Grasping the opportunity from North Shropshire

The remarkable by-election victory provides an immediate opportunity to grasp the chance to revive the party’s derelict associations.

As readers of Liberal Democrat Voice are aware from my previous postings, I am very dubious that the party has the resources or the motivation to tackle the huge task of reviving activity in the majority of constituencies that simply do not have the individuals or knowledge of how to start from scratch. This is now the moment to grab those who are attracted to the party by the the North Shropshire – and Chesham and Amersham – results.

The moment will recede all too quickly. What is needed right now is to find the few men and women in every constituency prepared to give their names and contact details to the party for follow-up. The party needs immediately to place advertisements in every regional and, if at all possible, every local newspaper, plus utilising social media, to call for those who see the Liberal Democrats as the answer to the malaise in politics caused by the failures of the government and opposition to come forward.

Then we need to be ready to follow up all the contacts very quickly before they cool off. This can be done by adopting the revival strategy utilised after previous general election debacles. I have put this experience together in a practical paper that can easily be adopted everywhere. You can read it here

There is no more urgent task for the party to undertake now.

* Michael Meadowcroft joined the Liberal Party in 1958. He has served at every level of the party organisation. He was a Leeds City Councillor, West Yorkshire Met County Councillor and MP for Leeds West, 1983-87. For 25 years he led or was part of electoral missions to 35 new democracies on four continents.

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  • Michael. Are you really saying that we should be prioritising a co-operative industrial strategy and site value taxation before mince pie recipes in our party leaflets? What a strange view of Liberalism. Bring on the mince pies!
    Happy Liberal Christmas

  • Mick Taylor 22nd Dec '21 - 3:20pm

    Christmas comes every year. Opportunities like this not nearly so often. Leaflets should included fun bits but unless we show people what Liberalism is about, we will never be taken seriously and stunning by-election wins will simply remain stunning by-election wins.
    How many of our current MPs represent seats originally won in a by-election? I think it’s one
    and it was lost in 2017 a short time after the by-election before being regained in 2019. Apart from that I don’t think we hold any of the seats won in by-elections since I joined the Young Liberals in 1964.
    So Michael is right. We need to act immediately.

  • Graham Jeffs 22nd Dec '21 - 3:40pm

    Too right, real action is required right now!

  • Anthony Acton 22nd Dec '21 - 10:54pm

    The party now needs to develop policies that address grass roots issues and to promote them with a simple message; and to get some of our new (post coalition) faces more widely recognised on tv.

  • Michael, have you drawn the central idea of your piece to the attention of party leadership?

  • suzanne fletcher 23rd Dec '21 - 5:59pm

    Well it may be that everyone is too busy with Christmas, but some of us are spending as much time as we can today, and have been for many days and evenings before on a by election in Guisbrough for the Town Council.
    It is an area with no Lib Dem representation, although there are cllrs in other parts of the area with a key role in that council.
    But activists are few are far between. I am not physically able to be out on the streets so have been on the phone. There is nobody else to do this, apart from the organiser trying to fit it in. I am 76, just who is going to do this when I cannot.
    More importantly does anyone care, we are red wall seats, there are no councillors at all in Middlesbrough, Hartlepool, and just one in Stockton.
    If this moment is not grasped now, many areas will disappear off a lib dem map and who will even notice?
    yes, you can gather, i am very tired as i write this, hope to recover somewhat over Christmas, but I don’t go on forever.

  • It requires about 8/10 people who are keen to enhance the liberal opportunities in derelict seats. Surely part of the job of Regional parties is to allocate a small amount of money and those 8/10 people who would develop a ward from which membership would grow. Do I know if it works, yes. In gillingham Borough we had those 10 people who worked for a few weeks in an effort to raise awareness in the Liberals.By the time the Council was abolished to make way for Medway Unitary Council,I had the honour and privilege of leading a team of 31 Councillors of 42 on that Borough Council

  • Chris Moore 23rd Dec '21 - 8:49pm

    @Suzanne: if we make ourselves relevant to the broad spread of voters again, I believe a new generation of activists will follow.

    Good luck in the by-election!

  • Nonconformistradical 24th Dec '21 - 12:00pm

    @Suzanne Fletcher

    Re Guisborough TC

    Congratulations. Great result.

  • nvelope2003 24th Dec '21 - 5:39pm

    Mick Taylor: Quite a number of seats won in by elections (for example, Orpington, and Berwick on Tweed) were held at subsequent general elections but not all. These seats were lost when the party lost its way and joined a coalition with the Conservatives. It is a good idea to look to the future and not live in the past but it is sad when those who should know better seem to have no knowledge of the past, particularly with respect to the fate of Liberals who joined coalitions with the Conservatives, and are still advocating them, despite being expensively educated at the best public schools. Maybe it is true when they say those schools mostly teach their pupils how to present things rather than how to do anything useful. There was a Northern Ireland secretary recently who did not understand the difference between Sinn Fein and the Ulster Unionists which must have caused a few problems yet I know people who went to elementary schools who knew the Irish name of the Irish Parliament and how the present situation arose.

  • Chris Moore 24th Dec '21 - 5:54pm

    This state school pupil is too badly educated to understand your unexpected attack on those with private education…..

    What is the relevance, please?

  • Chris Moore: Some of those, including the leader, who took the Liberal Democrats into the 2010 coalition were educated at public schools and seemed to have no knowledge of the disasters previous coalitions had inflicted on the party, almost bringing it to its knees, yet an ordinary state school educated person like me was only too well aware. Reading some of the posts on this site it is clear that lessons have not been learned. I find this rather depressing. Some public school educated people I know have admitted to me that state educated people have often had a better education than they did and a more realistic approach to life’s problems. I guess that this might not be the message that some people want to hear.

  • Chris Moore 25th Dec '21 - 6:26pm

    Hi, nvelope2003, yes, I appreciate Nick Clegg and others went to public school, but there were yet others in at the formation of the Coalition from the state sector.

    I honestly don’t believe it was a question of ignorant public schoolers getting it wrong; more a question of poor strategic thinking and group think. The party has not been good at political strategy since 2010.

    In 2019 with the self-defeating Remain Alliance and the plunge to a disastrous election, the party showed its continuing inability to put together a serious political strategy. Again not a question of a few public school toffs getting it wrong. Jo Swinson state-educated? The blindness about the Remain Alliance permeated the party. There were a few of us warning about but we were ignored and worse.

    Could I ask you if you have some personal reason to distrust private school alumni?

  • No-one is responsible for which school their parents sent them to, and having been sent to a particular kind of school does not make anyone more or less worthy, either as a human being, of whatever career they want to go into. I couldn’t care less whether Helen Morgan, Sarah Green, or any other MP has been educated in a UK state school, a UK private school, somewhere abroad, or in any other way: What I care about is that they are competent and diligent at their job and that they offering reasonable solutions to the problems the UK has.

    The apparent prejudice in this thread against people who happen to have been educated privately is unbecoming, to say the least.

  • nvelope2003 26th Dec '21 - 5:16pm

    Martin: Thank you. I discovered that some current and former Liberal Democrat MPs who appeared to have attended state schools actually went to expensive fee paying “public schools”, one of them to the most expensive school in England. That also applies to MPs in the Labour and Green parties, as well as the Conservatives but they take care to conceal this.
    Simon R: Of course no one is responsible for the school that their parents sent them too although most people have to go to the school they are allocated to. The problem is that the UK is ruled by an elite of privately educated people who make the rules to suit themselves and exclude others from any realistic chance of reaching the top. This applies to all the established parties which are represented in Parliament.
    Chris Moore: I know a number of these people and they, like most people, can be very nice, intelligent and thoughtful people and should certainly not be excluded from positions of power but it is simply wrong that the 7% of people who have been privately educated should rule the country. I am not in favour of abolishing private education but those countries which have done so apparently have the happiest people in the world. I do not think Britain features very highly in that list, in fact the reverse is the case. I have nothing personal against privately educated people. I judge everyone on their character, decency etc but I do think having a privately educated elite ruling the country is wrong.

  • The best way to make progress is to seize the moment and FIGHT to win the Southend West by election. I am sure the majority pf the public in the seat would want that.
    With the huge anti Boris/Tory swing the Refrom Pary could win if not taken on.

  • Andy Boddington 27th Dec '21 - 5:30pm

    There is an agreement that we will not fight Southend. Decades ago when an MP was killed in post, it was a free for all to grab the seat. Since the murder of Jo Cox, the public mood has changed. I have not met anyone who thinks that political representation should be influenced by murder. In the old politics of last century, it was grab the opportunity. Ignore the moral issues of the killing of elected representatives, win the the seat! In the 21st century, we have different sensibilities. We put morality before political advantage. Most of the time.

  • Alex Macfie 27th Dec '21 - 6:06pm

    @Andy Boddington: Where is the objective evidence that the “mood has changed”? I’m not sure I would take the answer to a loaded question about whether “political representation should be influenced by murder” as evidence of anything. If you ask people whether the political great and good should be able to foist a party apparatchik on a constituency without a meaningful election because of the circumstances of the previous representative’s death, you would probably get a contradictory answer (cf Yes Prime Minister

    The thing is that voters have moved on from the event that caused the by-election by the time it has happened, and are principally concerned with electing a new representative for the rest of the Parliamentary term. It’s rather presumptuous to assume that voters will support a coronation of a party apparatchik who merely shares the same party label as the victim. If he had a strong personal following, then that personal vote is unlikely to transfer, regardless of the circumstances of his passing. There is a real danger that mass abstention will result in a strong showing for extremists.

    There is going to be a by-election whether or not we or anyone else contests it. Unless Parliament changes the rules on how casual vacancies are filled to have a formal procedure for parties to nominate successors without election, this by-election should be treated like any other with a proper contest. Otherwise were are denying the electorate a proper choice in who should be their new representative.

  • Neil James Sandison 29th Dec '21 - 12:26pm

    Michael Meadowcroft represents am old form of liberalism with talk of bygone associations and advertisements in local newspapers .We need to move on and embrace the digital age . Recognise the by-election result was generated by anger and revenge on a government drowning in sleaze and corruption and incapable of delivering basic services and so anti-European it has lost important markets and threatens the living and income of the rural communities . Look again at the New Liberal Manifesto for inspiration be inclusive of those we wish to attract and demonstrate the leadership this country so desperately needs be better than we are if you want to attract a new generation of social liberals able and willing to tackle the corruption of the conservatives and the lethargy of Labour who always think its someone elses fault .

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