Introducing Liberal Democrat Expand

A message for every voter. No-no go areas. Local parties that are ready for every eventuality. These are the ideas that need to inform a ‘650 Seat Strategy’ for the Liberal Democrats. This is what we at Liberal Democrat Expand will be fighting for.

Liberal Democrat Expand was launched at the beginning of June with the aim of bringing about a ‘650 Seat Strategy’ for the Liberal Democrats, inspired by Governor Howard Dean’s ’50 State Strategy’.

When we launched we were riding high on the Liberal Democrat successes of the local elections. In areas like Watford, Southport and Portsmouth we showed that we were one again a force to be reckoned with. We were fighting back. We also saw many parts of the country where that fightback just didn’t materialise. The recovery from 2015 wasn’t underway. There were no candidates and no campaigns.

The shocking distribution of votes in the European Union referendum compounds this view. Metropolitan areas like London, Cambridge and Manchester – as well as Scotland and Northern Ireland – overwhelmingly voted remain, while places like Boston, Thurrock and Great Yarmouth voted Leave. The referendum divided the country into the Cambridges vs the Peterboroughs, the St. Albans vs the Watfords. Such divisions are the antipathy of a ‘650 Seat Strategy’ with a message for every voter. As Britain enters this turbulent period, an organised and effective Liberal Democrat party is needed more than ever. 

Being a truly national party is not the same as having representation in national parliaments, although it is a part. It is about campaigning in every part of the country to elect Liberal Democrats, building our membership and getting our message for the country out.

We are now eschewing targeting, and we are not saying that we expect to elect 632 Liberal Democrat MPs in any upcoming election. What we are saying is that every local party should be ambitious for its own future, and for the future of the party as a whole. Whether that is snatching the Parliamentary seat, taking control of the council, or indeed, having a council group for the first time.

Liberal Democrat Expand will be working to advance the end goal of a 650 Seat Strategy within the party – namely, that every constituency should be ambitious for its future.

If you want to get involved you can join us as a member here.

Leave us a message, have a look at our blogs, and find us on Twitter and Facebook.

Liberal Democrat Expand is run by Kevin McNamara, Joshua Dixon, and Gareth Lewis Shelton.

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14 Comments

  • Eddie Sammon 30th Jun '16 - 5:24pm

    I think this is a brilliant idea. I called for something very similar a few months ago which I dubbed “Lib Dems First”, inspired by “America First” Democrats. We need an organisation where the aim is to win and to win sustainably. It can unite people of different ideologies who all have a strong desire for winning.

    I know in my anger and fear after the referendum result I supported blocking (or delaying) brexit, but the the 48% strategy risks creating more no-go areas.

  • Building up support in more seats is fine, but strict targeting is what will get us back to a respectable number of councillors and MPs. Any effort to build national support needs to consolidate that into being willing to campaign abroad from your own constituency.

  • Gary Fuller 30th Jun '16 - 6:03pm

    I think, as part of this excellent initiative, we need to accept that such campaigning will have to play to the strengths of the smaller teams that will drive recruitment in our forgotten areas. That will mean both allowing, and supporting, activist campaigning that is perhaps a bit “low tech”, with an aim to bringing on board campaigners who can help build more robust, and tech savvy, systems as they go.

    A good starting point could be more regular national/regional leaflets, which small local parties could use in order to help get into the habit of keeping in touch all year round. The templates are great, but generally rely on having the resources to print the leaflets, and/or the skills/time to produce the local stories. Something more generic could easily be sent as a regular care package to aspiring local parties.

  • Martin Land 30th Jun '16 - 6:16pm

    Strict targeting brought us eight seats at the GE. The SNP did a bit better with a different strategy…..

  • Chris Bertram 30th Jun '16 - 6:39pm

    650 seat strategy … So, Norn Iron too?

  • Kevin colwill 30th Jun '16 - 9:46pm

    As a lifelong Lib Dem voter I lost faith in the party that insisted, “It’s us OR the Tories” when it became us AND the Tories.
    That anger has long subsided and I’m back in the fold as a supporter/voter if not as a member.
    I’d hope any strategy moving forward isn’t based on trying to gain tactical votes to keep out either the Tory or a Labour candidate. Let’s set out a distict Liberal way forward that captures more than a protest vote.

  • The aim was similar but Dean had a 50 state strategy, not a 435 congressional division strategy. There is an important difference.

  • Is 650 seats the correct expanded target?

    Our Sister party ‘Alliance’ (The Alliance Party of Northern Ireland) usually contest the 18 Northern Ireland Westminster seats, that could leave a 632 seat strategy?

    However by convention the Speakers seat is traditionally not fought, which would leave a 631 seat strategy.

    This aside, I love the idea of Liberal Democrat Expand.

  • Peter Davies 1st Jul '16 - 8:19am

    If you want to fight across Great Britain, you cannot rely on local parties however well supported. We need a parallel network of campaigning teams based on non-geographical communities and specific issues. They would not be fighting elections but arguing for Liberal Democrat values on line and in the specialist press. Local teams should be as focused as ever on winning elections in target wards and constituencies but when they knock on doors, they might find people who already have a favourable attitude to us. It’s a bit like the split between sales and marketing (but only a bit).

  • Chris Bertram 1st Jul '16 - 9:05am

    @Michael Beckett – I was wondering what exactly our attitude to NI was, as I have friends within APNI who would probably be, if not actually disgruntled, then very far from gruntled, to find themselves pushed aside. I believe we allow individual membership in NI, which not all GB parties have always done (Labour certainly used not to). Would our intention be:

    a) To formalise the relationship with APNI, such that APNI MPs took the LD whip in the Commons, as SDLP members do the Labour whip? AIUI Naomi Long did not take our whip in the 2010-15 parliament.
    b) To informally support APNI candidates with no formal link?
    c) To stand candidates of our own?

    The Tories have stood their own candidates and got pretty much nowhere. NI politics remains defined by tribal alliances, though APNI does its level best to work against this. Is there any reason not to support APNI in their wholly admirable efforts?

  • Joshua Dixon 1st Jul '16 - 9:50am

    When we use the term 650 seats we mean a presence in every one. That does not mean we see a Parliament of 650 Lib Dem MPs, but we want to see a country where Lib Dem activity is present (be it through elected representatives, or through members going out there and spreading our message).

  • I wish you the best of luck.Some years ago the Kent County Council Group established a post,me, to invigorate,support and advise local parties which were deemed underperforming and in some cases derelict.I can assure you it is very soul destroying when some Constituences I phoned , emailed and visited could not be bothered to talk to me. There was money to provide an initial focus and support to work through a development programme ,all to no avail.
    What needed to happen was an obligation on those Constituences monitored by Region to either do something ot the Region sending in people to start again.This is imperative now as Membership grows in those Constituencies and there is noone there to promote the way forward. Good Luck

  • John Mitchell 2nd Jul '16 - 3:11pm

    I think this is a fantastic initiative and I hope that Liberal Democrat Expand can be a key component of the party’s fightback. It most certainly really needs to be.

    I joined the Liberal Democrats last December and unfortunately I live in a constituency where the LDCP is non-existent. There really is zero activity in the seat that I live in. The local party is missing. Not only that but in the last four elections the same Liberal Democrat candidate has been fielded and in 2015, and 2016 particularly, did not attend the count, respond to emails or seem to be bothered with the process at all.

    I want to see the Liberal Democrats having a presence in all 650 constituencies. That doesn’t mean equal targeting etc but at the very least each LDCP should have some presence or ability to get off the ground. Just to have some activity would be great. I live in a seat that is mainly a fight between the SNP and the Conservatives and there needs to be a Liberal Democrat voice that can not only hold these parties to account in my local area but also to challenge them.

    I find what Bob Sayer said particularly interesting in that some LDCP are not making any efforts despite his diligence and hard work trying to change this. This can and must change if we’re a serious national party and I want to believe that the Liberal Democrats are.

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