‘How can Lib Dems avoid oblivion?’ asks PoliticsHome

Over at PoliticsHome, Mark Gettleson puts Lib Dem campaigning under the microscope to ask what the 2015 general election might hold for the party. He makes four points:

1. In 2010, the Lib Dems won the air war and lost the ground war

There had been an uncoordinated increase in votes – around a million – largely in seats they were not going to win. But what was clear was that the party lacked the kind of national organisation into which to feed the volunteers of Cleggmania, the ability to measure success in given seats (few saw the loss of Harrogate or Evan Harris’ defeat in Oxford coming), target resources at the right voters or communicate with them in the right way. One senior source, heavily involved in the campaign, told me shortly after that “the press team delivered a win in the air war, but the ground war was a disaster.” Such assertions flip on their head assumptions of a party with a reputation for fighting effective localised campaigns.

I think that’s a slight over-simplification: the TV debates created an artificially optimistic bubble early enough for Labour and the Conservatives (and their friends in the media) to train their campaigning firepower against a party without the resources to fight back. As we’ve seen with Mitt Romney’s gruelling success in the contest for the Republican nomination it’s hard for underdogs to withstand such pressure. But it’s certainly true that the party found its ground-war much tougher going, with other parties adopting (and magnifying) Lib Dems’ localised voter-targeting.

2. The Lib Dems fail on marketing and communication

There is probably no organisation with a spend of even half that of the Liberal Democrats who put less focus on branding. Uniquely, they have no marketing department, no communications department, no polling operation, no graphic designers and no polling operation.

The question of what the party stands for in the minds of voters — how would they define the party in a simple sentence — is one that’s been discussed at length. It’s one I described here as ‘The Lib Dem quest for the Holy Grail’ back in 2008. The ‘radical centre’ is probably as close and as accurate as we’ve yet got, but it’s an internal description which means little to most voters.

3. Labour and the Tories have overtaken the Lib Dems’ campaigning

[The other parties have come] with new vastly superior campaigns technologies from across the seas (the Republican and Democratic campaigns, in this case) … Among these are voting modeling programmes that track the likelihood of every individual to back the party, enabling the campaigns to target specific types of voters – based on demographic and attitudinal data – and persuade them to vote, volunteer and donate. Such systems, based on thorough research from top statisticians, are increasingly the cornerstone of a modern campaign. Against them, untargeted local leaflets and letters focusing on the good deeds of candidates, reaching the wrong people and focusing on issues not personal to the recipient, are fairly pointless.

While true at the last election, this may not be the case in 2015, as the Lib Dems roll out Connect, database technology pioneered by the Obama campaign: time will tell.

4. Is a 2015 ‘multiple by-election’ strategy the only hope?

With such a disastrous national picture, Party President Tim Farron is thought to favour a ‘multiple by-election’ strategy for election day. It is unquestionably true that political parties win in given places, but any suggestion that the importance of the national campaign could ever be diminished should be dismissed.

In a sense, of course, every Lib Dem general election campaign is a ‘multiple by-election’ strategy, with party members (with varying degrees of willingness) helping campaigns in near-by winnable seats in preference to their own. As it stands, it’s inevitable the Lib Dem campaign will in 2015 be more about defence than expansion. But three years is a long time in politics.

* Stephen was Editor (and Co-Editor) of Liberal Democrat Voice from 2007 to 2015, and writes at The Collected Stephen Tall.

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  • Bill le Breton 18th Mar '12 - 11:09am

    Just a quick comment on an important subject which I’d like to come back to later.
    The 2010 campaign was characterized by an inability stemming from inexperience of dealing with a sustained negative campaigns on two fronts post-Manchester.
    The team was led by and stuffed with commercial campaigners who rarely if ever come across negative campaigns against their clients’ products and services.
    In fact the Lib Dem experience of negative campaigning on such a level is limited to Cities in which it has had control or was fighting a campaign for control – eg Liverpool in 1992. Only in Cities is there anything like the 24 hour news coverage and multi-channel media to match a national campaign.

    The campaign department’s experience of negative campaigning is also actually limited – where as in L and S when Chris lost it has met this it has not necessarily done as well as in places where it has been able to come in from 3rd place under the cover of little attention.

    This post is a reaction to the politics home piece. As I said at the start I hope to have the time to come back when I have read Stephen’s piece.

  • No, its not inevitable that we will be fighting a defensive campaign in 2015. OK, “everybody knows” the libdems will be crushed. How does everybody know ? Everybody else tells them. Its an echo chamber.
    In fact the evidence so far is one set of elections, last may. Lets at least wait till we have two sets, then we can compare them & make some reasonale specualations, its only 7 weeks to wait.

    As others have pointed out, there are elections every week & we have massively improved our performance in those since last may, theres every reason for cautious optimism.

  • paul barker

    I agree you can wait 7 weeks for the next assertion but I again must challenge your continued claim of these improving results (based on a crude analysis).

    According to ALDC the LD have a 40% seat hold since last May (33% this year) which is well below the other two parties. The party has also performed badly against Labour with a net loss of 5 (against a net gain against the Tories).

    I do not see this as being a ‘massively improved’ performance.

    As you say we shall see in 7 weeks but do you truly believe that the LD vote is going to be above the 16% you had last May, which is in line with polling for a GE performance of <15% (broadly consistent with the opinion polls which are 10-13%)

    If you do poll badly in May what will you reaction be? What is success for you?

  • I know several people. Including those involved in the campaigns, who predicted (or at least were very concerned) that we were in danger of losing Harrogate and OxWAB.

    The contention that the press team delivered an “air war” victory probably depends on your point of view. Before the debates took place there was not much evidence of this.

    My opinion is that where we lost the ground war it was because we had a rubbish campaign (with an over reliance on standard – branded? – templates with a lack of locally relevant material. At least two seats we gained made very little use of centrally produced templates.

    “Such assertions flip on their head assumptions of a party with a reputation for fighting effective localised campaigns.”

    Agree – the problem is this reputation wasn’t really justified by 2010 as we’d really failed to learn and adapt from the failures to win by-elections from Hodge Hill onwards.

  • Simon Kampfner wrote in the Feb 4th edition of the Financial Times: “Mr Clegg still needs to answer the question: what are the Liberal Democrats for? A shopping list of specific policy achievements will not suffice. He is still in search of the compelling argument to persuade voters to back them again in May 2015, the almost certain date of the next [ General ]Election. Making the Tories a ‘bit less nasty’ does not constitute a rallying cry.” The absence of that answer is why so many activists are unhappy. We cannot position many of the actions that resonate so much against our history, instincts & beliefs – like the way the NHS is being ‘reformed’: the anomalies in the operation of the Welfare to Work programme, failure to hold to account those whose greed, stupidity and self importance caused so much pain etc. etc. against a future vision. There seems to be no vision beyond cutting the deficit. That’s nothing like adequate . The media will go on noisily proclaiming that the LibDems will be dead & buried in 2015, trying to turn into a self fulfilling prophecy the one issue that unites, and is the dearest wish of, Tories & Labour. It doesn’t have to be so at all. Recent Local Authority by – election results offer a glimmer that the electorate is slowly wising up to the fact that Labour is really a Tory party in disguise and offers no realistic alternative, (despite having the comfort of being openly in opposition), to the hard graft put in by the LibDems in government to constrain the Tory loony Right. Cameron will love us to bits until it’s time to throw us to the wolves. His loony Right would strip him to the bone if it wasn’t for the LibDems The LibDem leadership has perhaps a year to come up with a winning vision of the future. Meanwhile we poor bloody infantry on the doorstep must keep the faith & keep up our work.

  • With hindsight, inabiity to do anything with (let alone welcome) new members, bizarre straegy for retention (I live in wales and knew that Evan was in danger from concerted attack by the religious right), and a centralising approach to campaigning all didn’t help, but the big failure was in taking the fight back once the rightwing press focused their attacks. I couldn’t belive how feeblenthenresponse to that was.

    As to 2015, well, my guess is that the real LD contribution to govt will have been what they stopped the Tories doing rather than anything else, but it won’t much matter, the party is (deservedly) broken in Scotland and I fear about to be rolled back in the north of England, and its active support across the regions was anyway spiked by the tuition fees betrayal.

    The UK desperately needs a liberal alternative, but does it really need the LDs? That, for me, is the question that those
    who care must answer.

  • Katie O'Keeffe 18th Mar '12 - 12:56pm

    “The UK desperately needs a liberal alternative, but does it really need the LDs?”

    I’ve supported liberal parties all my adult life. Now I see the Lib Dems as my enemy.

  • Richard Dean 18th Mar '12 - 1:40pm

    We don’t and won’t have the money for US-style campaigning, so Tim Farron’s suggestion looks good. May I suggest that voters’ generally attach their choices to persons and personalities rather than policies, that they like two-horse races, and that their choices are primarily guided by:

    > familiarity: voters are less likely to support someone they are unfamiliar with
    > warmth: voters are lesslikely to vote for someone they dislike
    > reliabilty: voters won’t vote for candidates that change their view all the time
    > relevance: voters are less likely to vote for someone they perceive as irrelevant

    To influence these factors, may I suggest, first, that candidates be selected NOW in every constituency. The gains would far outweight the problems of re-arrangement when constutuency boundaries change. Those candidates need to start building familiarity, warmth, and relevance NOW. They also need to expose, manage, and thereby get rid of their cupboards’ skeletons. Come 2015, voters need to perceive the choice to be between the incumbent and a familiar, warm, reliable, and relevant LibDem.

    May I suggest that candidates, and particularly national figures, need to be welcomed components of the firmament of personalities on TV shows, in newspapers, and in social media. Also, voters are dismayed when the representatives thet elect are seen to be dominated by conferences or by activists that they did not elect. May I suggest that activitiest and local associations need to accept a role that focusses on supporting candidates, putting the candidate in the leadership position, and avoiding giving voters the impression that candidates are their puppets.

    The perception of relevance would be helped if the leader is seen to have a good relationship with the candidate – implying that the consttuencies’ concerns would be seen directly by the prime minister. May I also suggest that the leader needs to develop a prime ministerial persona – the present persona seems to be complaining weakly all the time, wheras a leader should be generally supportive of much of the status quo, and be somehow more substantial. A PM may need to been seen to have a nasty side too. I suggest that this should be a matter of changing the presentation not the person.

  • Tony Dawson 18th Mar '12 - 1:51pm

    @ Mark Gettleson:

    “One senior source, heavily involved in the campaign, told me shortly after that “the press team delivered a win in the air war, but the ground war was a disaster.””

    Besides a ‘blip’ due to ‘Cleggmania’, the ‘air war’ of the 2010 Lib Dem campaign was between ‘poor’ and ‘middling’. I am sure that one or two constituencies were not ‘doing it right’ hence their ‘ground war’ was not effective. But it is wrong to take the surge of ‘useless’ extra lib Dem votes as showing any effectiveness in the ‘air war’ at all. This surge can be put down pure and simple to the Cleggmania between the first and third TV debates. It was then largely ‘washed out’ by the tabloids – therwise we would have got more than 2 million extra votes, possibly three million..

    The Lib Dem ‘air war’ was thrashed completely in the period after the second TV debate: Nick Cleggs performance in the third debate was better than that in the second and ‘stopped the rot’. Outside of the performance of Nick Clegg, which was outstanding, there was little obvious ‘air war’to speak of.

    In the constituency where I live, the Lib Dems won the ground war better than we had ever done before (in 150 years!) against a Tory Candidate who was being singlehandedly promoted by the editor of one of the local papers asbeing little short of the second Madonna. We were obviously helped by the Cleggmania and we capitalised on it on the ground. We were not alone in this. Several other Lib Dem seats (notably Westmorland & Lonsdale) also moved forward, not back.

    We can not but expect flawed analyses, like this one, coming out because the Party steadfastly refused to allow any proper independently-moderated analysis to take place.

  • paul barker 18th Mar '12 - 2:14pm

    Bassazc, I just look at vote shares, not seats. Seat changes depend on how all 3 main parties are doing “now” compared to how they were doing when each seat was last contested, theres too many variables to be useful.
    Based on vote shares over the last 3 months, compared to last may then yes , libdems are doing a lot better, 10% or so.
    Mark Pack does a similar analysis, only looking at vote changes, his figures suggest we are doing about 14% better.

    In may I will be looking at vote shares in particular, I will be very dissapointed if the libdem share is less than 25%, very happy if its near 30%. The same in reverse for labours share of course.

  • Paul Barker

    Wow – you think 30% is achievable. That is some optimism! In this case Labour will be 3rd behind you and the Tories

    The crude vote share is not a measure that can be used as it takes into no account the nature of the seats contested – the margin of error if extrapolated due to national VI will be huge – even if the number of seats contested is 10s or 100s.

    So to get this right you believe that the % votes in May may be something like Tories 35%, LD 28%, Labour 27%, Other 10%

  • paul barker 18th Mar '12 - 3:42pm

    Baz, this is turning into a dialog which is not what comments are for. As it happens I have adjusted my latest figures to take account of the variation in the seats contested, the effect is to raise the labour vote since they contest the least seats. For the the last 3 months to 15 march-
    con 29%
    lab 26%
    libdem 27%
    The difference between the parties vote shares seems to be down to numbers of seats fought. Of course the budget may change things.

  • Tony Greaves 18th Mar '12 - 4:10pm

    Well just wait for the Council elections this year and work it out from them. A few wards in a few places will recover from last year because they will be fought hard (when they had been safe for some years so were not fought hard last year). And there are a few places that are beating the trend. As for the rest…

    Hywel is right. But the most important posting here is from Katie O’Keefe.

    And Bill le Breton puts his finger on the main problem. The last GE camapign ws run centrally (and dictatorially for many key seats) by advertising/PR people who have not much clue about politics and certainly no clue at all about Liberal party politics. It was a dreadful campaign. But no-one is allowed to discuss this in the party – because the same people, their friends and successors, are still/now in charge of strategy and what they laughingly call campaigning.

    Tony Greaves

  • Why couldn’t we capitalise on the Iraq war effect two General Elections ago? We couldn’t we capitalise on the “I agree with Nick” effect in 2010? Because we have a very, very poor central approach to campaigning. Sadly, this central approach is being forced upon my local party and will cost us seats and several percent in May.

    When we went into government a very prominent person spoke at a meeting I attended in June 2010. “Those of you complaining of being out of the loop need to realise that there isn’t yet a loop.” I haven’t noticed one yet.

  • mark fairclough 18th Mar '12 - 4:52pm

    i think we should have realised that the Tories were going to win more than the previous 3 elections & we were going to lose some seats to them , i think we should have really pushed in the Labour seats we should have won , i really believe the party would have had at least 75 MPS then .

  • There are all-out council elections on the same day on 2015 in much of England. In simple practical terms, it is going to be near impossible to get local activists to follow a multiple by-election strategy when their local council seats are on the line on the same day!

  • There are two distinct but related issues in this post. (1) Why did we do so badly in 2010? (2) What is going to happen at the next election?

    I think the answer to the first boils down to the sidelining of Chris Rennard in favour of admen. The seat where I spent most of my own time working had a good campaign and the result was a gain from the Conservatives. Chris Rennard was clearly involved in it, as I bumped into him several times, and it showed. Throughout the campaign period I kept hearing gloomy predictions about Richmond Park, so one afternoon I went along on my way home from work. The message I picked up from the people there was that Susan Kramer was going to lose, and they were pretty much resigned to it. At least, I didn’t get the feeling that they were scrapping for every last vote. A negative campaign against Zac Goldsmith was desperately required, and might have worked wonders, but none eventuated. As a party, we are sometimes far too polite for our own good.

    In all honesty, I cannot see any way in which the party can escape Armageddon whenever the next general election takes place. Those who like what the government has done will vote Tory, those who don’t will vote Labour. The Liberal Democrats will inevitably be punished for propping up a Tory government and flagrantly ratting on a whole catalogue of principles and election promises. Alternatively, we can leave the coalition now and force an election before the new boundaries come into force. But we will still have to tell the electorate why we went into the coalition in the first place, why we supported a deficit reduction strategy that Nick Clegg had said was “completely irrational” and has caused mass unemployment, why we allowed the Tories to wreck the NHS when we had the power to stop them, etc, etc. It simply can’t be done.

    Changing the leadership won’t solve the problem, because all other senior Liberal Democrats are as up to their necks in it as Nick Clegg. And I can tell you that if we stand on doorsteps with straight faces telling people that we have implemented 75% of our manifesto (as Scott Hill asks us to do), we will get the same response as David Icke got on the Terry Wogan show.

    It doesn’t give me any pleasure to say it, but I have this horrible feeling that nemesis awaits us.

  • Although I don’t have a better indicator, I’m not sure that local elections will accurately point to the GE in 2015. The last major round was a chance to give a bloody nose for the broken promises (and the perceived ones) at the start of the coalition. Whilst the NHS Bill may play a part, I think the generally excellent record of Lib Dems in local authorities will overcome the national issues this time around.

    In 2015 the other two major parties will roll out so many re-runs of the broken promises video and pictures of MP’s with the pledge that it will again play a major part. Don’t expect the Tories to play fair, IMHO their conduct in the AV vote proves their true intentions. Defending the eventual policy will not help, the message will be about the inability to trust.

    Other issues will haunt, such as incapacity assessments. This week it transpired that 37% (if memory serves) of new assessments led to the removal of, or reduction in payments. This is still felt by many to be a deeply flawed system and the family and friends of those affected will want to protest, and it may be with their vote. Today’s news that there will be Doctors standing against coalition MP’s in key seats will not help, let’s remember Dr Richard Taylor. Interestingly it is the Lib Dems they seem to be singling out. Also today several papers were leading on the regional pay debate. Whatever the rights of wrongs a great deal of people will have de facto pay cuts and will want someone to blame.

    On the plus side the more there are public disagreements about policy showing the improving (or at least moderating) value of the Lib Dems, the more people can distinguish between the coalition parties.

    Some issues cannot be avoided by governing parties, others have been spectacular own goals. There are however positives, and let’s not forget that Labour chose the wrong brother and his ‘leadership’ will lose Labour votes….

  • paul barker 18th Mar '12 - 6:36pm

    A lot of libdems posting on here need to read some labour blogs. I reccomend the piece on kenlivingstone on labour uncut or “calling all lefties” on labour list, the comments especially.
    Read the way labour posters hate each other, get a sense of how low their morale is & remember that labour is our main rival. We need to cheer up & have some more confidence in ourselves & each other.

  • paul barker

    Are you sure Labour is your main rival? The LD main success seems to be in the South where you have been consistently taking seats of the Tories. In the Labour fights you are doing much less well.

    If you look at LD seats which are targets – the Tories have twice as many as Labour in their top 50 targets. The LD targets are split fairly evenly

    From the policies supported by the LD in Coalition I would have thought you were trying to pull the centre-right away from the Tories (perhaps with some of this much-despised Blairites from Labour).

    You could try targeting those voters the polls say you are losing but for that there would need to be fairly something dramatic happening. in the Coalition.

    Of course, you will dismiss my arguments as you believe that the LD are currently pushing Labour into 3rd place at the national level

  • Tony Greaves – absolutely agree. Richard Dean – unfortunately your suggestion for campaigns mirrors quite closely current recommended practice. The results were not good. Our 2010 literature either mirrored Nick Clegg’s inadequate defence of Lib Dem principles under attack (eg on crime, immigration etc), or tried to ignore them, in the forlorn hope they would go away. Don’t know how many times I have to repeat this, but we will not have major success at national level until we take the tabloids head on on their obnoxious right wing ideas. Or we abandon our liberalism.

  • “I will be very dissapointed if the libdem share is less than 25%, very happy if its near 30%. ”

    When it comes to national equivalent vote share, in local elections we have polled over 25% just three times since 1997. We have never got close to polling 30% . Actual vote shares (ie votes cast) are usually slightly lower.

    I think your being wildly optimistic

  • I have just seen Stephen Tall’s latest tweet.

    A rather unnecessary comment about the doctors who are planning to run against Coalition partners in 2015 election (not that I think it will happen anyway).

    Firstly, they have every right to do so as we live in a democracy, Secondly, I am sure he did not complain when Richard Taylor did the same thing in Kidderminster where he ran, won and made a very good constituency MP by all accounts – but then again that was the evil Labour Party.

    What I find weirdest though was that he mentioned the doctors splitting the anti-Coalition vote? I do not remember the Coalition ever putting itself forward for election?

    Stephen do you now consider yourself a full-time member of a Tory/LD coalition that will actually stand as one in the next election or have an electoral pact to stand aside in certain seats?

    Is there ay talk of this in leadership circles – you have your ear close to the LD ground – or is this just a personal wish. Perhaps Coalition Voice should be the new name of the site?

  • John Carlisle 19th Mar '12 - 8:15am

    The LibDems will not recover from what will be a disastrous NHS reform implementation where all the flaws and lies will be starkly revealed – just as the Railtrack fiasco revealed the utter stupidity of rail privatisation. Unless the LibDems, root and branch, oppose the Bill, we will never recover, as the true scale of the disaster will emerge just prior to the next election, just as it did with Railtrack, which suffered three fatal crashes by 2000 – the first occurring within four years of the bill being enacted. But the cracks had shown up much earlier and the fines were coming thick and fast as the service declined.
    We must be seen to stop the bill. It is bad and it is wrong and it will deliver everything that we stand against. If we don’t, not only will we be trashed but Nick could lose his seat, as Sheffield is rapidly becoming a centre of revolt against the proposed NHS. My entire family once voted LibDem. Now I am the only one.
    So, forget all your projections and strategies. They will count for nothing against an enraged public.

  • I think Bill Le Breton, Tony Greaves, Tim 13 and Tony Dawson have done the best they can within the confines of this conversation to draw attention to a very serious problem.
    From the article it follows that the “senior source ” quoted as saying “the press team delivered a win in the air war” in 2010 will still be around next time to beguile this unhappy bunch. They will doubtless be in thrall to the same team of public affairs strategists, only next time LibDem members must try and understand that they need people in the communications team with the talent to make sure the party doesn’t get trashed by the tabloids….not people who are grandstanding on their shoulders.

  • Hywel, yes, crossed wires there. I was taliking about local shares, you would have to take off 4% to get national equivalents. But, compared to most libdems I am absurdly optimistic. Its a question of context, I think in decades.

  • Nick (not Clegg) 19th Mar '12 - 1:38pm

    “A rather unnecessary comment about the doctors who are planning to run against Coalition partners in 2015 election (not that I think it will happen anyway).
    Firstly, they have every right to do so as we live in a democracy, ”

    I very much hope that one of them will stand in my constituency. If they do, I will certainly vote for them ( I may even volunteer to assist their campaign). I see this as the only hope for ousting my current MP: a Tory Cabinet Minister.

  • @Simon Banks
    I think you misunderstand me, I have no preference for David Milliband (or any Labour hopeful) the reason I think they chose the wrong brother is that DM would appeal to the electorate more… Personally they will have to do a lot more than change brothers to get any chance of a hearing on my doorstep, let alone a chance at my vote..

  • Steve Griffiths 20th Mar '12 - 1:12pm

    Tony, you are absolutely correct, but there does not appear to be any other senior Lib Dem with the guts to come out and say so.

    The most chilling, but as you say, most important posting was that from Katie. I have been a Liberal Party door step campaigner/Focus deliver/councillor/election agent since the 60s, but I find myself sadly agreeing with her. Yes, the local elections are on their way, but by then it may be too late (if it isn’t already).

  • I think that as regards 2010 we are beating ourselves up over local campaigning techniques locally while ignoring two salient facts:
    1) The Conservatives ploughed large amounts of Lord Ashcroft’s money into stopping us in the targeted seats. Surprise, surprise, it worked.
    2) From the moment Clegg looked like a winner, the Tory press was down on us like a ton of bricks (and hasn’t stopped its campaign of vilification and media based bullying since). Many of the target voters will have been just the Mail, Times and Telegraph readers who might have given us a chance, but absorbed the propaganda that was being doled out and so wavered at the last minute.

    Unless we can find some better antidotes to the massive amounts of negative misinformation being put out on a daily basis by the Tory press and then hammered home courtesy of Lord Ashcroft’s money at a local level, we do not stand a chance against the Tories.

    Meanwhile, as for finding a message encapsulating just what we are “for”, rather than just a collection of policies, what about Labour? I mean, they don’t even have any policies to speak of.

    As for Katie, it makes me very sorry, but I think the reason why she is angry is for the same reason so many other people are angry. They just hate being forced to accept the reality that the money isn’t there any more to do a lot of the things we hoped to do in the past. They simply won’t accept it. Katie, I suspect, would have felt exactly the same if we had gone into power with Labour and we had helped enact Alistair Darling’s cuts rather than George Osborne’s.

    Unfortunately, we are not at the stage yet where there is at least the consolation of a growing economy, which would have held out the distant prospect of an end to austerity. I’m not sure why the Tories think that they should be allowed to walk off with the prize when it does start recovering. We need to be making sure they don’t.

    Don’t forget that we are still short of two years into a possible five year government. There is a vast amount that can happen in the mean time.

  • http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/datablog/interactive/2012/jan/11/boundary-changes-uk-constituency-map

    The above map may be helpful.

    It shows a post boundary commission seat allocations based on the 2010 election. Post changes, there will be about 17 less Liberal Democrats seats. Approximately 23 of the seats are Conservative / Liberal Democrat fights, with about 5 very close (hundreds). Labour are very low or virtually non existent in these areas. There are about x5 very safe looking seats for the LDs. There are about 8 seats where LDs are vulnerable to Labour (overall figures approximate).

    So the Liberal Democrats could retain about 23 -27 seats if the local parties can convince the Labour and social liberal to vote for them.

    Whether this part of the electorate will consider it makes much of a difference to turn out and vote to put in a Liberal Democrat MP is the key question. A strong antipathy towards the Conservatives may help. The difficulty is that the Liberal Democrat main position is supporting mass free market liberalisations and austerity. The electorate may feel that there is little change / or only relatively minor changes to a major Conservative radical free market strategy then it may be difficult to persuade enough people to turn out. Individual MPs voting records may come into this.

    The Conservative strategy is brilliant and brutally effective . The Liberal Democrat are unlikely to face oblivion though, and will likely hold out in about 20 to 27 seats. Given good constituency work, a few more MPs may hold on.

    Of course the elephants in the room are the individual registration of electors and Scottish independence. This will knock out a significant number of Labour and Liberal votes and have an ongoing reducing effect on the Labour and Liberal vote as these constituencies are changed and reduced as a result of fewer registered voters on the electoral register. Scottish Independence could remove a large number of Labour and Liberal Democrat MPS. If both of these things goes through the Conservatives will be able to rule virtually unchallenged for the next generation.


    It won’t really make much difference to Labour or Liberal Democrats think about anything in the above case as the Conservatives will dominate for a long time. In my opinion, I would worry about democracy, and the brutal and inequitable state that this country may become under complete Conservative rule.

  • Following on, my request is that if the Liberal Democrats do nothing else, oppose individual registration as it will usher in Conservative rule for a generation. Don’t let that be the Liberal Democrats legacy for their role in government.

    (The Scottish electorate will make their own opinion on independence and that choice is for them to consider. Asking them to stay in the Union, to save England from total Conservative rule is not something I can legitimately request).

  • Scrap postal voting on demand.

  • http://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0007/145366/Great-Britains-electoral-registers-2011.pdf

    ( http://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/voter-registration/individual-electoral-registration#Briefings )

    The role of the Electoral Commission to make a recommendation on the accuracy rate of the register is being proposed to being removed at the same time as rushing full speed ahead to implement the change to individual registration before 2015(1.31).

    Alarm bells should be ringing at the above proposed change.

    The electoral register could easily fall from the current 82% to much lower without first ensuring a complete and accurate register or addressing that challenges of low registration are addressed.

    It is clear that the change in the system could knock out a significant higher amount of Labour and Liberal Democrat voters.

    The Electoral commission identified that those in younger age groups (18 to 25 and even up to 34 years old) are less likely to be registered (6.9). It was also identified that there was a low registration of those privately renting (Table A3, Pg 65) with very low registration for those recently moved (Fig 6, 3.17). 45% of those unregistered felt that they were registered. It is estimated that 6 million eligibile voters are not registered to vote (Key findings, Pg 5).

    The new boundaries are to be equalised by the Boundary Commission. Significant problems with the change of individual registration could lead to new constituency sizes that do not accurately reflect the amount of actual voters.

    The role of the Electoral Commission should remain to insure that the independence of the process and that no political grouping gain an advantage. Political engagement with the accuracy and completeness of the register should not be left in the hands of politicians, who have an interest in who is likely to vote.

    What safeguards are in place that Individual registration (a generally good idea) is not being subverted to help Conservatives reframe the political landscape for their own benefit ? This is why, I am raising the serious concern about the rushed change to individual registration.

    How will less educated, more mobile, younger and private sector tenants (and with English as a second language) be kept on the registrar ? Local authorities may not have the funds or the political will to ensure a complete and up to date register.

    A well intentioned move to reduce electoral fraud is at risk of being hijacked for political advantage.

    A general public information campaign is very unlikely to prove sufficient to avoid large scale disenfranchisement.

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