Lib Dems can be the most digitally innovative party

With an influx of 4,000 new members in less than a month, it is fair to say that the Liberal Democrats’ message on Europe has struck a chord with many people who feel disconcerted by the path to hard Brexit which Theresa May has set our country on. But what do those new activists know about our other policies?

Since starting my new role as Head of Digital Content at the Liberal Democrats, I have applied a few key principles to everything that we do. One of these is particularly pertinent to the area of policy: we must look outwards and talk to the wider public, not just to ourselves. To do that, it needs to be clear what we stand for. That is why in my second week we launched the new “Our Vision” section on the party website.

“Our Vision” features a brief overview of some of our key messages in 12 core areas. I hope this will become a useful resource for both party activists, when advocating what we stand for, and the wider public, when considering us as their party of choice. In the coming weeks we will be developing these sections with new videos and additional reading for those who want to see the detail.

Another of my key principles focuses on how we engage our growing audience. I don’t know about you but I like to have a look around a shop before I decide if I am going to buy something. What we do digitally, whether it be an article on the website or video content on social, is our shop window.

In the past two weeks we have already massively increased the amount of content we are putting out across our channels and this has already had a startling effect on our engagement levels. We are saying and doing more online than we have done for a long time – and that is just the start. The ways in which we put out our messages will change too. For example, we are now producing more unique video content, much of which has already proven to be our most engaging work.

While you can look to us for delivering on our growing digital aspirations, we too would like to look to you for renewed vigour in online activism in your area. In the coming weeks we will be unleashing a new digital programme to help you to unlock the potential in your area and empowering you to harness social media, websites and online newsletters to reach more people in your community than you have perhaps ever done before. Keep your eyes peeled for future updates on this.

The Liberal Democrats are only beginning to scratch the surface digitally. Together we have the potential to be the most innovative UK political party.

* Michael Wilkinson is Head of Digital Content at the Liberal Democrats.

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  • I had a quick look at the “our vision” section on the Lib Dem website and while it’s not a bad idea, it needs proof reading as there are a lot of errors.

  • “I don’t know about you but I like to have a look around a shop before I decide if I am going to buy something.”

    No! Just no. This is the Ryan Coezee nonsense about voters using their vote to “purchase” a set of policies. Politics doesn’t work like that. People don’t look in depth at things, weigh them up and make a rational decision. Look at the Scottish elections – the LIb Dem tax policy was hugely popular but the party totally crashed despite running what was described as one of the best campaigns people had ever been involved in.

    Stripped of the fancy speech, basically what your saying here is you’ve created some policy pages.

  • @Hywel
    ‘No! Just no.’

    Maybe you could offer up some alternative, positive way forward.

    Personally, I think it’s a good step forward. The LibDem website has been woeful. People want to know what you will do for them and being ‘positive, tolerant and open’ just doesn’t cut it. At his point action and energy are the order of the day if we are to seize the moment. So I say ‘great’, lets have more.

  • Paul Williams 10th Feb '17 - 11:10am


    Firstly, welcome on board. It is definitely time to refresh and reinvigorate our digital presence! I took over our district website a couple of months ago and have been busy in that period updating and streamlining it and making it “alive”. We will be concentrating on developing an integrated offering with Twitter and Facebook in the next period and I also have a desire to build greater collaboration and synergies with our district neighbours, regionally and nationally. Any lead that you can take to build a structure and framework of collaboration and alignment, and support the syndication of nation news items etc to local websites will be more than welcome. I am also most happy to provide support for your efforts, If needed. I wish you success.

  • 1) Stuff based around meaningful structured campaigns on key issues – that have some relevance over more of the medium term. Where for example is the stuff on the reversing of the Dubs amendment.

    2) Engage with people’s emotions.

    3) Tell stories.

    4) When talking about engagement look at how deep not a raw number. One problem with digital campaigning is that you can get reports and numbers for pretty much everything – but that doesn’t mean what you are measuring is what is important

    There is a huge and fundamental difference between promoting a newspaper and political campaigning and someone who is very good at the former may not get the latter.

  • Digital engagement is about engaging people. Stuff on the party website is fine, but of limited impact unless people can discuss it. Facebook posts have far more impact.

    The party website looks attractive, but is far harder to navigate than it should be. It’s not obvious where to find some pretty basic things like conference information. The SEARCH function is useless: I tested it with CONFERENCE and the items that came up bore no relation to the Liberal Democrats.

    Actually, I thought being digitally innovative meant putting fingers in unusual places.

  • Oh 5) If engagement is so important it might be worth looking at what happen when people contact the party. This is something they have been unbelievably awful at for 6 years – even emails about donations and data protection subject access information go unanswered.

  • Antony Watts 11th Feb '17 - 9:57am

    I welcome some rational statements about LibDemism.

    Now could we have a very, very clear phone book of who is how, what they do, where they are, who reports to who.

    I am a new LibDemer and I am totally confused about the party’s organisation.

  • Thanks Michael, this is definitely an area that needs attention, and I’m pleased to see you looking for ways to maximise engagement.

    I am one of those people who like to look around a shop first, and at first glance, the page about “Our Values” giving people the option to find out more, is an asset. Of course it’s not the be all and end all, but if you’ve gone to the effort of going to a party’s website, then you probably are wanting a bit more than slogans.

    I do agree with the need to appeal to people who wouldn’t get as far as the party’s website, and information and memes that are easy to share on social media and will be seen by a wider audience. Inevitably, some styles are better suited to motivating previous voters and party members, while others simply remind people that there’s more to British politics than the red and blue teams. They all have their place.

    I’ve been following the Make Votes Matter twitter and Facebook pages have been running a lot of good graphics lately, and that’s the sort of thing we can both learn from, and take advantage of.

    Tying in with suitable cross or non-party campaigns isn’t just an effective way to pursue particular policies, but it’s a way to maintain and increase the awareness of our party and our values to an audience that should be receptive.

  • It is not your fault but the sections I looked at were not radical or punchy. I can’t image me reading them when I was 18 and thinking yes this is the party I will vote for and maybe get involved with. The economy and business section was particularly disappointing. Firstly the economy should be separate from business. (Perhaps business can replace sport and culture which might be better in education.) You should remove reference to “living within our means” and “deficit reduction”. We need to make it clear that we want the economy to work for everyone. So everyone can participate and have meaningful lives that fulfil their potential and not for the benefit of the powerful (i.e. employers). We need to state we support the National Minimum Wage as a way to ensure we are not a low pay economy.

  • Richard Underhill 14th Feb '17 - 4:44pm

    Antony Watts: We actually are a democratic party, reporting to the membership, including you.

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