Opinion: Three steps to better campaigning in London

Immediately after the London Mayoral and GLA election Mike Tuffrey wrote some very shrewd observations on Lib Dem Voice. Now the dust has settled and the election results are known by ward perhaps it is time to think through the next stage of learning.

For me getting Caroline Pidgeon re-elected was always a top priority. I’m delighted that she has been joined by my long-standing friend Stephen Knight – the shame being that they are not joined by Bridget Fox and Shas Sheehan. But Stephen and Caroline will punch above their weight and the work they have already started on holding Boris accountable will yield results going forwards.

Our campaign was good, our candidates were excellent, the manifesto was strong and relevant – but the election results don’t reflect any of those elements. So what do we do next?

Most of all I think we need vision and a holistic strategy in elections: clear vision that has a range of inspiration, fun, involvement – something that is engaging with the voters. It doesn’t of itself win the election, but it would put us in the race.

But I have three firm but very different proposals to make next times campaign stronger and better:

  1. A plan to work with those Local Parties that currently have no councillors
  2. Professional policy development to generate the ideas for what London would look like under a Liberal Democrat Mayor
  3. A programme of engagement all year round with the communities of London, talking about their concerns, their issues and on their terms

Our candidates for the Mayor, GLA List and GLA constituencies were top notch – but it’s hard to fight across London when we can’t reach all 8 million electors. There are now 12 boroughs that don’t have any Liberal Democrat councillors and sorting that has to be a priority for any strategy moving forwards. Making a gain of just one ward in each of those 12 boroughs would make a huge difference to our campaigns across London

But in terms of the message, looking back over the manifestos and past campaigns for London, we are not short of examples of pledges that Labour and Tories have poached. Whether that’s the bike hire scheme or local ward based police teams to cite just two prominent examples. That is something of which we can be proud, but we need to keep up the pace of generating ideas and that’s why I believe we need a long term partnership with a think tank to give us space to work up ideas and proposals for a successful and vibrant London.

But most of all our campaign needs to look like London. One of the best elements of the night was that the BNP lost their seat on the Assembly – but that alone is not enough. We need to have a sustained campaign that spans years that speaks to everyone in London, Hindu, Muslim, Jewish and Christian and across the communities South Asian, Afro-carribean, African and more. Modern London is a diverse community of all faiths and many heritages. I want that to apply to the Liberal Democrats as well.

There’s no time to lose, we need to start now…

Ed Fordham is an accredited party trainer, was the candidate in Hampstead and Kilburn in the 2010 GE, and established the Liberal Democrat Forum for Africa.

* Ed Fordham is a party member and activist in Chesterfield, Derbyshire.

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3 Comments

  • I haven’t looked in detail across all the wards in London, but in Redbridge the votes for Brian Paddick were only marginally better in wards which have long had Lib Dem councillors compared to those wards which have no history of Lib Dem activity, i.e. pretty pathetic. A quick look at Richmond also suggested that we massively under polled in the mayoral election compared to our support in London Borough elections, so I’m not convinced that getting a few more Lib Dem local councillors in some boroughs will make much impact on our overall vote. Indeed, given how few Green councillors there are in London, we must ask why the Greens out-polled us in the mayoral and assembly elections. I don’t have an answer, but it seems to be that our record of translating local London borough success into GLA success is even worse than our ability to translate local council success into parliamentary success. Perhaps we need to look more closely at those constituency parties which have managed to do so.

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