Post-election reflections on building a Lib Dem core vote

This year I decided to carry out an experiment. I had the feeling that our strategy of Targeting had swung too far one way and was over-allocating resources, adding to the haemorrhaging of our Core Vote and leading our supporters, ex supporters and electorate at large to view the LibDems as increasingly becoming irrelevant.  

So I decided to do some work in the non-Target ward in Ealing that I had been allocated without using any human or material party resources. I also did not work with the other “paper candidates” in the Ward as I did not want to detract from their efforts in helping in the Target wards.

This was the result of my limited effort in my Ward Ealing Broadway:

Ealing Broadway Ward
Vote 2014 Vote 2018 Share 2014 Share 2018 Change Pct Change
Dorothy Brooks/Joyce Onstad 524 789 4.72% 6.24% 265 50.57%
Patrick Salaun 442 627 3.99% 4.96% 185 41.86%
Mark Sanders/Toran Shaw 391 572 3.53% 4.52% 181 46.29%
Total LibDem 1357 1988 12.24% 15.72% 631 46.50%
Total Vote 11090 12644
Electorate 10390 10641
Turnout 38.49% 41.30%

And here is the result in Ealing Common Target Ward where much of the Ealing resources were concentrated:

Ealing Common Ward
Vote 2014 Vote 2018 Share 2014 Share 2018 Change Pct Change
Jon Ball (Elected) 1344 1729 11.95% 12.69% 385 28.65%
Jenni Hollis/Craig O’Donnell 1144 1345 10.17% 9.87% 201 17.57%
Craig O’Donnell/Mark Sanders 927 1216 8.24% 8.93% 289 31.18%
Total LibDem 3415 4290 30.35% 31.49% 875 25.62%
Total Vote 11251 13624
Electorate 10208 10390
Turnout 40.11% 41.30%

As you can see, in Ealing Broadway the LibDem vote increased by 46.5% with only modest investment. I spent several hundred pounds of personal expenditure for campaign literature and social media advertising during the election period. The manpower in Ealing Broadway was me alone during the approximate six-week campaign period and my husband during the last few days.  This compares to Target Ward Ealing Common, which has had heavy financial investment over the years and during the election period, plus lots of manpower. This resulted in one candidate being re-elected and the LibDem vote increasing by 25.6%.

Even though I did not get elected, the return on investment in Ealing Broadway was phenomenal.  I think this is evidence that we over-concentrate resources in a few Target Wards and completely ignore other places. I am not saying we should abandon Targeting but the balance needs to shift.  A small increase in investment in non-worked Wards could see outsized gains for the party and build the Core Vote for the long term. It would also shift public perception while also energising and encouraging our members who live in those Wards. On the doorstep, people were so happy to see a LibDem campaigning for the first time ever. Some people told me they used to vote LibDem then gave up when it appeared the party was not serious about their area.

Spreading resources more widely would prove to people we have the will to win and are serious about a long-term vision of becoming once again the party of government.

* Joyce Wangui Onstad is a Vice Chair of the Federal Board and on the Executive of the Ealing Local Party.

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  • How much work was put in by other parties in Broadway and Common?

    I would have imagined that a lot went into Broadway and we needed to be seen as operating on the same or higher level.

  • Tim Pollard 6th May '18 - 10:50am

    Thanks for posting this. Two things I think would be useful.

    First, results from a control ward, or indeed an average of other wards similar to your test ward. Places where we never do anything and still didn’t do anything. We need to remove the possibility of the change in Broadway being down to national swing or things that affected all wards, like local press coverage.

    Second, details of the levels of opposition activity in all the wards concerned, this undoubtedly makes winning councillors harder because the closer you get the more the opposition do to stop you.

    Finally I should say that targeting is only really about concentrating resources where we can win at election times. The best time to build up core vote is between elections when there is less pressure on time and resources. You can decide one year out from the elections which wards look most winnable and throw everything at them but the previous year round activity will have built our vote without jeopardising our chances of winning the targets.

  • Richard Underhill 6th May '18 - 11:35am

    “local press coverage” where we are means a paid for local paper known to the ruling party as “Hansard” and a free paper containing more national and international news, but not stocked by some newsagents precisely because they do not make any money out of it.

  • Chris Wilson 6th May '18 - 11:38am

    To be honest one of the problems is to do with resources. By definition, in places where there is less hope of success, we are likely to have less people to help. Where I am I would fear we would not have enough resources to adequately fight the target areas if we give more resources to less winnable seats.

  • paul holmes 6th May '18 - 12:55pm

    Joyce, congratulations on your personal efforts. It is that sort of activity, over a period of time as Tim Pollard notes, that builds up profile in a Ward (and on a much bigger scale a constituency) to a point where it could be won in a future election. Sudden activity a month before polling day will not achieve victory however.

    One problem with chasing the Holy Grail of a Core Vote is that, under our First Past The Post electoral system, a thinly spread vote ‘everywhere’ wins absolutely nothing.

    In your case your two colleagues saw their vote increase by 181 and 185 and yours increased by 265. Yet you were still 1,071 votes short of beating the lowest placed (Conservative) winner in Ealing Broadway.

    In Ealing Common however our candidates saw their votes increase (from a much higher original base) by 385, 201 and 289 votes based on your method of calculation above. However if Craig O’Donnell stood last time and got 927 votes and this time got 1345 votes I would say that his personal increase should be calculated as 418 votes -presumably due to the increased name recognition that comes with long term campaigning? In any case, however you calculate it, Craig was only 186 votes short of beating the lowest placed winner and only 227 short of beating the 2nd lowest winner. Mark Sanders needed 315 more votes to beat the lowest placed winner -a much more achievable goal than the 1,071 you were left short in Ealing Broadway.

    Which is better? To hold one Cllr and come close to gaining two more in a Target Ward or to spread effort thinly, possibly lose held seats and certainly be over 1,000 votes behind more or less everywhere? Long term campaigning builds up Ward profile and organisation until you are strong enough to win in the future. But when it comes to immediate elections there are no prizes for lots of second, third and fourth places. The main takeaway for the electorate and press from Thursday’s elections, as regards us, is that we had net gains of Cllrs and Councils rather than that our projected national vote share fell from 18% last year to 16% this year (although it was up from 11% in these elections in 2014). Just as in the 1997 General Election the public perception was not that our vote share fell compared to 1992 but that our number of MP’s more than doubled to 47 which was then the highest since the 1920’s, until increased again in 2001 and 2005.

  • paul holmes 6th May '18 - 12:57pm

    @Martin. According to the Council website turnout was 45.58% in Ealing Common and 41.3% in Ealing Broadway.

  • chris moore 6th May '18 - 1:18pm

    Well done on your solo campaigning. And best of luck for the future. It takes grit and persistence.

    But the sample is too small to draw any statistical conclusions.

    One could easily say that, if resources had been diverted from the target ward, there might have been a swing against LD and the councillor lost.

    Across the country, there were many “derelict” áreas where LDs didn’t stand or had pitiful results. Some of these in the past were LD held áreas. This reflects how much weaker we are than 10 years ago.

    My feeling is that targetting is the way to go: getting wins, generates excitement and brings in more members. But we need to keep an open mind about what could be winnable, in view of the last paragraph.

  • Stephen Yolland 6th May '18 - 1:19pm

    I am sorry, what was the return on investment? How does your result compare with, say, national opinion poll standings? How many new members do you now have in the Ward?

    We do, of course, need to spread beyond target wards. When the time is right. As part of a planned strategy which has the support of the entire executive in the area, and preferably the broader Membership too.

  • Tony Dawson 6th May '18 - 1:39pm

    ‘A miss is as good as a mile’.

    My impression is that the real problem here was the Party’s failure to get Jon Ball’s vote shared more evenly with the other two candidates in Ealing Common who did not get elected.

  • Laurence Cox 6th May '18 - 2:26pm

    Joyce, Tim Pollard is quite right. Targetting is mainly about making decisions where to put our resources during an election campaign and usually that means dropping less favourable wards to ensure that we get our candidates elected in our best wards. In my experience it is not often that we can close down a ward knowing that we will win it even if we do no further work.

    Some of the things we do need to do outside elections are:
    1) Hold action days in wards where we don’t campaign actively at election time with the aim of finding supporters who we can then call on at election time to sign our nomination papers; in my Borough we failed to get candidates nominated in five of our ‘black hole’ wards because of this alone. It should be an article of faith that we stand candidates everywhere if possible, even if we cannot get a full slate.

    2) Identify campaigns that we can run that affect several wards; in London these are often transport-related.

    3) Make sure that activists go to help in by-election campaigns across London and nearby areas. This is the best way to expose them to the level of campaigning required to win seats. In London there is the delayed London Bridge and West Bermondsey Ward election, where the Conservative candidate died after close of nominations.

  • don’t be disheartened by some of the comments, Joyce, you increased the vote and had an impact. Your aim now must be to deliver a ‘seasonal’ leaflet, road by road in the ward, and in each road find at least one deliverer, until you have built up a complete delivery network. With that you can then aim to get a leaflet out once a month. Find a takeaway which needs its menu distributing, and what they will pay you covers your print costs…. with a regular delivery and you photo on it, you will start getting people say hello in the street, and you will find people joining because the party starts to become credible. Then people will vote for you because they know your face/name, and the national party figures of the opposition become irrelevant to the local situation… and people will vote for you because you clearly want the job.!

  • Nom de Plume 6th May '18 - 2:55pm

    It has always surprised me that the party has only been consistently successful in parts of south London. There must be other areas in London which are potential targets. It may in part be about establishing a local presence and changing voting habits and perceptions. A liberal party should do well in London, especially in the present political climate.

  • Peter Davies 6th May '18 - 5:31pm

    The debate is not so much about where to put in the effort but when. If you are out next weekend putting out your thank-you leaflet then nobody can claim you are taking resources away from the targets. Keep it up for the next four years and you will have a team around you. If you haven’t justified target status by then you should at least have some resources to help Jon get some colleagues.

  • Phil Wainewright 6th May '18 - 5:43pm

    I think I agree with both Joyce and the comment by Paul Holmes. In a first-past-the-post system, it’s essential to target ruthlessly to get the wins that the public will notice. But that takes resources, and unless we build up our active membership and support base we’ll never have enough to break through.

    So activity in non-target wards is important, so long as it complements rather than detracts from a target strategy. As Joyce indicates in passing, one of the constraints is money. Paying for activity in non-target wards on top of building an election campaign fund for target wards means raising twice as much. The other constraint is people, and I feel this is where activity in non-target wards can contribute to success in target wards, by building a bank of willing and eventually experienced volunteers.

    Having witnessed various campaigns over the past decade or so I’ve been struck by how much ‘muscle memory’ campaign teams lose from one election to another in places like London where there’s a four-year cycle. Who among the membership is willing to do telling duties on polling day? Who will deliver outside of their area? Who will knock on doors? Who knows how to run a committee room? Activity outside of target wards and outside of election time can help find and motivate volunteers over time, and having brought them in and got them enthused then gradually expand their campaign skills. If there are by-elections in the meantime, then even if the ward is a no-hoper it’s a great opportunity to reinforce that election day ‘muscle memory’.

    All of this takes leadership and stars like Joyce who are willing to dedicate their time and energy to building up core vote and campaign strength over time. But with 100k members and rising, perhaps it’s just a matter of harnessing and directing the untapped potential out there.

  • Eddie Sammon 6th May '18 - 5:58pm

    I agree that non-target seats shouldn’t be neglected. I just want to make a point about the “core vote”. Often, when people call to focus on the core vote, they mean centre-left liberals, but our core-vote has changed from the pre-coalition days. I see myself as a centrist, but have voted Lib Dem in every election I was able to since about 2012. I now see myself as part of a core vote.

    Of course, I’m not saying the new Lib Dem core vote is just people like me, but perhaps it is best to focus on developing long-term voters, rather than “core voters”. Clegg targeted people like me but I didn’t stop voting Lib Dem once he left.

    The party is full of different groups of voters who joined and started voting Lib Dem at different times. We should be aware of selecting one group and saying “this is the core vote, let’s designate other long-term voters as “non-core”.

  • John Marriott 6th May '18 - 6:42pm

    The problem with effort is that it has to be sustained over many years to get results. Stop that effort and you go backwards very quickly. For Joyce Onstad in 2018 read John Marriott in 1987 (or, perhaps, Paul Holmes for ever!).

    Put on a blue rosette around here and you are guaranteed 30% of whatever vote turns out. In Lincoln next door, the same would apply to a red rosette. The core Lib Dem vote around here is probably between 6 and 10% in a good year. Only if a candidate gets themselves well known can that ratchet up. I even got around 50% of the vote in 2005. After that it was downhill. Mind you I never lost an election, although, had I stood last year I reckon that my time would have been up for a variety of reasons, including the Lib Dem national profile.

    To be successful as a Lib Dem around here and to continue that success you virtually need to run just to stand still. After thirty years of running, walking and hobbling that was me finished. So, you might ask “Where were the new recruits?” “ Too busy holding down a job or looking after their families etc.” might be the answer. Am I sad it all camebto nought? You bet. Should I, knowing how it might turn out, have never started in the first place? Absolutely NOT!

  • Congratulations on your campaign in Ealing, Joyce.

    And can I suggest that for you and all our candidates and local parties we need to maximise the return on the investment by getting out those thank you Focuses
    ASAP and with all the excellent headlines on our successes.

    Indeed not just one leaflet but getting out 2,3,4 focuses or more over the next two months which is difficult when energy and money are low! But 3 leaflets over a third of a ward is probably better than 1 over the whole ward.

    Or just phone people up which is essentially free – perhaps particularly our supporters in a ward – and have a chat.

    And start “throwing stones” at an opposition council by turning up and asking questions, campaigning, launching petitions and representing your ward – whether you won or lost.

    And for all there is a lot of “targeting” to be done in any ward by mobilising remainers in particular and supporters and getting donations from them. Remain will be become more and more salient and more and more motivating for people in the coming months.

    Start winning your ward and constituency. Whether that comes in a year, four, ten or twenty.

    But act NOW not next April!

    Good luck, Joyce and everyone.

  • Thank you Joyce for your article, which certainly has attracted lots of comments. I do agree that over focus on target wards can be counterproductive, at least in some circumstances. If the targeting of material is not thought through so that it becomes more focused on volume not value then effort is wasted. Where we transfer effort from other wards then we also miss the opportunity to build our core base of support in those areas.
    What is helpful is to have a consistent quality engagement with residents in the ground all year round, whether as a councilor or not, so that we build solid relationships, based on which voters become to trust us and vote for us. The second thing that we need to do is nationally, regionally and locally is to support efficient and effective engagements throughout. Standardized systems will help, but more importantly is a communication strategy and materials that are shared and understood. Using this framework we can then quickly deploy the materials, appropriately tailored to our local areas – less effort in back room preparation and more on front line engagement.

  • Margaret Joachim 6th May '18 - 8:59pm

    I stood as a paper candidate in Acton Central ward – also part of Ealing Borough and to the east of the Ealing Broadway ward. I did absolutely nothing at all in the ward (because I worked to get candidates re-elected in Southfield and Ealing Common) and nor did the other two Lib Dem paper candidates . Nor, as far as I could make out, did the Tories or Labour, other than drop one leaflet each. I got 500 votes. This was an increase of 193 over my total as an equally inactive paper candidate in 2014 – the other two candidates got similar increases. Turnout was up by 1.5%.

    It can be argued that because we targetted, and because we put up a strong campaign in a couple of other wards as well, we helped to keep some of the local Tories working in Ealing and prevented them going to Richmond or Kingston. Sometimes the effects of a campaign strategy stretch beyond the immediate locality.

  • OnceALibDem 6th May '18 - 10:29pm

    Thanks for that Margaret. Fortunately that gives us as near a good a control group as we could find in elections (with all the constant changes).

    In 2014 you polled 307. So on Joyce’s formula you had a percentage increase of 62.87%.

    Which does kind of undermine the point she is attempting to make. Well I think it pretty much destroys it.

    I hope that Joyce’s experiment was done with the approval of the local party as an valid experiment on such things. If not I would be really hacked off with what she’d done.

  • Joyce Onstad 6th May '18 - 11:40pm

    Thanks everyone for engaging and for the encouragement. I am happy this article is creating lots of really useful discussion for our party. Thanks for great tips and suggestions especially about building community engagement everywhere throughout the whole four year period. I am greatly encouraged!

  • Good for you Joyce. I am a great believer in targeting and I don’t completely agree with your conclusions, but I do think we need to think outside the box at times – on questions of strategy as well as policy – so well done for provoking this discussion.
    On the substance, basically Paul Holmes is right.

  • David Hopps 7th May '18 - 8:12am

    Thanks for an important assessment, Joyce. I have just tripled the vote in Wetherby with no resources other than those self-provided, backed by a few willing helpers who were driven by wanting the Lib Dem voice to be loud in their own community – they are not activists, they are not interested in neighbouring areas, and that is their choice.
    No we didn’t win, but we surprised people, lifted hearts of our supporters, and are definitely back in the discussion. The gratitude in the community that we were back was palpable. Our status is higher.
    Congratulations, too, on your suspicion of paper candidates. I know this is well meaning but personally I belioeve it drags down the party’s reputation. The honest response – and voters want honesty – is to do it properly or not at all. That does not have to mean campaign vigorously. But too often we are falling below minimum standards.
    A certain amount of targeting is justified but I, too, believe it can be – and has been – overdone. Obsessive targeting means swathes of the country where we have no voice. These dead areas mean 8% in the national polls. 8% in the national polls means less media coverage and the impression of irrelevance. Less media coverage and the impression of irrelevanceundermines the target wards. Some targeting, for sure; it’s commonsense. But over-targeting is counter-productive.

  • We are always going to have limited resources and the theory is that targeting makes best use of those resources at election time. That’s fine but it doesn’t help at a General Election – which is the ultimate prize.
    We need to be constantly paddling all the areas all the time – not just at elections. We are experimenting with area ‘champions’ who take ownership of issues in the streets around them hoping to build a local network of supporters.
    I’m not convinced that the constant stream of confetti is that useful – how many of us read the leaflets that come through our doors?
    Our District elections are next May. we are starting now targeting the marked registers from last year’s County elections. Aiming for people who actually vote is a far better use of resources. In the figures above it looks like about 4000 people voted which might equate to 2500 houses – hitting those households every three months or so might pay dividends next time round.

  • Nigel Orchard 7th May '18 - 9:50am

    Spot on Joyce. We almost managed to implement your theory in Hammersmith before I was wrongly suspended. Someone like you In each Ward. Not difficult with a Party of 600 members. And Regional National and Federal moral support not nit picking…

  • OnceALibDem 7th May '18 - 10:12am

    Why are people congratulating Joyce? The only way that should happen is if this was an agreed experiment as part of the party’s planned strategy. It doesn’t sound like that was the case from Jon’s post. But rather a ‘a frolic of her own’ which ran counter to party strategy (and potentially damaged the party’s results?).

    It doesn’t feel like team work, if I was one of the defeated candidates I’d be very annoyed at someone writing a posting saying, basically, ‘I did better than you’

    But really there is a misunderstanding here of a core vote strategy. The idea is that seats are won on a mixture of core vote + local votes + tactical votes which add up to winning seats

  • paul holmes 7th May '18 - 12:25pm

    @pmknowles.In what way does Targeting not help in a General Election?

    Weak Targeting in 1992 gave us 22 MP’s -much in line with some previous GE’s. Good Targeting in 1997 gave us 47 MP’s despite a small drop in the national vote. Further good Targeting saw us gain another record level of MP’s in 2001 and another in 2005.

    I do agree with the gist of your point about Targeting those who actually vote but even there you raise contradictions and problems. For example if you only target the 40% or less who vote in local elections then you are ignoring the further 30% who don’t vote in Locals but do vote in General elections. Also does every Local Party have the ability to so ‘Target’ the 40% in every Local Government Ward within their area or would many in reality have to restrict their very limited number of activists to Targeting the relevant 40% in a much more limited number of Wards? Indeed how many Local Parties have actually bought and entered the Marked Registers? Incidentally ‘contacting voters once every 3 months’ whilst much more than most Local Parties ever achieve is unlikely to be enough to win many seats in May 2019.

    As for whether leaflets work the ‘desk analysis’ is there every Thursday in Council by elections across the country, every May in wholesale Council elections and in every GE. Just compare the LD vote in all the areas where no or very few leaflets are delivered with the LD vote in areas that run full literature campaigns.

  • Peter Hirst 7th May '18 - 12:40pm

    I agree with your sentiments, Joyce. To be a credible Party working to gain power we need to project an image of being inclusive – after all that is one of our core values. It is disheartening to feel the Lib Dems are no longer concerned with your area. Statistically, I doubt there is as much difference in our core vote between target and non-target seats as some imagine. The different results are a result of campaigning. It is a delicate balance and recently the Party has gone too far in the target seat strategy direction. Particularly following these excellent local election results, we need to broaden our campaigns though putting retaining the seats we hold as the priority.

  • paul holmes 7th May '18 - 12:53pm

    @David Hopps. ‘Obsessive Targeting means swathes of the country where we have no voice.’ How exactly?

    A tiny tiny % of LD members are paid staff. All the rest of us are volunteers. Absolutely no one can make us ‘abandon our area’ and go and campaign somewhere else -or at all. As successful Cllr Jon Ball notes above, very few of his areas 600 members even campaigned in their own area let alone anywhere else. Anyone wanting to campaign but not convinced by calls to help the nearest Target Seat/Ward can just get on with campaigning in their own patch.

    I would suggest that the main reason that there are ‘swathes of the country where we have no voice’ is because there are swathes of the country where no one campaigns ‘month in/month’ out and ‘year in/year out’. Not in ‘Target seats’ and not at all. How many Local Parties have not even run a Street Stall in the last couple of years or regularly put letters in the local press/comment on Social Media sites? Not that any of those things win elections but they are variously free/cheap methods of creating some LD profile and local voice. How many Local Parties have not delivered even one leaflet, once, to every house in their area -or to half the houses in their area -or to a quarter?

    Targeting means that we have more elected representation at any given time, good or bad, 2005 or 2018, than we would have if we just dissipated our efforts thinly everywhere. But Targeting effort where it makes a difference each April is no reason for people not to build up their own local patch all the rest of the time. If you work Wetherby continuously over period of time or if Joyce works Ealing Broadway over the next 4 years then there is no reason why they won’t be flashed up as ‘Gains’ on future Election Special programmes. I won my first election in 1987 after 2 years working and building up a Ward on my own -the help from outside the Ward amounted to one person coming to canvass once.The truth remains however that we have very limited resources of people and money and at election time that should go where we are within potential winning distance .

  • Simon Banks 7th May '18 - 5:08pm

    Any conclusions from one ward have to be treated with caution. The other parties’ campaigns and demographic change could be factors, for a start. At least the fact that the Liberal Democrat vote for all three candidates increased shows this was not just an Onstad effect (personal vote).

    However, basically I agree. Where we already have well-established target wards, we should generally also have at least one development ward which we’re either fighting to win for the first time or not thinking we can win this time, but fighting to build support to win next time. The skills of developing new ground have been almost forgotten and this breeds a defensive mindset. At a local party level, where we’re strong in one place and almost dead in another, activists in the strong area should not just be treating the few survivors in the weak area as cannon fodder, but helping to turn the weak area into a stronger one.

  • Bill le Breton 7th May '18 - 7:18pm

    I see many in the Party are having trouble accepting the advice of experts with long experience of winning elections across Cities, Boroughs, Councils, Constituencies and Nations. It was ever thus.

    What is disturbing is that one of them is actually a Vice Chair of the Federal Board and therefore has the power to influence budget allocations, campaign strategy, and the recruitment of strategic campaigners for the Federal Party.

  • Bill le Breton 8th May '18 - 7:24am

    Quite right Paul – and add to this that this total novice in political campaigning could have gone to a top performing ward and *learnt* something #cascading knowledge – well, that is of course what most of us did. #standingontheshouldersofgiants

  • Good to see your looking at other areas. My only comment is it’s east to bost your vote from a low base to something slightly higher with a leaflet or two. The challenging bit is that last hop to the winning post. As you can hit a brick wall at which point there just no more avliable vote to get in a ward. Take encouragement that people out there don’t hate us as much as results suggest but remember you done the easy bit the hard bit turn that work into a win. Well done none the less.

  • Lee Thacker 8th May '18 - 11:56am

    Well done, Joyce. I hope you will keep campaigning in your own ward. Don’t let anyone here discourage you.

    I also hope the Ealing local party can persuade inactive members to get more involved. If they succeed please share the secrets with the rest of us on the private members’ forum.

  • I am a strong advocate of strong highly-focused targeting and it is even more important in recent times when we have been low in the opinion polls.

    Sad to say may be but winning in SW London through generating very good regional media coverage have probably made other wards in other councils more winnable next time than increasing a poor third (or second or fourth) by a few percentage points.

    And Jon and Joyce and the team in Ealing is to be congratulated on keeping a Lib Dem presence on the council when many councils in London have become complete deserts for us which (outside the South West) has been exceptionally tough for us in recent years.


    Despite being an advocate of strong targeting I think there is a role for developing wards or parts of wards that are not immediate targets.

    Many started setting up branches and standing for council in really desolate areas in the ’70s which later became areas of strength and winning in the ’80s and ’90s. Some areas will need 10 or 20 years of development and if we don’t start today….

    But this does need to be tempered with a strong appreciation of the overall targeting strategy locally, regionally and nationally – otherwise these areas will never succeed.

    And I hope that those in Ealing and elsewhere will keep up the momentum and keep on with the leaflets – essentially better to have a leaflet in part of a ward say every two weeks than one across the ward once every three months. All advertising campaigns are based on high frequency otherwise they are completely ineffective. Phone up our supporters and indeed “soft” supporters of other parties. Invite them to social events. Recruit members, get money out of people… etc. etc. Much of which will help the overall targeting effort.

    I know that in the past that I – win or lose – have done far, far too little after an election. Don’t repeat my mistake!!!

    Good luck in Ealing and to all throughout the country!

  • @David Raw

    My responsibility to the electorate is to secure Lib Dem government for them at local and national level. I have been involved in campaigns where we have gained or kept control of the council – and yes in some wards all we did was get those 10 nominations.

    I believe in those wards as well as those we won and perhaps actually perhaps more in those wards than those we won the electorate got a better deal through a better council. That is being responsible.

  • OnceALibDem 8th May '18 - 10:32pm

    Bill – wasn’t this forum full of Lib Dems railing about Michael Gove when he said about not trusting experts.

    When it comes to elections it seems different rules apply

  • Bill le Breton 9th May '18 - 7:57pm

    OnceALibDem : exactly. Govians, all of them.

  • Alastair Mitton 10th May '18 - 10:31am

    I was a candidate in another target ward in Ealing (Elthorne) and have done some quite extensive analysis of all the results in the borough.

    Firstly I believe that any analysis based on an increase in raw votes is fundamentally flawed. It takes no account of increased turnout which is so dependant on the activities of other parties, the more competitive a ward is the higher the turnout. The only valid stat (apart from whether or not we won) is share of the vote.

    By that measure Ealing Broadway wasn’t a great success. It came 4th in our non target wards behind Warpole, South Acton and Southall Broadway who all did better despite having done no work of any kind. Labour also increased their share of the vote in Ealing Broadway by 2.35% and as far as I know didn’t put much if anything into the ward.

    Like Jon I would have preferred to see all the focus given to our target wards, between us we achieved an average of 5.58% increase in our share of the vote and that includes a modest jump of 1.14% in Ealing Common due to an unexpected blitz by Labour. In Elthorne we saw an increase of 9.7%, the best result of any party in any ward in the borough (with the exception of Labour in Southall Broadway who had 3 very popular independents 4 years ago and skew their results). The lesson I took from the campaign is that while advertising and literature is important there is no substitute for knocking on doors. I could have used help when out on my own in the pouring rain on a bank holiday.

    We need to adopt the same tactics that the Army uses of bite and hold. We now have a “safe” ward in Southfield, something we have never had before with a councillor (Jon) in another ward. In four years time the electoral cycle will probably be flowing away from Labour. We must concentrate on taking them on and beating them and not allow the Tories to be the beneficiaries. It is clear that if we replicate the increase in our share of the vote in Elthorne in four years time we will win, doable given that we only started working the ward back at the beginning of the year. Our other target ward of Cleveland has a bigger hill to climb but I can see real possibilities.

    The time for putting effort into a ward isn’t during the election campaign, it’s in the years before the election. I have already told my ward that the next election starts this week.

  • Alastair, you are spot on that the time to build up a Ward into a strong prospect is in the years between elections. The 4 -6 weeks around election time is the time to concentrate effort where it can tip the balance from a strong prospect to a win. No last minute flurry is ever going to raise our vote from say 500 votes to say 1,500 and past the winning line.

    As regards door knocking versus literature the answer is of course to do both to a high level if you really want to win. Over 35 years though I have, in various capacities, been involved in more than a few election wins where literature delivery has far outweighed canvassing but I have never been involved in an election win where canvassing has outweighed literature. The simple reason is that an hour’s delivery puts your message in front of far more voters than an hour’s door knocking (plus it is easier to recruit helpers who will deliver than helpers who will door knock). But doing both is the ideal – I ran a Borough Council by election gain from Labour last September where we delivered a lot of varied literature but also canvassed 55% of the total electorate or over 75% of those who had actually voted in last years County/General Elections.

    I would hope that the Federal Board Members are made aware of the decades of experience in proven Campaign methods that win elections and then direct scarce Party Resources accordingly. With over half of our members being brand new since 2015 the National Party need to be investing in training rather than leaving people to reinvent the wheel the hard way via random effort and personal ‘gut feeling’, which when it does not bring results could lead to giving up.

  • Alastair Mitton 10th May '18 - 3:16pm

    Paul I couldn’t agree more, in Elthorne in the 3 months prior to the election we put out 4 Focus’s and also had 2 other pieces of other literature as well as a Good Morning. Following that up on the doorstep gave us the conversion from “that seems sensible” to “I will vote for you”. Although we knocked on just short of 7,000 doors we only managed to achieve 1650 voter contacts. Our total electorate was just over 10k (turnout at 45%) so that is nowhere near enough. Extra people canvassing would have meant extra conversions.

  • I know the temptation of working one’s own ward and not working in the target wards. It has to be resisted. Of course some of your family and friends would work for you in your ward rather than in a target ward. This year I received 114 votes up from 53 four years ago; 10.7% compared with 4.5%. In the ward in which I stood four years ago our candidate received 118 votes (10.3%) up from 96 (7.8%). In fact in most of our non-target wards our vote was up.

    If Joyce instead of doing work in her own ward had spent 6 hours a week for 6 weeks canvasing in Ealing Common she could have knocked on 1080 doors and maybe found 180 extra people who said they would votes for us. If she had been joined by her husband together they may well have found enough potential us supporters for us to now have another councillor.

    @ David Raw

    If we think it is fine for people to finance their own campaigns rather than donate that money to the Local Party we have opened the door to giving an advantage to members who can finance all or part of their campaign over those who can’t. It is hard for a Local Party to stop it and Paul Walter sets out a procedure which should help.

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