  • Alex Macfie – The Australian Democrats barely exist anymore and haven’t won a national seat for about 16 years.

    Fianna Fáil are not liberals at all. Macron is not a liberal more of a Blairite.

    Accepted that ACT New Zealand are liberal-ish but they are more right-leaning and picked up support from NZ first due to their opposition to Ardern’s agenda. The Opportunities Party are potentially more promising.

  • @ Paul Holmes

    I want us to have a national appeal by focusing on liberal issues. However FPTP leaves us with no choice but to focus on target seats to maximise our MP’s. With PR, a true core vote approach would be even more viable.

    What we did in the 90s and 00s was to win target seats not by talking about liberal policies ( even though yes we did have some) but instead by being the party that fixed the potholes and opposed the local bypass. As a result we were left with a fragile voter coalition. This paper by Peter Sloman analyses the situation well:

    “ The 2010 British Election Study found that almost half of Liberal Democrat voters had household incomes below £25,000 (a figure broadly in line with the electorate at large); 38 per cent thought the death penalty was sometimes justified; 27 per cent thought immigrants increased crime rates; and 21 per cent disapproved of EU membership (down from the 31 per cent who favoured withdrawal in 1997). This broad base of support helped the party win economically precarious and culturally conservative seats, particularly in the West Country and northern England: indeed, Chris Hanretty’s estimates suggest that twenty‐six of the fifty‐seven constituencies which elected Liberal Democrat MPs in 2010 voted Leave in the 2016 referendum. Yet the party’s instinctive commitment to liberal and ‘cosmopolitan’ positions on issues such as Europe, crime, and immigration meant that it was always vulnerable to being outflanked by the harder populism of UKIP and the Tory right, especially once it became a transactional, governmental party.”

  • Paul Holmes 25th Oct '20 - 3:03pm

    Marco -you will find no stronger advocate of a Target Seat strategy than me. But there is virtually no seat in the UK with a big enough population of so called Core Voters (as defined by David Howarth and Mark Pack) to actually elect a ‘true Liberal’ MP.

    Even worse is the fact that many of those defined as potential ‘Core Voters’ have an ‘annoying’ tendency to vote Labour, SNP, Plaid or Green in the belief that they are an outlet for their ‘progressive’ views! If only voters responded like Pavlov’s dog when armchair strategists decided they should vote for us.

    You are correct when you say that under PR a Party concentrating on a Core Vote can win seats (although the Economic Liberal FDP in Germany have struggled in recent elections). You are wrong to believe that such a purist Party can win under FPTP -bar the odd seat such as the sole one the Greens have ever managed to win. You are also wrong to say that we did not campaign on what you call ‘Liberal’ issues in the past. I have given you examples (which you choose to ignore) from 2 elections I ran in 1992 and 1997 and two I won in 2001 and 2005. The difference to your strategy -and the lamantable campaigns of 2017 and 2019 – is that we also mainstreamed on issues which the bulk of the population are concerned with. As a result we successively gained our 3 highest levels of Parliamentary representation of modern times.

  • @ Paul Holmes

    I agree with much of what you say in that we do need to focus on mainstream issues such as health, education and crime and one of the frustrations of the 2019 election was the failure to tell voters what we stood for beyond opposing Brexit.

    However I believe that a small l liberalism that combines internationalism with localism and opposition to an overbearing state could have popular support. I agree with many of Mark Pack and David Howarths ideas but instead of pursuing a “tolerant open left leaning vote” I think tolerant open centre/centre right voters is a more promising constituency. I believe that looking at the list of target seats we now have there is high concentration of these voters – people who broadly support a fairer and outward looking society but are suspicious of left wing economic policies.

    It is easy to dismiss the 2019 campaign as “lamentable” but this ignores some of the swings achieved eg 15% in Wimbledon 18% in Esher and Walton 12.5% in Guildford 15% in Hitchin and Harpenden 15% in Surrey SW to name a few. These seats are naturally moving away from the Conservatives and are a good target market for the Lib Dems (whereas Labour would struggle to win them).

    You accuse me of being purist but there is a certain purism in thinking we could hold together the coalition of the 00s, insisting that we can anywhere and being sniffy about the fact that our new target seats are some of the most affluent in the country.

Post a Comment

Lib Dem Voice welcomes comments from everyone but we ask you to be polite, to be on topic and to be who you say you are. You can read our comments policy in full here. Please respect it and all readers of the site.

If you are a member of the party, you can have the Lib Dem Logo appear next to your comments to           show this. You must be registered for our forum and can then login on this public site with the same username and password.

To have your photo next to your comment please signup your email address with Gravatar.

Your email is never published. Required fields are marked *

Please complete the name of this site, Liberal Democrat ...?


Recent Comments

  • Jennie (she/her)
    I do find it interesting that there are so many in our party who think that asking someone if they adhere to basic Liberal principles like "everybody should hav...
  • Lorenzo Cherin
    noncomformistradicalism, ideed, in that you differ radically to me on this! I see the BBC, as the only public broacaster to get the licence, as definitely mo...
  • Charley
    At 35 I rather object to having a finger wagged at me because I want to know where candidates and MP's stand on the issues I care about. I thought we were su...
  • Nonconformistradical
    @Lorenszo Cherin "Few countries do as we do on this. It is not Liberal or social democratic to have a flat tax in order to watch something, all the money going...
  • Lorenzo Cherin
    Roland Not Conservative thinking. Liberal thinking! Compulsion to pay what you choose to pay for , is not as now, compulsion without deciding to! Few c...