Mark Pack: My monthly report to members

A great result on candidate numbers

There’s been a big increase in the number of Liberal Democrat candidates for this May’s local elections. We’ve got up to 60% of seats having a Lib Dem candidate (up seven points on last time around). It’s our best showing for this part of the local elections cycle compared with Labour since 2011 and compared with the Conservatives since 2007.

That’s important for our credibility with voters. It means so many more people will see the Liberal Democrat name and logo on their ballot papers. It also matters for our credibility with the media, as the positive coverage in The Guardian demonstrates.

We still have some way to go to match Labour’s 77% or the Conservatives 93%. But it’s a big step forward and follows up progress earlier this Parliament. As well as being important progress in its own right, it’s just the sort of sustained, coordinated push that we need to build us up for a sustained, long-term challenge to the big parties.

Many thanks to everyone who helped achieve this progress – and very best of luck to everyone who is standing in a seat they hope to win this May.

For a fair deal

You may well have noticed how much more the party is talking about campaigning for a fair deal – such as on the backdrop at our York conference or in the March party political broadcast on TV in England.

It’s the positive part of our message that complements our call to ‘send them a message’, highlighting the failures of the Conservatives in Westminster and Labour in so many other elected bodies – not to mention the spectacularly imploding SNP in Scotland.

That fairness theme goes to the heart of what makes us Liberal Democrats. It’s no coincidence either that it’s worked so well for us previously, such as with Charles Kennedy.

There will be more on what the Liberal Democrat version of fairness means in the ‘pre-manifesto’ policy document coming out over the summer for our autumn conference.

When will the general election be?

All of which prompts the question – when will the next Westminster general election come? The short answer is no-one knows, not even the Prime Minister.

With the fixed-term Parliament Act repealed, the PM can wake up any day, decide to call the election and it happens. It’s one of our political decisions that is most concentrated in the hands of the Prime Minister and for which there are the fewest checks and balances to make them think again. They can choose to consult and listen, but they don’t have to. It’s all up to them.

Which is why it’s always a good idea to ignore stories that appear about clever insider information on when the date might be. In 2007 Labour even got as far as starting to print its election leaflets, which is just the sort of insider information that would sound rock solid. Yet Gordon Brown still decided not to call an election.

There is no special insider source when the Prime Minister can any day look at the polls, read the news headlines, consult their mystic seaweed or think about how lucky they feel and then decide what they want. (Which is also a bad way to run a democracy. But that’s why we need to get more Lib Dem MPs elected and more political reform enacted.)

The thing we do know is that campaigns can get caught out by not being prepared. Campaigns never suffer from having prepared too much.

So once the May elections are over and people have had a chance for a welcome refresh, we will have to work on the basis that the next general election could come well before the end of the nominal five year term – especially as the Conservative Party’s campaigners are already doing the same, already kicking off big rounds of posted mailings in our target seats.

Revamped policy section on website

I’ve previously highlighted the popular addition of our national press releases to the party website. Now another popular request has also been met: for an expanded policy section. It covers both how to get involved in our policy-making – a crucial part of our internal democracy – and what our latest policies are.

Finding out more

If your local party would  like to discuss any of the issues I cover in these reports, such as our strategy ahead of the general election, then please do drop an email to [email protected] and I’m happy to fix a Zoom call or in-person meeting.

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

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • Graham Jeffs 27th Apr '23 - 2:00pm

    Mark, it’s great news that we are putting up additional candidates.

    Presumably the aim is two-fold – to improve the quality of local representation and to also build or under-pin our own local organisation. A spin-off should be a gradual improvement to our poll ratings too.

    I am baffled that where I live, although there is a full slate of candidates in my ward, a decision has been made in the adjoining constituency that no campaigning shall take place here.

    A pretty full-proof way of ensuring:

    a) Minimisation of the LD vote
    b) Destruction of local organisation ( in desperate need of ‘exercise’) and local motivation.
    c) That the Greens trample all over us in future elections at CC and GE level.

    Elections are an opportunity to try and build a better organisation and make contact with people who may help us in the future. And we would at least be seen to be alive. We need to FIGHT on a broad front not just flatter the total number for candidates. Leaflets costs not a problem!

    I have sent in my postal ballot. I voted for one of the three LD candidates – the only one I actually know. If the party cannot be bothered to tell people who their candidates are and what their policies are, then what do they expect?

    I recollect voting in a debate in which John Pardoe was advocating a broad front strategy for GEs. I don’t think he was advocating then doing nothing!

    Good luck to everyone who is actually campaigning.

  • Steve Trevethan 27th Apr '23 - 5:44pm

    Thank you for your work.
    Do we have any deep headline headline policies which catch the ear, the eye, the heart and the brain, such as might prevent child hunger and the need for public service strikes?

  • Gordon Lishman 28th Apr '23 - 7:42am

    The debate to which Graham refers was in 1970. John’s amendment was passed and so was one on community politics which I wrote. The combination led to a massive bottom-up movement which re-vitalised the Party and led directly on to later success – including in areas where we started from a very low base. That includes Burnley where I live where we controlled the Council and elected an MP. Narrow focus based primarily on former GE figures characterised the alternative strategy which didn’t work.
    That’s the case for a coherent, overall strategy for a national party – investing in success and also re-building a national Movement with a strong base of shared Liberalism.

  • Isn’t it better in to put up just 1 candidate in harder to win seats so people who are splitting their vote and giving 1 vote to you vote for that candidate?

  • I’m afraid I’m old fashioned enough to believe that if you submit yourself to the electorate as a candidate ….. especially on behalf of a party boasting ‘working all year round’, there is an obligation to campaign and to put some work in. Anything else is misleading and breaking trust with the electorate.

    Furthermore, paper candidates getting a demonstrably minimal vote weakens rather than strengthens the brand. Ask any Spurs fan when they lost 6 – 1 to Newcastle.

  • Laurence Cox 28th Apr '23 - 1:25pm

    Compared with the number of people who will vote for all the candidates of one party, the number of people who split their votes or use less than their full quota of votes is small. So by only putting up one candidate in a multi-member ward you lose not gain. One of our candidates in last year’s election insisted on standing alone (we only had enough candidates to fill just over half the Council seats so we didn’t stop him) and the result was the the second place which he had gained in the by-election the previous October was converted into a seventh place behind three Tories and three Labour.

  • I have mixed views on paper candidates.

    I get the logic, and there are very rational arguments for giving people the choice, but not wasting time or resources campaigning where we know we can’t win when there are nearby seats where gains can be made.

    And yet … people are entitled to feel aggrieved if they hear nothing from candidates, or worse, the candidate is visibly unsuited to the position.

    During the local elections our local paper lists the parties in order of how many candidates are standing, and while at an individual level getting 3% of a ward’s vote share is underwhelming, they all contribute towards the council-wide, or national vote share, which is more likely to be used against us.

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