Peterborough by-election – Lib Dem recovery on track

In the last two elections, Lib Dems have barely scraped 3% in Peterborough. Had the by-election happened 5 years ago, we’d have lost our deposit with no question.

This was not a seat where we have historically been a challenger. Going back to the 70s, our vote has been mid teens – 20%.

So the only way we would have had a chance of competing is if we’d thrown the kitchen sink at it. And we’d already used up our supply of kitchen sinks during the European campaign. We can’t, yet, do everything and it made sense to save our resources for something more winnable.

Our campaign was spirited, we had a great candidate in Beki Sellick and we quadrupled our vote. So it was a solid result for us. Thank you so much to the team who achieved a huge amount, led by Andy Sangar from Sheffield.

The result in full:

There are huge falls in Labour and Conservative support and when we see the election expenses, I expect we’ll find that the Brexit lot poured money into the seat.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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  • Richard Underhill 7th Jun '19 - 8:51am

    We must be careful. The Faragist came second in this one.

  • Nonconformistradical 7th Jun '19 - 9:08am

    But they didn’t win – when the pundits seemed to be suggesting beforehand that they were home and dry.

    I’m guessing the LD vote might not have been helped by tactical voting to keep the faragist out.

    Meanwhile the Brecon and Radnor recall petition runs till 20 June….

  • Mick Taylor 7th Jun '19 - 9:32am

    I respectfully disagree with Caron. The party effectively abandoned Peterborough. My wife and I actually went for 2 1/2 days last weekend. All the seeds for a much better result were there, but with only around 40 people each day, achieving it was not possible.
    Where were the exhortations to go and help? Why did I receive no emails urging me to go to Peterborough? Au contraire. People were being urged to go to Brecon and Radnor, where no election has yet been called!
    To be fair, Vince, Jo and Ed went as did several of our new MEPs and right at the last minute, money was found for an extra, posted, leaflet, but really the party hierarchy had written Peterborough off and decided not to bother.
    Sure, we were all tired after the locals and the Euro poll, but we were riding a wave and we allowed ourselves to fall off. The team in Peterborough were superb and in my opinion we let them down.
    What might have beens are always highly speculative, but in this thoroughly worn out 69 year old Liberal Democrat’s view, the party should have thrown the kitchen sink at this by-election. We might not have won but we could have kept our high profile following the Euros and I fear it will now be business as usual and we will once again be ignored.

  • nigel hunter 7th Jun '19 - 9:47am

    Whether ignored or not we MUST beavor away to WIN Brecon.
    Brexit Party LTD is set up as a business. It is Farages child (runs out of the back door,not wanting to face the music, he is NOT a leader of men)
    Businesses are to make money and make a profit. Is that the way Farage would run the country?.One example of this is Ms Mogg and her financial credentialsl.

  • Err, maybe, maybe not, this is only a by election. To be effective we need a by election at Brecon. Will 10% of the electorate want one? Then if that is the case could it happen in July?.
    PS Brilliant win at Ross on Wye.

  • nigel hunter 7th Jun '19 - 9:52am

    Would Farage replace the power hungry capitalist money makers of the Tory party with a Mark 2 version of it?If so it is not a change of the system but a continuation of it. WE Lib Demmers will be the changers of the system. Keep up the fight.

  • Labour had a tasty win…the Lib Dems momentum seems to have petered out after a short burst. Looks like politics as usual once Brexit party looses ground to the two Big teams.

  • John Barrett 7th Jun '19 - 10:37am

    I am all for putting a rosy spin on results, but it was not that long ago (2010) that we polled 19.6%of the vote in Peterborough and in third place.

  • marcstevens 7th Jun '19 - 10:53am

    Silvio what’s happening to Change UK nowadays and how did the party they supported in this by-election get on? Shame you can’t compliment the Lib Dems when they do well in the Locals and EU elections rather than just come on here and attack them. I did congratulate the new Labour MP on the other thread.

  • David Allen 7th Jun '19 - 12:00pm

    Lib Dem “revival” falls back to earth.

    Not to be over-pessimistic – The fact that it did temporarily get off the ground and flap around during the locals and Euro elections is a positive. It does suggest that, once the voters can find a reason to forget all about the Coalition, and to vote for anti-Brexit or just for a good local council candidate, then they can turn back to us. But to get anywhere significant on the national level, a lot more needs to be done. Over to next leader!

  • Richard Underhill 7th Jun '19 - 12:16pm

    Jeremy Corbyn has said that ‘all the experts were writing Labour off.’
    This is probably an intentional exaggeration.
    Nick Watt on BBC tv Newsnight was at the count and asked to forecast the result.
    He talked about Labour and the Brexit Party.
    He interviewed the Lib Dem candidate.
    Nick Watt has covered many bye – elections.
    The earliest I am aware of was before the Reform Act 1832.
    BBC to repeat?
    Corbyn’s word “all” should not include Professor John Curtice.
    An apology perhaps?
    Farage’s stunt at Downing Street is pointless.
    He knows what Theresa May can deliver at the moment.

  • The obvious question then is:

    How do we get more kitchen sinks?

  • Joseph Bourke 7th Jun '19 - 12:33pm

    Jon Curtice is saying that these results and the recent Euros tell us there are currently four parties in contention for the next election with broadly similar national vote shares – Libdems, Labour, Conservatives and the Brexit Party.
    Coalition government is back (if it ever went away), but what will replace the Conservative/ DUP coalition?

  • I think this result bodes very well for the Lib Dems, gain nine percentage points when normally a party in third or fourth would be squeezed is commendable, as is to hold onto 80% of our share at the recent Euros. Clearly the anyone but Farage voter coalesced, albeit reluctantly, around the candidate most likely to beat BXP and that was Labour. In this instance the party that lost most (compared to the Locals and Euros) was the Green Party and I suspect the Lab to Green switcher at the recent locals and Euros stayed with Lab as a tactical choice to keep BXP out and it was that which saved Labour last night. On that basis I am saying whilst Jeremy Corbyn is hailing the result as a huge success, other forthcoming results will not necessarily offer him much to cheer.

  • Paul Barker 7th Jun '19 - 1:08pm

    Lets remind ourselves that virtually everyone expected Brexit to get an easy win, the fact that they didn’t is probably down to their lack of a proper Party structure & experienced activists. Polling exaggerates how well they would do in a General Election faced with the Old Party Machines. They would win Seats but not in the sort of numbers some are predicting.
    The Libdem Recovery may have passed a peak, its too soon to say.

  • The BBC did report by-elections before 1832, if you believe the Blackadder video with the late Vincent Hannah of many 1980’s Liberal by-election victory reports:
    Some of the comments, made in jest, are frighteningly paralleled by Farage and co.
    Apologies for not making Peterborough, we did well but could have put more into this.

  • Paul Barker 7th Jun '19 - 2:46pm

    The current situation, with 4 Parties all within 6% of each other makes prediction of MP numbers a nightmare but its hard to see how a General Election “soon” could be anything but a disaster for The UK. Almost certainly we would have a Brexit/Tory Coalition Government, led by Farage, with a very safe majority. Imagine what they could do in 5 Years !
    As well as stopping Brexit we have to stop an Election as well, or transform our prospects.
    We have to build a Progressive Alliance, including The Greens & any Centrist fragments & we have to build it soon.

  • Peter Martin 7th Jun '19 - 2:56pm

    “Polling exaggerates how well they would do in a General Election faced with the Old Party Machines”.

    The Labour Party’s machine isn’t fantastic. This was one conversation I remember having with a couple of OAPs when I was driving, using my own car, fully festooned with Labour Party posters, supposedly “Labour” supporters to the polling stations in Macclesfield in the 80s

    Me: Hello there. Glad you could turn out to vote.
    OAP: Yes we always vote. Every election.
    Me: I think we have a good candidate in Diane Jeuda
    OAPs: Who’s she?
    Me: She’s our Labour Party Candidate.
    OAPs: We always vote for Mr Winterton.
    Me: But he’s the Tory Candidate.
    OAPs: Yes we always vote Conservative.
    Me: But this is a Labour car. Didn’t you see all those red posters on the door and roof.
    OAPs: Yes we wondered about that. Why have you got Labour posters on your car when we are voting Conservative?
    Me: That’s a good question!
    OAPs: Would you like us to get out?
    Me: No. (Although the thought did cross my mind to put them out!) You’ve just dented my faith in socialist planning a little!

    I think I stopped asking after that. Sometimes its better not to know!

  • In a seat like Peterborough, that is a good result. Harking back to the results in the 1990s is a waste of time.

  • “Lib Dem recovery on track”

    Well, yes and no.

    ‘Yes’ because 12% is a decent if not wonderful result after recent years – all the more so given the limited campaign possible.

    ‘No’ because turnout was only 48.4%, down from 67.5% in the 2017 GE. Crunch the numbers and (slightly rounded) the share of the electorate supporting each party was Labour: 15%; Brexit: 14%; Tory: 10%; LD: 6%

    That’s hardly a ringing endorsement for the Brexit Party or for Brexit itself at what should have been showtime for them.

    On the other hand, it’s clear that Remain hasn’t managed to put even the slightest dent in the Leave case. I suspect that’s largely because, the status quo parties (NB I now include Lib Dems in this group) have no alternative to offer the majority for whom recent decades have been a disaster in terms of real income, job security, housing and the rest while Farage appears to (although it’s pure snake oil).

  • John Marriott 7th Jun '19 - 6:14pm

    If we look beyond Brexit (if only) towards the next General Election, the idea that there are four parties within striking distance of each other will only work if the Brexit Organisation can put together a manifesto, which attempts to address some of the non Brexit problems we face. I am not sure whether they will come up with ideas that are uniquely different from those already around.

    One thing they will probably support is a change in the voting system. So, are the Lib Dems going to ignore them, or are they going to give them tacit support or vice versa? Who knows what other ideas might emerge from them that might achieve some traction in Lib Dem circles? On the other hand, they might go the same way as UKIP.

    The other imponderable is whether, following the coronation of the next Tory Party Leader aka Prime Minister, Labour might table a No Confidence Motion and then, if it succeeds, spend the next fourteen days trying to put together a coalition, which could include the SNP and, dare I say, the Lib Dems, on the premise that it would hold another EU Referendum. On the other hand it might just go for an early General Election and hope that they can keep kicking that Brexit can down the road a little longer.

  • Richard Underhill 7th Jun '19 - 6:22pm

    When the Prime Minister said “We will fight them on the beaches”
    he did not mean, Sword, Omaha, Utah, Gold, Juno.
    This may be apocryphal, but I was told about Orders For The Day (not clear which day).
    The sun will rise at 03.36 GMT.
    The sun will set at 21.45 GMT.
    By Order, Dwight D. Eisenhower, General
    We should thank the Irish government for agreeing to share west coast weather data, which was better than Ike’s tame forecaster, checked and accepted, leading to a deferment of one day.

  • It was as good a result as we deserved, given that little effort was put into the campaign until after the Euros, and even then only from nearby seats. It should puncture any delusions that we are somehow going to become the principal opposition to the right on the back of our national stance, without any local foundations.

    For opponents to Brexit the result was clearly better than a BXP win and the entry to parliament of a spokesman for Farage. It is also better that opponents to Brexit identify the best way to defeat the right in each seat. For us, Brecon, if it happens, will be key.

    Meanwhile the urgent need to reach an accord with the Greens is ever more obvious, yet I don’t see anyone doing much to progress this?

  • I think this is the most astonishing by-election result probably ever – certainly since the Second World War. It is even more astonishing because it seems not to be!

    I remind people of the last opinion poll of 2018:
    Con 39%, Lab 39%, UKIP 6%, Lib Dem 6%.

    Applying a uniform national swing to the Peterborough GE result gives:
    Brex 29%, Lab 24%, LD 20%, Con 18%, Green 8%.

    Probably with the two horse race nature of a by-election this overstates the Brexit Party and Labour a bit. This broad pattern has been confirmed in the opinion polls and the Euros – with the four parties on roughly 20% each with the Brexit may be a bit ahead of this. But there is also weakness in our position – just think where we would be if the coalition had never happened!

    To do well under FPTP you need both to do well and (as in ’97), and a main opponent to do badly – we have two main opponents doing badly!

    We should not underestimate that this is a great result for the Brexit Party. Their expectations management and degree of petulance was though poor. They should have treated it as Roy Jenkins did in Warrington – saying that it was his first defeat but his greatest victory.

    Brexit of course may of course get resolved one way or another but definitely not for six months and probably not for a year or two. Even after that it’s likely to be an important issue for some time to come. If we Brexit, there will still be a large number who want to Remain (go back) – especially as a hard Brexit looks to be on the cards from the Tories. Remain and obv. the General Election will be fought between those who want us to leave and Remain.

    2 lessons:

    1. The need for local parties to “make hay while the sun shines”. Build that Lib Dem infrastructure. Do those things for local people. Throw stones at the council.

    2. Draw a line under the coalition – build our support with younger (green inclined voters). Free uni tuition. Strong on climate change. “ending austerity” – tough on poverty and the effects on poverty. £14 billion more for education. Building a prosperous economy. Green. Skilled. Prosperous.

  • Actually an implied 17% national vote share for the Lib Dems (I added together the wrong numbers in my spreadsheet).

  • John Marriott 7th Jun '19 - 7:57pm

    @Michael 1
    Well, good buddy, does your latest ‘observation’ mean that we should take all opinion polls with a large pinch of salt?

    Yes, “draw a line under the Coalition”; but don’t just rubbish it, because, as a liberal, that’s more than likely the kind of arrangement you will need if you are to get anyway near power.

  • The one election in which a seat changed hands yesterday will not be noticed by most newspapers. However the 75% Lib Dem vote in Herefordshire’s Ross North postponed election was reported by the Ross Gazette as if it were nothing out of the ordinary! Strange times!

  • Labour poured in resources, lost voters but still squeaked a win. Dajavu, it reminds me of another byelection where an incumbent party squeaked a win and thought everything was fine, Eastleigh anyone remember that one?

  • David Evans 8th Jun '19 - 1:30am

    All in all the result is a bit disappointing from a Lib Dem perspective, we just got slightly more votes in total than in the Local elections in May. We should have given Beki a lot more support and she could have pulled off a real shock. She is indeed, one of the most impressive Lib Dem candidates I have met in many years and I am very, very disappointed for her. She performed very well, and deserved much better.

    I had the misfortune to hear the Conservative candidate being interviewed on local radio and if he was very excited once about one wizzard idea he had, he was very excited about 20! How people could vote for him in such numbers defies belief, and the Labour and Brexit candidates were no better.

    Sadly, a bit of a missed opportunity.

  • John Marriott 8th Jun '19 - 7:34am

    If you look at the thread to Paul Walter’s election piece, you will see that I beat you to it. Interesting that I think it was UKIP’s Diane James(?), who was expected to win. Remember her? Wasn’t she the briefest Party Leader so far?

    By the way, it’s ‘déjà vu’. I could add, as the late ‘Yogi’ Berra once said; “It’s like déjà vu again”!

  • I do not think labour will be reduced to 7 or so seats. The difference between Eastleigh and Peterborough is that Eastleigh bucked a trend that saw the Lib Dems losing deposits. What this election showed is that the hardcore leave vote is pretty focused and solid. However, I suspect this will not be a huge factor in a GE when policies on education, housing, income and whatnot become more important than Europe.

  • Alex Macfie 8th Jun '19 - 8:57am

    As a footnote, the Renew candidate, supported by Change UK, was beaten by the Monster Raving Loony Party. This presumably sounds the final death knell for the Change UK project, as it did for the “continuing” SDP in Bootle. The (now pro-Brexit) continuing-continuing-continuing SDP also stood in Peterborough, and did slightly better than the Raving Loonies.

  • Bless Glen Brexit Nelly isn’t going away, no matter how much you wish she would. You opened Pandora’s box, she danced out with the other ills you released and she’s caused havoc ever since. We have decades if her dancing to come, she will see you out as the top issue and will define poltics going forward. What a pity no one warned you, or perhaps I should say what a pity you ignored the warnings

  • OnceALIbDem 8th Jun '19 - 10:51am

    This looks like an important reality check on the Lib Dem recovery narrative now doing the rounds in the party.

    The LD vote was lower than that in Peterborough Council area (which is more than the constituency) in the Euro elections and lower than in 2010, 05 and 01. In 2009 the LDs polled 10% across the Peterborough Council area in the Euro elections (which translated in 19% in the 2010 general).

    If you compare it to other byelections post the Referendum, Witney and Richmond (both remain areas) saw the party poll their highest ever shares in those seats, whilst the vote was up in leave areas like Stoke, Sleaford etc it didn’t reach the pre 2010 levels. So Peterborough is pretty much consistent with that pattern.

    All pointers to a steady recovery with the Euros being an outlier as they are (historically) and election where people can vote as a protest for a particular party ‘without consequences’ (so see the Greens in 89 and the first UKIP surge in 2004 – this time it was the Lib Dems/Greens).

    There is clearly a pattern (Euros and Witney/Richmond) that the LDs can hoover up remain votes in some areas/demographics but in other areas there seems to be greater loyalty to Labour. The tactics have worked so far to an extent – what’s needed now is a strategy to move forward (something that the party hasn’t had since 2015).

  • Young Francis
    Pandora wasn’t in the box. So she never danced out of it. But aside from that I thought your vivid flight of imagination was quite jolly.

  • Innocent Bystander 8th Jun '19 - 12:00pm

    One of our sons is a keen remainer but now believes that a no-deal Brexit would be, long term, beneficial. On the grounds that the resulting horrific meltdown would be blamed firmly on the Leavers and destroy their credibility and arguments for ever. There would then be an excellent chance of a full return to Europe with the Euro, Schengen and the lot.

  • @John Marriott

    I am not quite sure exactly what you are saying. The point I was making was that if the Peterborough by-election had been held on 31st December 2018, we would have thought it the most remarkable by-election of modern times. That we don’t is remarkable in itself.

    Clearly events change political opinions & that we didn’t Brexit on March 29th or soon after clearly did that. I have continually said on LDV – to some derision from some that said it was wrong – that it was likely that our opinion poll rating would improve (as it has in the past) if we had a by-election win or good local election results. Clearly we have effectively had both (if you include the Euro Elections) & it has.

    I believe in taking the opinion poll with a “pinch of salt” if not a large one. They are always no more than a blurry snapshot. And they do exactly what they say on the tin – report the views of those sampled. Hopefully those sampled are representative of the larger population (& with a well conducted poll they normally are but not always!)

    Of interest was the poll by Yougov a while back that showed if the Labour party didn’t come out unambiguously for a referendum then we would be in joint place with them for the Euros. You could also see Labour’s weakness in local council by-elections. And clearly the Tories poll rating fell off a cliff after March. All that led me to a (correct!) series of predictions that if we worked hard we could make substantial gains in the locals, come second in the Euros & do moderately well in the Peterborough by-election. This was derided at the time by many on LDV has wildly optimistic!

    My concern looking at the polls now is twofold. Firstly (& hypothetical leadership polls are indeed not especially accurate) if Boris wins, the Tories take votes off the Brexit Party – going up to 29%. I also think he could move to the “left” on green issues, funding public services etc.

    Secondly I fear that we are not “sealing the deal” with a significant section & that is younger, green inclined voters. These voters grew up under the coalition. A bit like those that grew up under Thatcher & Major. And it took Cameron with gay marriage, “go green, vote blue”, “hug a hoodie”, “you can trust me on the NHS” to win round Thatcher’s children.

  • All the polls show us a country and electorate in flux seeking a better future than the reality they live in. All the whitterrings of Glen and co show is

  • All the polls show is a society and electorate desperatly seeking a better future than the reality they live in. All the whitterrings of Glen and co show is a desperate desire to forget Brexit and concentrate on something else, anything else, to prevent Nelly dancing around and deverstating towns like Bridgend, tis not Brexit they cry look at anything else just don’t blame us; but as our not so innocent one points out the young will, so expect no help or absolution from that quarter. You made a bad mistake and no amount of whatabouttery will change it.
    Allo Allo – what-a-mistaka-to-maka – YouTube

  • John Marriott 9th Jun '19 - 8:01am

    @Michael 1
    We can all do ‘What if?’ Here’s just a few examples, to which I am sure that you and others could add a few more. Let’s start with 1066.
    1. What if King Harold had won the Battle of Hastings?
    2. What if the Spanish Armada had landed?
    3. What if Princess Charlotte of Wales and her son had both survived childbirth?
    4. What if the Confederacy had won the American Civil War?
    5. What if Adolf Hitler had been killed on the Western Front in 1918?
    And a few more ‘modern’ examples:
    6. What if Wilson had held on to power in 1970.
    7. What if Callaghan had called a General Election in the Autumn of 1978?
    And finally…
    8. What if the Lib Dems had not ‘pledged’ to abolish Tuition Fees in the run up to the 2010 General Election?

    We can all speculate; but, as someone once was supposed to have said, the only thing that is certain is death and taxes, although I was never really convinced about the latter.

  • Innocent Bystander 9th Jun '19 - 10:23am

    ” death and taxes, although I was never really convinced about the latter.”
    You are more likely to be able to avoid the former than the latter, especially round here.

  • OnceALibDem 9th Jun '19 - 11:44am


    There are several volumes of very well written political counterfactuals by Duncan Brack and Iain Dale to which a number of Lib Dem leaning writers have contributed. Certainly Callaghan calling and winning a 78 election is in there.

  • @John Marriott

    Thanks for your further comment. But I haven’t raised the any counter-factuals – fun though it is – in this thread – indeed the opposite.

  • John Marriott 9th Jun '19 - 2:53pm

    @Michael 1
    But…’what if’?

  • @Michael 1
    But…’what if’?

    I think one of the interesting things is how much things would have changed & it might not have been much. For example there were a lot of people around Hitler & obviously (sadly) the conditions were ripe in Germany for the rise of the Nazis.

    Similarly politics in the US & the UK have tracked each other quite closely. And we saw Reagan being very similar to Thatcher. If Callaghan had gone to the country in 1978, the Tories might still have won but more narrowly. If Labour had won, Thatcher &/or right wing Tories might well have won in ’82 or ’83.

    Of course there is a danger in thinking that the future is pre-ordained (well – it is to a degree, the future is the future!). And of course things may have turned out differently. But clearly there are very long term trends of technology improvement leading to greater economic prosperity, better education & health care, greater democracy rather than feudal systems, & more liberal views on social issues.

    Indeed it is why I get on my hobby horse about better education to 21 & that we will (mainly) have jobs that require degrees or education to 21. It is simply an extrapolation of what has happened. Take 1880, take today, extrapolate forward to 2160. And to me 1880 doesn’t seem that long ago. Let’s hope Lib Dems can be in the forefront of that & make it happen quicker.

    Whether King Harold had won the Battle of Hastings or not. We would be roughly in the same political position today. Indeed all humans are the same genetically (99.9%).

    But in political events, it is also worth trying to differentiate the weather, the climate, & that according to chaos theory a butterfly flapping its wings can cause a storm.

    The weather is the day to day political opinions that people hold about politicians, political parties. The climate is their values etc. The butterfly can be someone putting out a Focus, holding a snap election, going into coalition….!

    And for that we need – to get back to the original point – to study (carefully!) opinion polls. “Find out what is on people’s minds & deal with it.” Interestingly Lynton Crosby spent £1 million on polls for the Tories in 2015 (different sort of polls – not horse race polls). And you may say that all he came up with was “Long term economic plan” – but it worked!

  • Bill le Breton 9th Jun '19 - 6:33pm

    Crosby earnt his fees, Michael 1

    He came up with the very powerful squeeze (based on the English prejudice against Scots people, when he warned that ‘the SNP are set to put Milliband into Number 10’ – that really undermined our vote especially in seats where our seasoned MPs (many not standing again) had, over the years, persuaded former Tories to vote for us to “keep a good man/women in Parliament”.

    He of course knew exactly what he was doing and where our vulnerability lay and directed his resources towards our seats. Have a look which constituencies he sent Cameron into during that campaign. He was seldom out of the West Country.

    Of course our own polling was outrageous push-polling which is why Paddy was in the dark as to our vulnerability and why he ended up having to ‘eat his hat’.

  • Nonconformistradical 9th Jun '19 - 6:37pm
  • @Bill le Breton

    “Crosby earnt his fees, Michael 1”

    Absolutely! And that was my point – although I may not have made it clear. (& he earned his fees again in the recent Australian election). (And the £1 million wasn’t his fees – just what he spent on polling!)

    See the video on youtube

    Crosby said the key point is to help guide voters as to what is the dominant consideration when most voters (or a sizeable proportion) go into “spend” their vote. And Crosby moved it in Lib Dem seats from that being voting for an excellent local MP champion to being one of seats the Tories needed to win so the country avoided economic & political chaos with Labour & Ed Milliband:

    From about 15 mins in Crosby says (roughly)

    “These people thought my vote doesn’t matter, this is a seat the Lib Dems win, Labour don’t even contest here or don’t do very well here… My vote doesn’t matter here… I’m going to vote for David Laws…If we could make something more important in terms of the outcome of the election & use that as the thing to drive their vote then we could win those seats. We needed them to go into those constituencies basically & say David Laws is a good guy… The fact is though the Conservatives only need to win 23 seats to win a majority government. If I want to keep David Cameron – he never lost a double digit lead… as preferred PM & our position as economic managers way above Labour… & then the threat of Ed Milliband being weak…now being weak had consequences for voters, they couldn’t see that he could stand up for Britain abroad…& they couldn’t see him taking the difficult decisions to keep the economy strong at home as well. So if people were thinking about preferred PM, who’s best to manage the economy & what is the consequence of having a Conservative government versus some combination of Labour government propped up by God knows who & heaven knows what they would extract from propping up Milliband… then we could win those seats.”

    Clearly for many at the Euros – people “spent” their vote to stop Brexit.

    I went to a presentation at an ALDC kickstart conference on our polling & strategy before the 15 election – I was completely confused & couldn’t remember any of it five minutes later!

    And clearly we didn’t find a national message that resonated. It might have been difficult but we didn’t!

  • Bill le Breton 9th Jun '19 - 8:43pm

    Michael 1, I knew you knew. Just helping.

    I can remember the day precisely when I realised the Tories would win in 2015. It might have been April 21st. A conversation with a woman who used a ‘we’ that included me who she obviously knew was there to ‘collect’ her vote. She said, “I have always voted for X the Lib Dem MP, but this time we have to vote for the Conservatives don’t WE? “.

    The piece by Crosby is really interesting but he is being slightly disingenuous. He knows but cannot admit that people vote negatively. They we not voting to keep Cameron in or even to give him a majority. They were voting to stop Milliband winning.

    Is Crosby working for Johnson again?

  • OnceALibDem 9th Jun '19 - 9:00pm

    “I went to a presentation at an ALDC kickstart conference on our polling & strategy before the 15 election – I was completely confused & couldn’t remember any of it five minutes later!”

    All done by Ryan Cotzee who was IMO corruptly used by Nick to advise the party on strategy when paid by the taxpayer (eg he provided polling analysis on individual seat polls for MPs which was in no way appropriate). Having made such a sucess of the 2015 election he was inexplicably appointed to lead the referendum campaign as Director of Strategy. In short he is probably the worst thing to have happend to the Liberal movement in the UK since Lloyd George.

  • Bill le Breton 9th Jun ’19 – 8:43pm

    Michael 1, I knew you knew. Just helping.

    LOL! TVM!

    Clearly your conversation shows that Crosby’s message worked. On a negative message, I’m not sure that it much matters. You can view it either way – the point is that they viewed Cameron ahead of Milliband on preferred PM and economic competence. We’ve often put the message both ways: “Vote Lib Dem, to stop the Tories getting back and destroying the NHS.” or “Vote Lib Dem, to improve the NHS”. It’s that old essay rubric “compare and contrast”. But perhaps, often the negative version of message is a greater motivator.

    I saw in passing in a newspaper article that Boris is having daily conversations with an advisor from Crosby’s firm/office but they are not acting in a paid capacity. And, of course Crosby was very instrumental in getting Johnson elected as Mayor. And it is worth looking at another video with Lynton Crosby which deals (in part) with how they dealt with Livingstone’s pledge to reduce tube fares.


    Rather prophetically the Independent noted in October 2015: “None of the back-room staff [of the IN campaign] arrives on a high: Will Straw, the executive director, failed to win a seat as a Labour parliamentary candidate; Ryan Coetzee, strategy director, is fresh from leading the Liberal Democrats into electoral oblivion. The campaign may rue the lack of a serious street fighter…”

    Whether we could have found an effective 2015 election strategy is a moot point and possibly the best strategy was to run hard on our local MPs and there was some indication from Ashcroft constituency polls that might work but as noted Crosby successfully crushed that.

  • Michael1/Bill le Breton/OnceaLibDem: Very interesting discussion guys about the 2015 election. Yesterday at the Edinburgh leadership hustings, Ed Davey spoke very well on the uselessness of our national campaigning from 2010-15, and the party’s complete failure to manage the politics of the coalition to our electoral advantage. He was particularly harsh on the 2015 manifesto and messaging. It was so good to hear things I and others have been saying in here for years, but I’d never heard it so clearly stated by one of our ex-ministers.

  • OnceALibDem 9th Jun '19 - 10:47pm

    TonyH – that’s interesting and encouraging. The absence of a leader who could formulate a strategy was the final reason why I left the party so it would be good for that to change!

  • Bill le Breton 10th Jun '19 - 11:07am

    Michael 1 writes “On a negative message, I’m not sure that it much matters.”

    It may sound picky but it matters hugely. Negative campaigning works.

    We have campaigned pro EU for years and got nowhere. Only when our campaign was expressed negatively did we gain traction. Bollocks to Brexit is a negative campaign.

    The leaders put into place in 2007 were not political campaigners. They were very nearly beaten by the Chris Hulme campaign which was negative. Without the postal strike and the then CEx’s decision not to extend the election period to allow for votes posted before the deadline but received late because of the strike, Hulne would have won. Those rejected voting papers sit in a dusty file somewhere in HQ.

    The new leadership coterie had some experience of using commercial campaigners and staff of Think Tanks – generally young, keen, good talkers with zero political campaigning experience outside of perhaps a ward campaign in a London Borough.

    They therefore turned to a relied on commercial campaigners used to selling soap. Where negative campaigning is rarely if ever adopted. Post the Manchester Debate the press and our opponents launched a huge negative campaign. The few people in the Party who had experienced such campaigns – generally in the Cities which had 24 hour media or where we had control of councils that our opponents wanted ‘back’ – were ignored.

    The reaction to the 2010 negative ‘incoming’ was to hunker down and hope the good polling figures held up. They didn’t. The result was that we found ourselves ‘negotiating’ with one Party . Anticipation and rebuttal are the keys to dealing with negative campaigning.

    Ed will have known this as he was apprentice to one of the very best local authority campaigning teams in Kingston, themselves victims of negative campaigning on the grand scale. The question is, why did he and others in positions of power within the party not take action?

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