Mark Pack writes…The challenges ahead for the party

I am honoured and delighted to have been elected as President of the Liberal Democrats.

The news is overshadowed by the results of the general election where, in amongst the individual brilliant results, there were so many disappointments and tragedies. After such a promising start as our party leader only a few months ago, Jo’s own defeat is particularly saddening.

Our increased share of the vote, more second places and enlarged party membership, added to the fantastic growth in our local government base earlier in the year, does, however, provide us with the foundations to recover from. As does the welcome progress in making our Parliamentary Party more diverse.

It will be a big and challenging agenda for the party’s new leader, supported by us across the party and one I will now have the responsibility of helping shape and deliver as your President.

Thank you especially to everyone who helped get me elected, to my campaign manager and agent, Janet Grauberg and Pete Dollimore, and to the party staff for running the contest at such a busy time. Thank you also to Christine Jardine for a campaign carried out in such good humour.

I would like to pay tribute to Baroness Sal Brinton, our current President, to thank her for all her work in the role over the past five years and to wish her all the best in her new role as a Vice President of ALDE (the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats in Europe).

Thank you also to everyone who worked so hard in the general election. We will need to urgently learn the lessons of what went right and what went wrong, so that we can redouble our efforts in the new year to stand up for the liberalism, pro-Europeanism, internationalism and environmentalism that is so crucial to the future of our society and our country.

Let’s work together to make sure we succeed.


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

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  • The challenge for the party is to connect with as many voters as possible. The fallacy that we can target a core vote is just that a fallacy. People don’t fit into convenient groupings, which will all vote the same. They are complicated and one day they may be a social leaning liberal the next after a bad day at work a reactionary. Be seen to be connecting, be seen to be human and don’t appear as a bubble elite policy wonk for that as Mr Cummings will tell you is so, so easy to destroy.

    As to what went well very little, what went badly quite a lot. Invest in employing humans not bean counters would be my first suggestion.

  • Graham Jeffs 14th Dec '19 - 6:15pm

    Frankie – I suspect ‘bean counters’ would have been a welcome relief. But you are correct in stressing that we need the whole leadership of the party to be adept at connecting with people from all backgrounds. There is no point in shouting at them!

    The election was not just a failing of the leader, it was a damning indictment of the strategists. Utterly blinkered. Grossly incompetent.

    Mark – we really are looking to you to help introduce just some plain common-sense !!!

  • Nigel Sarbutts 14th Dec '19 - 6:31pm

    The first task of the new President is to explain how the Party reached its decision to call for a General Election and who in the Federal Party supported that decision and who opposed it.

  • Bernard Aris 14th Dec '19 - 6:39pm

    Congratulations from the Netherlands Mr. Pack!

    Here the Dutch news and the news/background programs are filled with exit coverage, including what EU citizensd in the UK and UK expats here will do nowe.

    Thanks to D66, the direct LibDem equivalent to the LibDems, we had a special Dutch law passed to soften the blow for them, and to do everithing The Hague can do to help them.

    I’ll be at Spring Conference, if they still allow a Dutchman =Continental EU citizen in…

    WITHOUT the visum Boris thinks obligatory.

  • Bernard Aris 14th Dec '19 - 6:40pm

    “exit coverage” should of course be “Brexit coverage”

  • Nigel Jones 14th Dec '19 - 6:50pm

    As we think about the future this Christmas here’s a touch of humour.
    Christmas is a time when kids tell Santa what they want and adults pay for it. An election is a time when adults tell government what they want and their kids pay for it.
    I can’t remember the source of this joke, but I’m sure you can think of at least two major issues from the general election on this.

  • @Nigel Jones

    Very good, I like that.

    Reading the third paragraph from the new president makes me feel that congratulations, well done and didn’t we do well! is the main message.

  • David Becket 14th Dec '19 - 7:07pm

    I am sorry Mark, I agree with Peter above. We are in a bad place and we need to get out of it, not boast about a few trinkets.
    Graham Jeffs and Neil Sarbutts hit the right note. The Campaign team has failed, again! Who is on the Campaign Committee? We do not appear to elect them, and they have had the same Chair for years. There is some bad advice going round the party elite, and it has been there since many of us wanted to curb Clegg. Time for a clear out, over to you.

  • Nonconformistradical 14th Dec '19 - 7:17pm

    “Who is on the Campaign Committee? We do not appear to elect them, and they have had the same Chair for years.”

    Presumably the Campaign Committee is chosen by the Federal Board? Among whose members resulting from the 2016 party elections (I presume the newly elected Federal Board does not take office until January 2020) is one Mark Pack……

  • Paul Murray 14th Dec '19 - 7:53pm

    Warmest congratulations, Mark. It is good that we have someone with your campaigning experience and grassroots awareness in the post of President. I look forward with hope and expectation to how you can use the post to reinvigorate the party after this frankly disastrous election campaign.

  • gavin grant 14th Dec '19 - 7:57pm

    Congratulations Mark. A new Leader, President and CEO – all give us the chance to learn and make the changes to our Party. Liberal values are desperately needed in response to Conservative nationalism and reactionary Socialism. Those values are shared by people in other Parties and none. We need to listen and respond positively to those in our communities who fear for their futures and champion the changes needed to safeguard all our futures on this planet. It’s a huge task. But a Liberal movement that listens and is listened to by HQ and its Leaders can meet the challenge. Time is short. The opportunity still exists. But major change is needed and very urgent.

  • Congratulations, Mark. I remember you from the early 1990s when you were a student activist. Those around me sneered. I thought you were talking sense. I happen to believe that the core vote strategy is the right way forward, subject to a few caveats. Voting patterns are now closely aligned to the North American paradigm. Last Thursday, people with liberal views tended to vote Labour or Lib Dem, those with authoritarian views overwhelmingly voted Tory, irrespective of their social-economic circumstances. In that respect, Brexit is very much a symptom rather than a cause. The big increases in our vote share in Surrey is no accident, I suggest. It mirrors the patterns that we see around the big cities in North America, particularly New York, Washington and San Francisco. Surrey is wealthy, but it is also increasingly liberal. County Durham is poor, but it is much more authoritarian than Surrey. The core vote strategy will never be enough. It has to be linked to other ways of building up our support again in small town Britain. Quite what we do about the print and broadcast media, other than collectively wishing a thousand plagues on them, I know not. Perhaps you will think of a way through that one, too. I would also warn against getting too deep into identity politics. The Labour Party tried that in the 1980s, and it proved disastrous. After the 1987 Greenwich by-election they scaled it back.

  • Tony Greaves 14th Dec '19 - 8:36pm

    Reading between the lines of this from Vince Cable may go some way to explain why we have done so badly in this election. May be time to go back to our roots and become a campaigning Liberal party once again.

  • Richard Underhill 14th Dec '19 - 9:04pm

    ” Mark Pack is a member of the Federal Board and editor of Liberal Democrat Newswire. He is NOT a candidate for Party President”
    He has been elected.

  • David Warren 14th Dec '19 - 9:14pm

    What @TonyGreaves said!

  • Richard Underhill 14th Dec '19 - 9:17pm

    I like what Laura said on Any Questions.

  • Whilst I see a number of people blaming or pointing fingers at the national party machine, we are a democratic party and those people don’t get there by accident. We are a party of volunteers and dependent on the time they can afford to give.

    Equally there are constituencies that bucked the national trend, Kingston and Surbiton, Richmond Park, Guildford and Surrey Heath.

    In one of those we had no outside help, no MP Lords or MEP visits and no outside money…that constituency was Surrey Heath (Michael Gove) where we achieved the best second place number of votes EVER including its predecessor constituency (2005 had a whisker higher percentage of the vote).

  • In which case William my local party should give up as there are few who match that definition locally. And yet they once ran the council and can still get councillors elected. Obviously they are doing something right and that something is something the national party seem incapable of doing. Ask those that can get candidates elected and not those who fail, with all their master plans and statistics which fail and fail again when they meet reality. By the way a profession existed in the middle ages practicising astrology ( and still do ) but they didn’t get much right and neither do those trying to pigeon hole people.

  • The party needs to take a step back and reflect before doing anything. 17.4 million people voted for Brexit, the party might not agree with them but walking about with t-shirts that said bollocks to something 17.4 million people voted for? C’mon. Time for grown up self reflection.

  • David Evershed 15th Dec '19 - 2:04am

    Our increased membership has drawn a large number of remain fanatics into the party who, with Getting Brexit Done, will now melt away.

    I see this as a good thing because we can once again focus on being a party of people who are both economic liberals and social liberals.

  • A party of just you then David, all the yellow book leaders have left for greener pastures. Tis sad for you but true.

  • James Murray 15th Dec '19 - 6:02am

    Tony Greaves,

    I feel you got it almost right but did not go far enough with your talk about going back to selling the quite marketable ideology Radical Liberalism.

    It is the only advantage the Liberal Democrats have.

    Liberalism is way more suited to the modern age than the last-century, tried and failed versions of Socialism – Communism, Maoism, Marxist-Leninism and now Corbynism – all top-down, Statist ideologies.

    They are all last-century as they could not focus on improving Capitalism and instead committed to destroy it. 

    If, just if, the Swinson replacement is a real Liberal and not an anaemic Social Democrat, he/she can SELL THE IDEOLOGY that is Liberalism. 

    That is what the youth of today are casting about for – a political ideology that they can understand, trust and believe in. 

    The next leader should grab the brand of Radical Liberalism, and show how it gives birth to the main policies of the Radical Centre to reform the banks, the tax system, the Monetary System to be able to encourage SME wealth-creators and use resources to sweep up the disillusioned left of centre activists who are wandering around dazed after the days of Crazy Corbynism.  

    The pure thinking of those like John Stuart Mill is that a Liberal society holds the individual as important, not the State.

    Only Liberalism allows, nay, ‘encourages’ people to be different.

    Don’t get me wrong, I do believe that many lefties begin with a selfless regard for the unfortunate, but then, as ‘the ends justify the means’ they seek the power of the State, by whatever means, to ‘make things better’.

    Hence they hold that the State should run everything and pour down from on high it’s always-right philanthropy.

    Jim Murray

  • Humphrey Hawksley 15th Dec '19 - 7:52am

    Many congrats, Mark and looking forward to your addressing the ‘vision’ thing. While good at grass roots organization, the Liberal Democrats are bereft of the big picture. Can you build on Jo Swinson’s ambition to win government by telling compelling stories on how the Liberal Democrats will guide reform to European institutions for the coming century; bring accountability to cabinet by being tough coalition partners; forge a bridge between evangelical Christians and the LGBT community; and so on? Tell us how to turn the current culture of preventative activism into persuasive leadership that will capture the public imagination.

  • Matt Wardman 15th Dec '19 - 7:59am

    Vince Cable’s comments in the Indy seem to me to be a list of commonplaces.

    As an occasional LD voter and a Leaver who was alienated, perhaps permanantly, by the decision by Tim Farron / Vince Cable – honestly not sure which one – to go exclusively remainer, I an not clear what the party intends to do about the half or more of the country which takes a different view.

    This Remainer seems to have baked into a dogma somewhere along the line, and Jo Swinson was deliberate in her language attacking ‘non-remainers’, to judge by the language in her leadership acceptance and conference speeches.

    I am based in Ashfield, so it has been an interesting campaign, especially the new MP being Crick-ed in the carpark at my local (anti-faceplant training required – not competent enough at playing the media game, would never have happened to an LD).

    A few years ago here, there were occasional LD Councillors everywhere here. Now afaik the only ones left standing within 10 miles are those who rebranded to Ashfield Independents (otherwise it is Clowne, Beeston, Newark, Tupton, and perhaps Ripley).

    From where I am, LDs by your stance seem to have ploughed salt into half of the country where you will be looking for fertile ground to rebuild the party.

    I share the bottom-up localist philosophy which underscores LD values. However I cannot work with a change from a flag which says “this is what we believe – work with is”, to a tall fence which says “if you are not a full-on Remainer, we think you are repugnant”.

    Are there plans to stop building walls around LD positions? How?

  • mattwardman2000 15th Dec '19 - 8:07am

    Sorry – a bit mangled. Should be:

    “As an occasional LD voter and a Leaver who was alienated, perhaps permanently, by the decision by Tim Farron / Vince Cable – honestly not sure which one – to go exclusively remainer, I an not clear what the party intends to do about the half or more of the country which takes a different view.

    The Remainer view seems to have been baked into a defining dogma somewhere along the line, and Jo Swinson was deliberate in her language attacking ‘non-remainers’, to judge by her leadership acceptance and conference speeches.”

  • Nonconformistradical 15th Dec '19 - 8:14am

    @Humphrey Hawksley
    Re your posting at 7:52 am

    I think you left out of your list the most important question – how can we make the economy work for the benefit of the many rather than the few?

    Because we have a situation where, while a relatively small number of people can make very good money, possibly doing something not very (if at all) useful to the rest of us, the many struggle to make enough to put food on the table and have a roof over their heads.

    If they have jobs at all they may well be enslaved to bad employers who make them work soul-destroying ridiculously long hours for the minimum wage or not much more (call centres, on-ine shopping warehouses, gig economy etc.) – and all too often those bad employers, being overseas organisations which have grown through consolidation rather than innovation and are taking the profits out of the country for the benefit of the few, rather than those profits being circulated throughout the UK economy.

    Rant over!

  • Peter Chapman 15th Dec '19 - 8:21am

    I have become more and more embarrassed to be part of a party which reflects a “metropolitan elite” and has little or nothing to say to working class people other than you are stupid or you don’t understand. There are now huge swathes of the country where we have no connection at all .And the core vote we are targeting will never be enough to be a significant national player (Look at the results in Wales not London!)

    Our policy on Trans gender rights seemed more important to our leadership than how we are going to right the wrongs of austerity and universal credit etc

    Its all very well spending (and wasting ) millions of pounds of donations on flooding certain seats with leaflets, if the messages on them were irrelevant or at least not compelling to millions of voters (we need to look at why we could not even win Hallam and fell back in so many northern seats we used to hold – look at Redcar!!!!!)

    Personally I doubt if anything will change.The campaign team that has run the last 3 elections will again blame everyone but themselves and we will continue to say well done to people who actually haven’t done that well.

    The anaylsis in the New Yorker absolutely summed it up fo me. “Tell half the electorate they are stupid and concentrate on “wonk” policies that portray us as detached from the priorities of the mass of voters is a sure plan for failure”

    Personally I think many of those people who really did understand the importance of grass roots organisation and candidates long before elections are long gone …driven out or left in frustration

  • Humphrey Hawksley 15th Dec '19 - 8:25am

    @ Nonconformistradical Yes. In that respect, the Liberal Democrats need to draw a convincing narrative as to how the United Kingdom’s political system never again produces the geographical and economic divide that has led to a critical mass who feel (or are) is impoverished and believes the system does not work for them.

  • Neil Sandison 15th Dec '19 - 8:30am

    You havent got it yet have you .The reason Boris won is that he led his party with a clear message and didnt keep harping on about the past . indeed he air brushed any connections with Cameron and May out of the controlled press interviews he was prepared to participate in . in contrast we kept responding to Labours mantra about the co-alition years which ended in 2015 !. And worst of all we reminded the public in the last week of the election where there we already serious doubts over the revoke conference decision .We shot ourselves in the foot and undermined our own credability as a democratic party.

  • John Marriott 15th Dec '19 - 8:41am

    Mr Pack believes, amongst many other worthy things, in always fielding a LD candidate to give voters a chance to vote Liberal Democrat. Please correct me if I am wrong; but I don’t. This could count as one of the reasons why I did not renew new subscription a couple of years ago (I prefer this phrase as I still have a soft stop for the Lib Dems just as I have for Leicester City and Leicester Tigers – I watched the former as a boy and, when rugby dragged me away, played for the latter as a young man). I think the reason I really do not agree with the idea of always trying to field a candidate can be summed up in a tale I told once before on LDV.

    A few years ago, during the run up to the previous European Elections, a vacancy came up in an extremely rural ward in the south of the area covered by our District Council. It was decided to field a candidate to help in the EU election campaign and our local Secretary, who lived in the north of the District, decided to have a go. Well, he managed to get the ten signatures to allow him to stand, presented his papers and that was it – no leaflet, no door knocking etc. He got NINE votes, not even the ten from local residents on his nomination papers.

    Does facing the kind of ritual humiliation really help any party’s image? Using kidology like this, which I know other parties do as well, which is usually accompanied with next to zero activity during the campaign, does not, when highlighted, do any party or its candidates any good at all. I know that some parties, usually Tory or Labour, might get and have got away with it and even got people elected; but I would reckon that most Lib Dem attempts would merely be cited as cynicism.

    I wish Mr Pack well. I do hope that Remain is now firmly placed on the back burner if not abandoned altogether (sorry ‘frankie’) and, like ‘David’, I do hope that future slogans will refrain from using macho course language. That stone is as big as ever, Mark, and that hill before you as steep as before.

  • Sopwith Morley 15th Dec '19 - 8:54am

    @ William Francis

    ” We need to connect to people with internationalist, progressive and liberal values.”

    Haven’t you just tried that and failed miserably?

    1 . Internationalist = Policy of ignoring the 2016 referendum in favour of Revoke, so you can stay in the political bed of your internationalist friends in the EU.

    2. Progressive = ‘political change’… Isn’t leaving the EU a progressive policy.

    3. liberal values = “Liberalism is a political and moral philosophy based on liberty, consent of the governed and equality before the law”…. I think you will have a major issue selling that, especially consent of the governed, after the behaviour of the party over the last 3 years.

    In a nutshell you consider future success is based on connecting with the people you are already connected with, and ignoring the reality that most people are soft nationalist, (you know proud of being English for example), most people do not want change for changes sake, or to fix everything that is not broken, and most people are social conservatives.

  • Kathy Erasmus 15th Dec '19 - 9:00am

    Delighted at your election Mark I know with you as president we will work together to overcome this disaster and build a brighter better Liberal future for our once Open Tolerant United Kingdom.

  • Yeovil Yokel 15th Dec '19 - 9:04am

    Neil Sandison – the reason Johnson WON was because an increase in the Conservative vote of just 1.2 % was converted by FPTP into an increase of 47 seats.

  • Yeovil Yokel 15th Dec '19 - 9:17am

    John Marriott – sorry to disappoint you, but whilst Remain will be on the back burner for a few months, Johnson’s struggle later next year to make Brexit a reality will make our relationship with the EU a dominant, unresolvable, unending hot issue once again. It’s all going to end in tears for most of us, but Johnson and his backers will be laughing all the way to the bank.

  • Could David or someone else going on about ‘hard Remainers’ tell me how anyone can be a soft Remainer? Any form of leave is leave.

    Or how being quiet on or sitting on the fence over Brexit would have won us votes? (Didn’t THAT work out well for Labour?!).

    Remain was our one USP in this election. Do you honestly think a nice policy on childcare would have won us dozens of seats?
    Or that the chunk of Leavers who switched from Labour to Tory would have turned to us if we’d turned our backs on the 16,141,241 who voted Remain in 2016?

  • Yeovil Yokel
    The reason Johnson won is because leaving the EU had more electoral traction than remaining in it. It’s an issue that lot of people think has been dragged out for three pointless years. For the young Remainers issues like student debt, housing, job security and living costs were more important than a nebulas concept of “Europe”. Yes a slight percentage rise gave The Conservatives a landslide and FPTP is a flawed system. The Lib Dems should have had more seats based on the vote. Also for all the criticism heaped on Corbyn he actually got a higher vote share than Miliband and Brown. Unfortunately FPTP is the system we’ve got and it is the reason why targeting seats is currently a better and more realistic option for the LDs than putting up candidates everywhere.

  • @Peter, do you really think there are no trans people outwith the “metropolitan elite”? You say that we patronise working class people, but you seem to be saying that working class people don’t care about minority rights. Is that really what you think?

    There is a case to be made that the votes of bigots have equal weight to the votes of minorities and those who care about minorities, and it’s an unfortunate reality that bigots are disproportionately represented in the media, and practically mandatory if you are to be a columnist, and these are things that need to be accepted when devising election strategies. However, it’s entirely wrong to suggest that you can’t care about the rights of minorities and want to address other wrongs at the same time. That’s the kind of argument that was being made a hundred years ago when women were fighting for the vote, a few years ago when we were implementing same sex marriage, and more recently when Jewish Labour supporters were being told to shut up. We shouldn’t wait until the economic situation of white straight people is perfect before we make the small, but significant social changes that have such a vast positive impact on minorities.

    The manifesto had pages and pages of really good and properly costed stuff that would bring biggest benefit to those least well off. We failed to get that message across, and we have to find ways to do better on that, whilst also acknowledging that we can’t force the media to report fairly on us.

    I also appreciate that the timing of this election didn’t help with getting messaging out. I came home from work on Friday evening to find a nice letter from party HQ outlining the election strategy, including a list of five bullet pointed priorities and a copy of the mini manifesto and a request for a donation. I’ve no idea when it was posted, or when HQ thought it would arrive, but it’s a great document and I wish it could have been more widely read. I’m not sure of the logistics, or costs, but I wish we could have had more of those to go through the doors of voters in the run up to the election instead of yet another round of bland leaflets.

    So that’s my tuppence – don’t expect our manifesto to be fairly communicated to voters by the media, so give them something proper to read with enough time to read it.

  • John Marriott 15th Dec '19 - 9:52am

    If you have read the many (probably too many) comments I have made on LDV over the past few years, you would realise that I am, and still am, a pragmatic Remainer. Of course, the chances are that, outside the EU, our GDP is likely to take a hit, possibly massive. I just feel that we need, in that awful phrase, to move on.

    Despite all the dire warnings, getting ‘Brexit done’ was the phrase of many people’s lips, especially in those areas likely to be the most affected by leaving the EU. If the economy tanks, you can bet your bottom dollar that it will be the EU gets the blame. You know, there are actually people would don’t think like you or I.

  • David in the SE 15th Dec '19 - 9:59am

    The Lib Dems have to (re)learn the iniquities of the First Past The Post system. A deal must be done with other parties in target seats, even if it means agreeing to stand down in vastly more. (Just look at the Winchester result for example.) If the target seats have been properly selected, voters there will understand why a deal has been done, and voters’ views elsewhere matter rather less. With a clear list of target seats, policy detail can also be more easily tested in those seats (and only those seats) and rejected if found wanting. Years of effort can go into those, and only those, constituencies. If one were to aim for doubling the size of Lib Dems in the next parliament, that’s 22 target seats. Anyway, just thoughts, no doubt I have it all wrong, enjoy a well-earned break.

  • I am amazed that members of the Party wish to conduct a post-mortem on a public web-site. This reflects more than a little political naivity – which has infected the Lib Dems for a good decade or more.

    I note Peter Chapman’s comments: “The campaign team that has run the last 3 elections will again blame everyone but themselves and we will continue to say well done to people who actually haven’t done that well”

    Peer Chapman may well be right, but who among us has the information needed to make an informed opinion on the issue of who exactly is making these critical decisions; how it is that they are doing so and why they made the very basic wrong decisions which they did? The political strategy in these elections has, indeed, been dire, however the electoral efforts of the Party in certain areas (including central support) would seem to have been good to brilliant – although one might question some of the targeting and the quality of some of the centrally-produced literature which flooded target constituencies.

  • Roger Billins 15th Dec '19 - 10:14am

    I very much agree with Tony Greaves. We need to be a campaigning Liberal Party and here’s a thought -should we even as a party fight elections to a parliament which has no truly democratic legitimacy and instead concentrate upon local elections and campaigning? We can be part of a larger progressive movement like En Marche in France which does fight general elections. Just a thought.

  • Gwyn Williams 15th Dec '19 - 10:17am

    Adding my congratulations to Mark. His first and urgent job is to repair the damage that the outgoing President and others did to the relationship between HQ and Local Parties to bring about the UTR.

  • Andrew McCaig 15th Dec '19 - 10:28am

    Well, first, congratulations to Mark Pack.

    I have kept out of discussion while catching up on sleep since getting home at 6 am on Friday followed by going to work at 7.30 am. But a few points.
    1) Boris Johnson does NOT have a mandate for his deal or anything else. He got 43% of the vote. 56% voted for Parties that wanted another referendum. We should be celebrating an increase from 48 to 75 MPs and a decisive role in the future of Britain going forward
    2) We are not talking about this because of our foolish, misguided and illiberal Revoke policy. I still heard Sal Brinton trying to justify it on Friday on the basis of “Boris has a mandate”. We alienated a significant number of members with this policy along with Labour and Tory Remainers we needed in seats like Cheadle and Guildford. We need to apologise publicly for this policy (railroaded through conference as a confidence issue in the leadership) to be honest, but of course we will not.
    3) we do already connect very well with Leave voters in many places. Millions of them vote for us in local elections, and i can prove from surveys that 50% of our winning vote in Almondbury (Huddersfield) came from Leavers. We make no secret of our position on Europe but we do not ram it down people’s throats. Local politics is the way to build support and win back seats in places like the West Country where the next election will not be about Brexit
    4) We must not, however, pretend that we now are happy with leaving the EU. I believe that even now it is seen by a majority as a mistake we cannot reverse, like the Iraq war. In a recent poll well over 60% said they wished the 2016 referendum had never happened. I met Remain supporters in Cheadle on polling day who were voting Tory just to get it over with. We will never get the support of fervent Leavers and never have had that support in most cases, but they are only 20% of the population at most. Meanwhile the fervent Europeans are our activist base even in Wales, and are now our core vote. We should be clear that we want the closest possible relationship with Europe (definitely a majority opinion) and believe that eventually opinion will swing in favour of rejoining

  • Peter Martin 15th Dec '19 - 10:40am

    @ John Marriott,

    “If the economy tanks, you can bet your bottom dollar that it will be the EU gets the blame.”

    It will tank if the Tories get it all wrong. Who’d bet against that? The big problem is the accumulation of private debt in the economy which has created a credit bubble. I’m surprised it has stayed inflated as long as it has. But it will have to deflate sooner or later and when it does…..

    You guys will blame Brexit. The Brexiteers may well blame the EU. You’ll both be wrong.

    @ Martin,

    “Blaming ‘the EU’ is like blaming America, it is unconnected to people’s immediate problems. It can never have much traction.”

    When people have “immediate problems” like they don’t have a job or somewhere to live they’ll look at immigrants who might well have. If you want “traction” there’s an obvious and easy way to get it! It’s quite a lot harder to explain what is really happening.

    Even otherwise intelligent people on this blog are quite resistant to the truth. Lib Dems are just as bad as anyone else. Problems in the car industry? Blame Brexit. Problems with job losses in the steel industry? Blame Brexit. Yet, Germany has exactly the same, if not bigger, problems and as far as I know don’t have any plans to leave the EU.

  • On the ‘Brexit obsessed campaign’….

    Another leaflet from a heavy leave area that doesn’t mention Brexit:

    Looks like there was a strategy to go all silent on Brexit when it wasn’t that convenient locally. Fairly lucky Michael Crick et al didn’t pick up on this.

  • Two thoughts:

    ‘Remain’ is now finished as a political strategy; in one way that presents us with a problem as we have been perceived as a one-trick pony for the last three years, however it also presents an opportunity to develop and push a fresh and distinctive agenda.

    So we must stop harping on about Brexit – yes, push for a Brexit that is good for the British people, but it cannot be front and centre going forward.

    Second, while be need to be mindful of our core values: liberalism, freedom, internationalism – I think we need to approach our policy definition from the other end.

    By this I mean we need to consider and understand the problems that are relevant to the great mass of ordinary voters; problems that led many of them to vote Brexit and then Tory.

    We all suspect that neither Brexit nor a Tory government will actually address those problems, but unless it is not the solution we think it is, Liberalism can.

    So we must start with the problems that beset ordinary people, and how our liberal values can address them.

    As an example, there appears to be a pervasive feeling that ordinary people have no say in decision making and far less control over their lives. Surely the answer to this is to push power back down to local levels (while retaining the right checks and balances)?

    Isn’t this sort of localism historically a Liberal strong point? So let’s have a clear and well-publicised policy around strengthening local decision-making. We could call it ‘Putting you back in control’!

    I’m sure there are more areas in which we can create practical policies embracing our Liberal philosophy that make sense to people – housing, health, education, crime, tax.

    We can and should IMHO be the party of common-sense, effective, and deliverable policies founded on Liberal beliefs…

  • Nom de Plume 15th Dec '19 - 11:50am

    Surrey and a few other places are becoming more liberal. It is the flip side of the Tory’s success in previous Labour strongholds, and also a reason why an increase in vote share did not translate into more seats. There is hope there, also for the LibDems.

  • The challenge ahead for the party and particularly its leading figures is exactly the same as it has been for the last nine years – To find a willingness to stop clinging to the failed certainties of the Nick Clegg years and the endless quest to prove they were right all along and accept that they (the certainties and the leading figures) have led our great party to electoral catastrophe once again. The Core Vote Strategy, (Printed, Published and Promoted by Mark Pack) is now a smouldering wreck, having delivered none of the gains it had to in the one, perfect tailor made opportunity it had to prove it was relevant.

    Instead of giving us lots of new graduate, pro european seats in exciting new areas across London and university towns in general, it lost us Brecon and Radnor, North Norfolk, Eastbourne, Carshalton and Dunbartonshire. While it gave us … Well four seats that have a long history of community activism, built under the old slightly left of centre, Community politics approach that Generation Clegg chose as their bete noir.

    The whole approach of the last ten years has hollowed out the party to the extent that we are back in electoral terms to where we were in 1979 but with a smaller share of the vote, despite having been faced with the weakest Labour party since the 1930s and a Conservative party determined to destroy everything.

    Mark, if you are to be a part of the solution and not just be another try at the failure of the last decade, you have to change and help the party get back to the Community politics that all its success has been built on. You have get to stop looking for another new way of saying “we were right all along (just so unfortunate)” and pretending one more gambler’s throw of the dice will do it.

  • Nom de Plume 15th Dec '19 - 12:03pm

    @David Evans

    The Coalition was a near-death experience for the LibDems. There is much to learn from it and it will take some time to recover from it.

  • Laurence Cox 15th Dec '19 - 12:45pm

    First, Mark congratulations on your election as Party President. It is good that the Party has elected a campaigner from outside Westminster at last.

    Secondly, this Observer article reveals that a number of senior Liberal Democrats including the last two leaders, warned against a December election.

    Thirdly, let us remember how we got into a position of (some) power in 2010. It was the culmination of at least three decades of fighting to win individual Council seats, then to run Councils, then to use this leverage to win individual Parliamentary seats, often in by-elections where the issue of who is going to be Prime Minister does not apply, and lastly thanks to having a centrist Labour leader in Tony Blair who had a good personal relationship with our leader Paddy Ashdown that enabled us to make the leap from a level of about 1 MP per percent of our vote to more than twice that. Even just before polling day in 1997 the bookies were still offering 10/1 on the Lib Dems winning more than 30 seats.

    We need to go back to basics and follow the community politics approach again. Perhaps Tony Greaves can bring his namesake Bernard Greaves’ co-written booklet up to date, although the principles are fundamentally the same now as then:

  • Richard Elliott 15th Dec '19 - 1:40pm

    An interesting discussion but there is a lot of over-reaction based on understandable anger at the result. We must remember than we are only 4 years from the 2015 disaster and the legacy of the Coalition. In the South-West we used to get the left working class vote against the Tories – but the Coalition destroyed that and to a lesser extent Brexit added to it. Thus this loss of support in the South-West (and the North) has nothing to do with core-vote strategies. In contrast support in the South-East/London has done up, although not enough to gain many seats. For a party of our size, core vote targeting at national elections is a must. Yes our remain message appealed more to remainer areas, this was not the problem – it was the extremist feel and messaging of revoke and the Presidential style campaign.

    Where the critics are on firmer ground is that we will need to put more focus (messages, policy, action) on our community based credentials especially where the Tory state is at its meanest. This also requires being less tribal and working closely with other progressive and community based movements.

  • John Marriott 15th Dec '19 - 2:52pm

    What kind of world do you live in? It’s not me blaming the EU. Crikey, its parent, the old EEC, together with the IMF and North Sea oil, virtually saved this country forty years ago. You know how much EU membership has benefitted this country and so do I. But you try telling that to many people I deal with on a daily basis, including members of my own family. They just don’t get it. Logic rarely plays a part in their thinking, or at least what you or I might define as logic. And why should we blame them?

    What was called ‘Project Fear’ by Brexiteers did not work in 2016. New tactics are required if the idea of rejoining the EU is to return to the agenda. The Tories have very cleverly used EU membership and, of course, FPTP, to engineer a working majority, which could still prove to end up being a poisoned chalice. At this moment, we just don’t know how it will all pan out. But please spare me the campaigning ‘man the barricades’ rhetoric until the new year at least, when, perhaps, tge dust has had time to settle and we see what kind of government finally emerges. As they say, “By their deeds shall ye know them”.

  • Nick Pomery 15th Dec '19 - 3:17pm

    Lord Ashcroft’s polling is very interesting indeed for anyone seeking a way forward for our party:
    – 8% of the electorate voted Tory rather than their party of choice as the best way to stop another party (presumably mostly anti-Labour with a few anti-SNP)
    – 10% of the electorate voted Labour rather than their party of choice as the best way to stop another party (presumably almost all anti-Tory)
    – 5% of the electorate voted Lib Dem rather than their party of choice (which could have been anti-Tory, a few anti-Labour and a few anti-SNP)

    Now let’s make some sensible assumptions about what their ‘party of choice’ was:
    – For those who voted Tory, it was almost certainly not Labour, Green or SNP; perhaps 6% Lib Dem, 2% BXP?
    – For those who voted Labour, it was almost certainly not Tory! So perhaps 5% Lib Dem, 3% Green, 2 % BXP?

    That implies that something like 18% (=12% – 5% + 6% + 5%) were Lib Dem ‘first preference’ voters even at polling day and after a lacklustre campaign.

    A further 5% were prepared to lend us a vote to keep another party out, presumably concentrated in the 150 or so seats where we were the lead challenger to the Tories.

    So the voters that are supportive of Lib Dem policies are still out there, even if we failed to convince enough of them on this occasion.

  • Matthew Huntbach 15th Dec '19 - 4:28pm

    Richard Elliott

    In contrast support in the South-East/London has done up, although not enough to gain many seats.

    Shoreham, Worthing, Hastings – all constituencies in Sussex where we were seen as the main challengers to the Conservatives. We’re now way behind Labour there. Eastbourne and Lewes – constituencies in Sussex we once won and have now lost.

    In all cases our core support was working class people who felt Labour didn’t care for them. Now they think the same about us.

  • ……………..Our increased share of the vote, more second places and enlarged party membership, added to the fantastic growth in our local government base earlier in the year, does, however, provide us with the foundations to recover from. As does the welcome progress in making our Parliamentary Party more diverse………………

    And so it starts again! The same thing was said after the coalition; pointing out all the ‘good bits’ of a time that the electorate regarded as a disaster.

  • David Evans 15th Dec '19 - 5:14pm

    Richard Elliott – I’m afraid the one point where you are mistaken is when you say “In the South-West we used to get the left working class vote against the Tories – but the Coalition destroyed that and to a lesser extent Brexit added to it. Thus this loss of support in the South-West (and the North) has nothing to do with core-vote strategies.” True the coalition undermined that vote, but remember Mark Pack’s Core vote strategy, which he reminds us “underpinned our recovery since 2015”.

    As you know since 2015 our Core Vote strategy has been to appeal to Pro European Graduates. Not exactly Working Class Lib Dem voters in Cornwall, Devon or Somerset. Just look at the consequences.
    1) Andrew George’s selfless and wonderful fight to regain one presence in Cornwall, St Ives has sadly come to nothing again
    – 2015 Lib Dem 16,022; Con 18,491; Lab 4,510
    – 2017 Lib Dem 21,808; Con 22,120; Lab 7,298
    – 2019 Lib Dem 21,081; Con 25,365; Lab 3,353
    By comparison
    – 1997 Lib Dem 23,966; Con 16,796; Lab 8,184
    Wherever the Labour vote has gone it doesn’t look like it has gone to us.

    2) Truro – once a Lib stronghold is a perfect example of the consequences of Mark’s Core vote strategy
    – 2015 Lib Dem 8,621; Lab 7,814 ; Con 22,681
    – 2017 Lib Dem 8,465; Lab 21,331; Con 25,123
    – 2019 Lib Dem 7,150; Lab 22,676; Con 27,237
    By comparison
    – 1983 Lib Dem 31,279; Lab 2,479; Con 20,799
    David Penhalygon’s legacy squandered.

    The Core Vote strategy is a self-inflicted nightmare rooted in the coalition period and we have to drop it now.

  • Laurence Cox 15th Dec '19 - 6:17pm

    Community politics
    From the first section of the booklet:

    Community Politics is not a technique for the winning of Local government elections.

    Community Politics is not a technique. It is an ideology, a system of ideas for social transformation. For those ideas to become a reality there is a need for a strategy of political action. For that strategy to be successful it needs to develop effective techniques of political campaigning. Those techniques are a means to an end. If they become an end in themselves, the ideas they were designed to promote will have been lost.

    Community Politics is not local. It is universal. It is an approach to the collective making of decisions and the co-operative regulation of society that is relevant in any social group, from the family to the world.

    Community Politics is not government. It is about people It is about their control of the exercise of power. It is about the distribution of power, the use of power, the dissemination of power and the control of power. It is an approach to the way in which decisions are made. It is not limited to the making of ‘political’ decisions within the structures of ‘government’.

    Community Politics is not about elections. Elections are an essential ingredient in the process of community politics, a necessary and vital element in the conduct or social affairs. If elections and the holding of elected office become the sole or even the major part of our politics we will have become corrupted by the very system of government and administration that community politics sets out to challenge. The process will have displaced the motivating ideas. We will have lost our reason for fighting elections at all.

    Now read this article by John Harris of The Guardian

    These are the people who Labour have left behind and it is up to us to empower them through Commnuity Politics.

  • David Allen 15th Dec '19 - 6:44pm

    Why has nobody mentioned

    Those who cannot learn tough lessons from history will be condemned to repeating them.

  • Laurence Cox 15th Dec '19 - 6:48pm

    @David Allen

    See my posting at 12:45pm above.

  • Thank you, Laurence. My belief was for a long time that this idea of community politics was something which was attractive to all members.
    OK I seem to have been wrong.
    I joined the Liberal Party in 1959, voted in favour of our new party now the Liberal Democrats.
    It has taken me a long time to realise the reality.
    Trouble is I do not understand what other philosophy is being advocated.

  • Thank you David and Laurence, it seems that I have to read the right newspapers – or their websites – to see things that the party should be telling me. There is a need for openness and accountability.

  • Bruce Marsland 15th Dec '19 - 6:57pm

    We do seem politically very naive, don’t we?

    Whether it’s winning votes in university constituencies and then doing the infamous u-turn on tuition fees, or whether it’s slowly building a popular movement for a second referendum and then suddenly switching to revoke, our decision-making is a constant source of own goals.

    The coalition years are still hurting us. Look at the constant questioning on Jo’s voting record in parliament. The Tories may have given up some policies for coalition, but we are seen as having given up our principles.

    Moving forward now seems to require leadership not compromised by the coalition.

    We need to recognise how bad a place we are in, and we need to start building from the bottom. Reaffirm our principles first before we go chasing after voters who think we have none.

  • Lawrence Cox:
    Full ALC booklet on Community Politics can be found here, thank goodness for Colin Rosenstiel.
    Just printed off and reading again, after a very long gap, too long!

  • Matthew Huntbach 16th Dec '19 - 9:32am

    Bruce Marsland

    Whether it’s winning votes in university constituencies and then doing the infamous u-turn on tuition fees,

    We need to explain this and much else properly.

    In 2010 the electoral system we have did what Labour and the Conservatives and their supporters say they want it to – pushes up whatever of them got the most votes so it can form the government. Although in 2010 it did not quite give a full majority to the Conservatives, it ruled out a Labour-LibDem coalition because that would not have had a majority. It greatly reduced our number of seats compared to our share of votes. So the consequence is we would have only a minor say in what the government formed could do.

    The difference between what we did and what Labour wanted with their support for disproportional representation is that Labour want all power to the Conservatives, pushing their number of MPs up to get that. Well, now Labour have what they want.

    The idea continues, and has damaged us greatly, that everything the 2010-15 Coalition did was what we really wanted, as if somehow we could have got the Conservatives to drop all their policies and in effect form a Liberal Democrat government. No, we could adjust things only slightly.

    So we couldn’t get the Conservatives to drop what is their main policy, which is to keep tax low at the cost of cuts to government spending. If we had insisted that university tuition fees remained what they were set to by Labour, that would have had to be paid for by HUGE cuts. More in other government spending (and the effect of the cuts there in 2010-15 were was appalling), but also huge cuts in universities.

    By giving in to what the Conservatives wanted, and instead concentrating on insisting it was paid for by a generous loan system available to all new students that only had to be paid off one they earnt well, we saved universities. That was probably the most successful things we did in the Coalition, allowing the university system to boom.

    As a university lecturer, I have to be thankful for this, as otherwise I might well have lost my job. However, that doesn’t mean it’s our ideal, and we need to say that. Personally, I feel universities should be paid for by an increase in inheritance tax, though I find everyone who moans about what we did to pay for universities goes strangely silent when I suggest that as an alternative …

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