Let’s get some national campaigns going on issues the voters care about

Our Party is all about campaigning. It is what saved the old Liberal Party from extinction and what sustains us in difficult times. I know local parties up and down the country are running campaigns on many different issues, but we lack some important national ones.
What about Europe I hear you say, or the Human Rights Act?

Well, yes, the EU and human rights are important issues and we do have to campaign for them, but they are not high on people’s list of concerns.

Apart from Europe, we have individual initiatives launched by the leader or an MP, which is great. I am thinking in particular of Tim Farron’s prioritising of housing, and Norman Lamb on social care. However we need that little bit extra, something that really captures attention. What I am thinking of are issues where we can get out amongst the voters with a petition and potentially get lots of signature on equally important areas of policy that emphasise our social liberalism.

How about the Tories’ decisions to postpone the introduction of the care cap, the cancellation of free school meals and the planned cuts to tax credits for working families

In my area, like most of the country, there are large numbers likely to be adversely affected by these changes. Our party quite rightly got plenty of coverage in the media when our peers opposed the Tory proposals to cut tax credits. I would have like to have seen us go out on the back of this and launch a national petition. That would have kept the issue in the minds of voters and demonstrated that it was us not Labour who are standing up for the people who need our support the most.

The free school meals issue presents us with another excellent opportunity. A visible coordinated public campaign on that could get nationwide coverage and helps us connect with the families affected by this cruel cut. How about it?

* David is a member of Horsham and Crawley Liberal Democrats

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18 Comments

  • tony dawson 18th Nov '15 - 3:10pm

    Dangerous man talking sense.

    I presume he will be ‘disappeared’ in the middle of the night? 🙂

  • Hi David, I completely agree that we need a national campaign to help us set the agenda and focus people’s attention but in the light of recent events the issue of free school meals, while important, comes across as a bit ‘small fry’.

    The Tory plans to cut Tax Credits and to role back the welfare state can be used to cast them as Victorianistic and out of touch for modern Britian; something we can use to promote Liberalism as what the country needs for the 21st century

  • Great.

    It sounds exactly how we leveraged popular and liberal positions and campaigned on them before 2010.
    The trouble is it sounds like that to the average voter too. We *need* to come up with a way of presenting popular campaigns where people don’t just role their eyes and say “You said that about tuition fees. Why should we trust you on Free School Meals?”

    Now, one way to do this is to tie it to achievements in government. Given that we ensured primary school children got free school meals for their first 3 years, we have a legitimate stake to credibility here. But the trouble is, people don’t remember that. They don’t remember much about our time in government. And unfortunately, we can’t rely on the media to report what we did.

    So we have to do more work here ourselves. And saying that the last government was brilliant just further diminishes our credibility with voters. We have to accept that the last government was not brilliant. And we played a role in it. Sure we made it better (if I didn’t think that I would not still be here), but we can’t claim all was rosy. We have to accept this.

    For me, it’s a 3-step process to be listened to again.
    1) Accept that we got some things wrong in government. Publicly.
    2) Pick a few issues that matter to people, where we can say we got things right in government.
    3) Campaign on them really hard.

  • I guess what I’m driving at is that campaigns like these, on issues that we and the voters care about, will not do much good until we earn the right to be listened to again.

    And that won’t happen by simply continuing to point at good things we achieved in government . And we can’t rely on the media, with their vested interests in people not voting Lib Dem, to rehabilitate us.

    We need to accept mistakes and offer a mea culpa.

  • Laura Gordon 18th Nov '15 - 3:35pm

    Jane Brophy and the Oldham West and Royton team are doing this with a petition on the tax credit changes. Why not start by going and helping her there 🙂

  • Adam Corlett 18th Nov '15 - 3:46pm

    Free school meals aren’t going to be cancelled, last I heard – http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-34381420

    That may change in the Spending Review next week. If so, it would make a good campaign. If not, the squeeze on other parts of the education budget will just be even larger.

    I’m sure the Spending Review will provide lots of opportunities for opposition…

  • William is absolutely right. However I don’t think this will happen. Well not until more losses are suffered, as they will be. No-one can be rehabilitated without repentance.

  • Simon McGrath 18th Nov '15 - 7:09pm

    Yes, exactly

  • Eddie Sammon 18th Nov '15 - 7:26pm

    I agree. Focus on the issues that voters care about. I have my own weaknesses, but one of the weaknesses that Tim has is when there is a big topic in the news and he isn’t sure what to make of it, he just goes silent. Xinping’s visit to Britain, airstrikes on Syria, he takes ages to make up his mind, which is fine, but he should at least say some murmurings about it, otherwise it looks like he isn’t really interested, when he is!

    A lot of the public will be unsure on these issues too, better to say that than to just be silent and then to pop up with something about housing and refugees.

  • Tony Greaves 18th Nov '15 - 8:19pm

    The problem is deeper than just deciding on a few things to campaign about, though that would help. The fundamental problem is that there is no culture of campaigning throughout the party. The people who do campaign locally do so because (1) they never stopped from the old days, or (2) they are natural instinctive campaigners, or (3) they are lucky enough to know other campaigners who encourage them.

    But the people who run the party at national level and often those who do so at regional level are not campaigners. At national level they haven’t a clue what you mean when you talk about campaigning and think you mean fighting elections (which of course is vital, and linked, but not the same thing). And they do little or nothing to help campaigners and often hinder.

    We now have a Leader who is a campaigner but I don’t know whether he realises just how much work he has to do to sort things out in this area.

    Tony Greaves

  • Thanks Phyllis. I’ll keep banging on about this!

  • I do not understand this obsession with petitions. Can someone explain to me what benefit they are with evidence of successful petitions, where it was the pressure of petition that made the difference. Direct action, like a rally of one hundred thousand people is far more powerful than a million signatures on a petition.
    General elections are won and lost on one major issue only, the economy. NHS, education, immigration are important, of course, but the economy is the issue that swings it.
    We can position ourselves to be strong on the economy. We are the only party who is anti austerity and can claim , with some justification , fiscal responsibility. The last five years have not been completely wasted.
    We are blessed in this party with strength in depth of talented and competent, conscienscious, politicians. Our problem is that we are too nice. We should be ruthlessly about exploiting our assets.

  • David Warren 19th Nov '15 - 10:30am

    We have to link the national with the local.

    Building support street by street, ward by ward, constituency by constituency.

    We do that by campaigning on issues that resonate with voters and demonstrate we are the ‘peoples’ party.

    Thousands of new members have joined the party recently, are their skills being utilised.

    I think we know the answer to that question.

  • Isn’t the obvious thing to start with, following on from the success in the House of Lords, to campaign for votes in the EU referendum for 16 year olds and also (perhaps subsequently )votes for them at all elections?. We have a clear record on campaigning for this and need public support so that the Tories can’t just ignore their defeat in the Lords. We can use social media and also campaign for the right of organisers of petitions to be able to present them to parliament with a short speech. Maybe the Lords could be the first to take this up?
    I’d do this myself but can’t because I have ME so perhaps the 16 year olds in the party could take it up if they think it’s a good idea.

  • Richard Underhill 19th Nov '15 - 5:05pm

    Howard 19th Nov ’15 – 12:10am Tunbridge Wells had a petition about a derelict cinema site right opposite the Town Hall, an eyesore, rat-infested and on a valuable site within walking distance of a main railway station. We got an award for the campaign from the ALDC. After 14 years of neglect by a Tory-dominated borough council a demolition order was served on the owners, who did not appeal. 14,000 signatures on our petition may have had an effect, because the Tories briefly raised their own petition. Lots of people told us that nothing ever happens round here, but this did.

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