Mark Pack: How we decide to ask people where to campaign

Why it matters

A stark fact from this May’s local elections: just 97 more people switching from our opponents to us would have given us outright control of three more local councils.
That is the brutal reality of first past the post elections. Votes in the key places count for much more than votes in safe seats and in lost causes.

It is why we want to get rid of first past the post. To do that, we first have to win under first past the post. That means concentrating our efforts where they can make the most difference to how many seats we win.

Asking people to help in the right places

Having people from other areas come to help them is a key part of any successful target seat campaign at a general election. It is also the best way to value and respect people’s time – by directing it to where it will have the most impact.

But asking people to go to the right places is not straightforward and it is something we did not get right in 2019. So here is how we are approaching the task this time around.

Running through all this is a simple dilemma. For five general elections in a row, the party has been too optimistic about how many seats it was sensible to target (and although there was rightly lots of wisdom after the event, much of the pressure internally from members during each of those campaigns was to be more optimistic, not less).

Yet the Conservatives, our main opponents in our target seats, are currently polling at a level which, if reflected on polling day, will see them get their worst result since the roll out of letterboxes.

To guide the campaign through this, a wide range of sources of information therefore is being used: what the results on the new boundaries would have been in 2019, local election and devolved bodies election results since then, all the public MRPs published (more than 10 already!) with their seat-by-seat figures, our own private polling and of course the data coming in from our canvassers on the doors and phones.

As well as using all those sources of information to get a balanced overall view of our best prospects, we then have to divide up possible help sensibly. Each target seat is allocated a number of other constituencies where members and supporters are asked to help them.

Because we have to balance the amount of help to each place accordingly – and because of course transport options and travel times vary depending on where in a constituency you live or work – this sometimes means that the seat people are being asked to help is not the nearest or quickest to get to.

If there is another seat you would like to head to because it is easier to get to, because a group of friends are also campaigning there or to return some favours for previous help in a local election, by all means drop an email to [email protected] and the team can confirm if it is indeed a seat we are in with a serious chance of winning and encouraging people to go to.

If you cannot make it in person, help on the phones is also very valuable. You can sign up for our group phoning sessions here or again email [email protected] to be put in touch with the local team in a target seat who can give you details of who to phone.

Building our capacity

Outside those target seats the election is providing an important opportunity to build up our campaign capacity so that we can win locally in future elections.

It is great to see such a wide range of local parties topping our weekly league tables for the most new members recruited, for example.

Of course, one great way to get new people involved is to make them part of a winning campaign – and learning from seeing a full-on campaign up close – by taking them to help in a target seat…

But wherever you are campaigning over the next few weeks, and whether your support is coming in person, over the phone or financially, many thanks to everyone for all the campaigning.

Federal Board

Since my last report we’ve had both the scheduled May Federal Board meeting and then also an extra one to agree some urgent matters following the calling of the general election.
The upshot of these meetings is that we’re back to a plan for a full-length conference in Brighton this September.

A special general election protocol has been agreed for our independent complaints process, in particular so that relevant cases can be prioritised or postponed until after polling day.

Prue Bray has been appointed chair of the Disciplinary Sub-Group (DSG), while Greg Foster and Beth Fisher have been respectively re-appointed and appointed to the DSG.

Many thanks to the outgoing DSG chair, Candy Piercy, for all her hard work in the post, and playing an essential role in getting our independent complaints process up and running.

There is currently one vacancy each on the DSG and in the federal appointees to the Federal Appeals Panel (FAP), which the Board will look to start filling after the general election.

We welcome the review of our last internal elections, carried out by Nick Manners, and agreed next steps, including putting proposals for relevant rules changes to the Spring 2025 conference.

Our 2025 Federal Budget timetable was postponed for the moment at our Board meeting before the election was called, and we will need to return to this after the election to work out a new practical timetable.

Do you have questions on any of this report, or other Lib Dem matters? Then please drop me a line on [email protected]. Do also get in touch if you would like to invite me to do a Zoom call with your local party or party body.

* Mark Pack is Party President and is the editor of Liberal Democrat Newswire.

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • Do we have short biographies of the candidates? I can’t see them on the website.

  • Thanks for the explanation about seats. Appreciate you taking the trouble to do that – especially guessing how manically busy things must be at party HQ.

    Although I realise you’re trying to balance the needs of each seat, I wonder whether it would be possible in campaign emails to provide the details and volunteer links for a couple of different seats where help would be appreciated so people could choose the easiest to get to?

    Personally I’d like to help out a bit, but the only email I’ve received that gives any directions for volunteering unfortunately directs me to a seat that would take way too long for me to travel to. I know of other target seats that are more realistic for me to get to, but as far as I can tell, the emails I’ve received give no contact details for those.

  • The use and abuse of various MRP polls by our opponents is getting to pretty silly levels.
    I know we are historically users of bar charts on a big scale, self included, but stuff I’m seeing bears scant regard to reality on the ground often without quoting the source.
    I hope there is some form of check on all this after 4th July.
    We burnt our fingers badly with MRP in 2019, I think Labour could be repeating our experience this time round.

  • I echo Simon’s comment about target seats. in 2015 I lived 7 miles away from a held seat in Burnley, yet I was being asked to go 35 miles to Leeds NW. All the more odd as I did not have a car and could travel free to Burnley on the bus. In the event, we lost Burnley by a lot less than some other seats.

  • May I plead crumbling venerability, and look forwards as well as sideways, please?

    No-one doubts that despite the natural selfish resistance to it of Conservatives and Labour, PR must surely be with us before the next unavoidable General Election, mustn’t it? And surely things will then (if not before) change all the character of such elections?

    I don’t know much about how the initial PR is set up. But won’t there be something like ten sizeable ‘parties’ competing and collaborating to emerge as a flickering rainbow of , I imagine, something like ten or a dozen overlapping hues?

    If so, now that the very last FPTP is approaching its climactic demise, I suggest that it is not at all too soon to be turning to investigation and debate — and especially for the
    the LibDems and its friendly neighbours, certainly to do a grand job for the next three weeks — and then to turn its eyes to a PR no later than 5 years away. There are so many bright ideas flashing through the current darkness.

  • Alex Macfie 15th Jun '24 - 9:15am

    @Andy Hyde: Indeed I’ve noticed Labour candidates in no-hope seats for them (but winnable for us) using bar charts based on crude MRP-based constituency predictions. (I know Labour has detargeted most of them but there’s no accounting for candidatitis.) It’s worth noting that most MRP does not consider local factors, but instead uses formulae based on how different tribes of voters are shifting and applies them nationwide. The better ones take into account a seat’s voting history.
    Here in the golden triangle the local Labour line seems to be “It’s safe to vote for us because the Tories have no chance”. I really don’t recommend taking that risk.

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