Review of 2014 European and Local Election Campaign

Election count progressingAfter the elections in May, the Leader tasked a group with reviewing the elections, assessing what worked and what didn’t, and produce recommendations to improve our campaigning for the future.

On Monday, the Review Group presented our findings to the Leader and later to the Federal Executive. I am pleased to say that they endorsed both the report and its recommendations, and we will now set about putting them into practice well in advance of next year’s elections.

In what was the most-read Party email in some time, more than 700 individual members made representations to the Review Group and almost 2,000 pages of contributions were received by the end of the process. This helped us to produce a 50 page – nearly 20,000 word – report which we presented in fully to the governing bodies of the parties. Here, and on the party website, we share as much as we felt able to without unduly aiding those running against us in future elections.

Concerns raised by members largely fell into three interlinked groups (the three T’s):

  • Tories – our association with the Tories in coalition has made it more difficult to appeal to former Labour voters who swung behind us in 2010, and to win soft Labour voters over;
  • Tuition Fees – breaking of the pledge was raised in responses less as something that was raised with activists on the doorstep, and more as a reason as to why some of our messages failed to gain traction;
  • TV Debates (and messaging) – placing ourselves as the direct opponents to UKIP made it difficult to present the core Lib Dem message of membership and reform of the EU, and didn’t leave enough space to campaign on the strong records of our MEPs. It also meant that the sheer volume given to the opposition to our core position, in the media and elsewhere, made it difficult for us to retain trust in our key messages.

As a group, we worked to come up with a range of recommendations off the back of these concerns, including improving the dissemination of real-time campaigning lines, establishing a process for canvass responses to feed back into the messaging process, ensuring that campaigning targets and plans are tailored to specific local circumstances rather than being set at a national level, and improving the availability and communication of training and fixes for Connect.

Perhaps most importantly, we made clear that over the next 9 months the party should ensure that we are producing inspiring and motivating messages for our activists and the electorate, and ensuring that our manifesto is centred on Liberal Democrat policy – not a defence of the status quo.

As a party, we desire innovation, improvement and delivery as part of our natural politics and are not afraid to demand it of ourselves.  The road to 2015 will involve tough choices and huge amounts of hard work.  The responses reveal that passion, dedication and enthusiasm exist in abundance within the Party. We hope that the recommendations provided to the Leader and the Federal Executive can play a significant role in enabling the Party as a whole to realise its rightful potential.

A fuller report of the review can be found by party members here.

* James Gurling is Chair of the Federal Campaigns and Elections Committee and the General Election campaign.

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69 Comments

  • Eddie Sammon 18th Jul '14 - 8:34pm

    I read the report a few hours ago, but this article is better than the report. The report hardly mentions the problem of the Party of IN campaign.

    In my opinion the party has a bigger problem in presenting itself as a “unionist” party. There aren’t enough liberals anyway, so we shouldn’t be putting of SNP leaning or eurosceptic liberals by bashing them all the time.

    If trade unions are progressive, then why isn’t pragmatic nationalism? It is the same principle of preventing exploitation.

    Regards

  • Personally I think we should go after the trade union vote. Starting with setting up a party affiliated trade union.

    Provides a body of support and funding and breaks down the 2 party system by appealing to soft lab voters

  • Michael Brown 18th Jul '14 - 8:48pm

    Gareth – if you login to the website before you click the link it should work.

  • Andy Williams 18th Jul '14 - 8:49pm

    The report also fails to mention where we did well and the reasons we did well. Too much navel gazing in this party still.

  • I’m another one disappointed by the recommendations (although credit to you for emailing them round earlier.) It feels too internal. Connect is a strength not to blame (from what I’ve heard of the Tories’ MERLIN system, count your blessings…) Too little on dealing with the root causes of issues of trust, getting messages through, and issues over losing activists, too much on campaign structures and staff in HQ.

    The one good idea here is a way of feeding back issues in ‘real time’ although this only has value if we have confidence things will change as a result.

  • Here’s the thing. I do not trust the leadership at present. All the “inspiring policies” in the world are nothing to me because I am far from sure that you will stick by them. There has been no “come to Jesus” moment from Clegg. Rather than admit the possibility of error, his immediate reaction was “things go down, things go up”.

    So I voted green in the Euro election, mainly out of protest for the three main parties

  • Diagnosis (Tories / Tuition Fees / TV debates) – Fine

    Prescription (“improving the dissemination of real-time campaigning lines, establishing a process …ensuring that campaigning targets and plans are tailored… improving the availability and communication of training, blah de blah) – Not fine.

  • If a review has been commissioned by the elephant, what chance do you think it will have of identifying the fatal role of the elephant in the room? 🙂

    How many Lib Dem Local Parties which have managed to go forward despite our albatross handicap bothered to even waste time giving evidence to this ludicrous non-review which had terms of reference which essentially denied any prospect of it everaddressing he real issues?

  • Stephen Hesketh 19th Jul '14 - 8:07am

    @Tony Dawson … I can only agree.

  • Jenny Barnes 19th Jul '14 - 8:31am

    ” The road to 2015 will involve tough choices and huge amounts of hard work”
    tough choices in politics are usually tough for someone else – not the person making the choice. As many activists are disaffected – some effectively on strike, some having gone so far as to vote green or Labour – who is going to do this “huge amount of hard work”? Or is that just pre-emptive blame “where we don’t work we lose” so that those that created the problem can blame the local parties for not working hard enough when the debacle occurs?

  • I am sure that “passion, enthusiasm and dedication” do exist in abundance, but that will be for the founding principles of the Lib Dems. Surely the worry must be all those holes which were originally filled by formerly passionate, enthusiastic and dedicated activists, supporters and voters? Someone then must look to, as Tony Dawson puts it, the elephant in the room. When I can find it, I will read carefully what Gurling and colleagues have written, and respond to that.

  • Tony Dawson 19th Jul '14 - 8:44am

    “the party should ensure that we are producing inspiring and motivating messages for our activists and the electorate”

    It took me a very long time to persuade myself that this was not a pastiche.

    “We will find happier songs to sing as we mass on the poop deck while the ship goes down.”

    To be able to produce something ‘inspiring and motivating’ you firstly have to be capable of inspiring and motivating.

  • Martin Land 19th Jul '14 - 8:55am

    There is nothing here that makes me feel like working harder. Indeed this is exactly what I thought it would be.

    Coating the Titanic with Gloss Paint.

  • Bill le Breton 19th Jul '14 - 10:05am

    From 2008, the new leadership of the Party set out to transform the Liberal Democrats by pursuing a sub-Thatcherite agenda in the belief that this would create a new core vote.

    In Government/in the Rose garden, side by side with Cameron, the Leadership has been able to give full rein to the pursuit of this agenda.

    This new face of Liberal Democrats – visible most nights through their TV sets – contrasted with the prior understanding that people had of our Party as expressed by previous leaders, their local MPs, Councillors and activists. This led the public to conclude that Liberal Democrats a) would say and do anything that got them into office, and b) that they could not be trusted.

    As a result, and in fairly quick order, two thirds of the old LD vote went elsewhere and have shown no appetite to return. At the time this was seen by the leadership – and expressed by its Strategic Director, Reeves – as a necessary phase in the pursuit of the new core vote. The relationship with different supporters was a key part of the new leadership’s transformation of the Party. They pressed on with the transformation.

    To the surprise of the Leadership no new core vote has arrived to replace it. Any potential new voter has instead had their prior prejudices, (a) and (b) above, confirmed.

    The chickens of this transformation came home to roost each and every time the public had a chance to exercise their vote, bringing dire electoral loses from 2008 to 2014.

    The Gurling/Leadership solution is to throw words (re-messaging) at the rising tide engulfing us.

    The effects of endeavouring to change the message portrayed by the Leadership (the heart of the Gurling recommendations) now merely reinforce the ever stronger belief that Liberal Democrats a) would say and do anything that got them into office, and b) that they could not be trusted.

    This has become the new Liberal Democrats’ Catch 22. If you don’t change, then, a) and b) are confirmed. If you do change a) and b) are confirmed.

    Where this transformation of the public perception of Liberal Democrats is less clear to electors is where local campaigners are sufficiently strong and smart enough to communicate in *deeds* a different form of political personality to that expressed centrally.

    There is nothing that the centre can do to help these local campaigns other than to give them all the money they possibly can and to direct to them all the other mobile resources that Liberal Democrats can muster.

    Choose the MP/seat, who you wish to help save, and go there, physically and virtually.

  • Wow, really a waste of time, we all knew what the problems were, this simply confirms that without reference to the core problem, the leadership and how that presents to the voters we have lost. We are no longer a national party and this weeks local by election results show that. We require a new image, a new focus and most importantly a new face.
    Within one week of a new leader NC, our undertaker, will be forgotten.

  • The Party of IN campaign was a gross strategic error, and a large part of why the “strong records of our MEPs” went unmentioned. We banged on about how wonderful the EU was, but did NOTHING to relate this to what our Lib Dem elected representatives had done to make the EU work for its citizens. We were selling the EU to voters, not (as we should have done) our party’s record in the European Parliament. And making it about Clegg v Farage was the biggest error, as Clegg (i) wasn’t up for election, and (ii) is toxic. We allowed the campaign to be fought on Farage’s terms, instead of on ours, and on an issue over which MEPs don’t even have any influence. It’s like we were to fight the next general election by picking a fight with Alex Salmond and banging on about how great the UK is, but not mentioning our own party policies for government.
    We also missed a trick by failing to differentiate ourselves from the Tories by noting the radically different voting records and allies of us and them in the “Coalition-free Zone” of the European Parliament. The Euro election campaign should have been the START of our differentiation strategy.

  • Paul in Wokingham 19th Jul '14 - 11:47am

    “Tories” – coalition is not a synonym for capitulation. There was no reason for the leadership to behave as Tory-lite for the last 4 years. Whether this was due to a misguided desire to prove that “coalition can work” or due to the desire of the OB-ers to reposition the party as centre-right is moot. The cause was the decisions taken by the leadership and the effect is a massive loss of support that will only be recovered in years, not months.

    “Tuition fees” – this has now become shorthand for duplicitous behaviour and the current leadership is inextricably associated with it. Whether Clegg actually supported the pledge is irrelevant. He signed it. He campaigned on it. He took votes based on it. Every manifesto promise will now be viewed with suspicion and disbelief. The cause is the decisions taken by the leadership.

    “TV debates” – Clegg’s awful answer “much the same as today” to the question about what the EU will look like in 10 years time told viewers that the Lib Dems are notnot the party of reform, but the party of the status quo and the party of the gravy train. The cause is the performance of the leadership.

    All I see is a catalogue of mistakes, missteps and choices inconsistent with the traditional ideological position of the Liberal Democrats. All of these are directly attributable to Mr. Clegg. But as Tony Dawson pithily observes, we must not remove the elephant from the room, nor even mention it by name. No. We must simply find ways of dealing with its um… spore.

  • Charles Rothwell 19th Jul '14 - 12:15pm

    I think Alex Macfie has got it right. It was the “IN” campaign which led me to rejoin but I think the campaign was handled very ineptly (culminating in “The EU will look pretty much the same in 10 years’ time” – a view which no-one at all beyond a fully paid up Europhile insider could possibly subscribe to!)

    (I cannot find any way of accessing the fuller report either, by the way).

  • Lawrence Fullick 19th Jul '14 - 12:31pm

    Perhaps the FE’s remit to Gurling was too narrow. It should have included how we involve those involved in relevant policy areas in deciding the message to the public; the May campaign was rightly pro-Europe but failed to say how we should change Europe.

  • “How many Lib Dem Local Parties which have managed to go forward despite our albatross handicap bothered to even waste time giving evidence to this ludicrous non-review which had terms of reference which essentially denied any prospect of it everaddressing he real issues?”

    Or terms of deference, perhaps.

  • In fairness to Nick Clegg, the statement that “the EU will probably look pretty much the same in 10 years time” is very likely to turn out to be true, given that treaty changes require unanimity and that an increasing number of countries require voters’ approval for them by referendum. What Nick should of course have said – and he has indicated that his choice of words was a verbal slip – that our party will do our best to try to reform the EU within the next decade, and I guess that we are entitled to beat him up verbally for not saying that. But what he actually said is very probably going to be true, and it is uncharacteristic of Liberal Democrats to demonise a statement that is or may well be correct.

  • “What Nick should of course have said – and he has indicated that his choice of words was a verbal slip – that our party will do our best to try to reform the EU within the next decade, and I guess that we are entitled to beat him up verbally for not saying that. But what he actually said is very probably going to be true, and it is uncharacteristic of Liberal Democrats to demonise a statement that is or may well be correct.”

    He’s not being criticised because what he said was inaccurate. He’s being criticised because what he said was so ineffective – and could almost have been calculated to reinforce the impression the “party of IN” campaign gave, of uncritical Euroenthusiam and lazy acquiescence in the status quo.

  • What Nick should of course have said – and he has indicated that his choice of words was a verbal slip – that our party will do our best to try to reform the EU within the next decade

    What Nick was trying to do was not scare the horses by pointing out the truth, which is that in ten years’ time the EU, if it still exists, will be a much more tightly-bound organisation with common government, national budgets submitted to Brussels for approval, and central taxation (treaty changes are a chimera: the EU has already tried to implement all these without treaty changes).

    That’s just a statement of fact; the crises of the past few years have proved that the Eurozone as-is is unstable and needs to become more tightly-bound if it is to survive at all.

    He knows that this is completely unacceptable to the electorate, so he said ‘much the same’ instead.

    It’s the same strategy as Mr Juncker: the aim is to get European integration, and if you have to lie to the electorate in order to get that, then lie you must.

    For the greater good!

  • Stephen Donnelly 19th Jul '14 - 2:37pm

    The alternatives view to the De Bretton’s conspiracy theory was actually put rather well on R4 News Quiz this weekend by David Mitchell . Check out the pod cast. Basically after years in opposition Liberal Democrats almost accidentally found themselves in government. This has involved making tough choices , rather than saying vaguely sensible things, opposing anything unpopular, and keeping quite when our views may not have been in line with the majority. It has been difficult to unravel positions taken up during decades of opposition. Many local parties had done quite well by taking the liberal democrat franchise. The training in campaigning techniques was good, and the brand could accomadate a wide variety of political views. If you worked hard, you could be a councillor. The national party rarely did anything unpopular, and so we were always available as a protest vote. There is no way back, that has all gone now. The question is where we go form here. It is not all Clegg’s fault though mistakes have undoubtedly been made. Sacking him will not make a difference.

    Actually I agree with Bill De Bretton’s conclusion. The only thing you can actually do now is to find an Liberal MP that you agree with, and give him or her your support up to the election.

  • Stephen Hesketh 19th Jul '14 - 4:50pm

    @Stephen Donnelly 19th Jul ’14 – 2:37pm
    Stephen, I believe you are wrong on several points:
    1) Bill’s name
    2) “after years in opposition Liberal Democrats almost accidentally found themselves in government” so nothing to do with the millions of hours and the personal sacrifices made by focus deliverers, ordinary activists, councillors, former and present MPs, Lords etc?
    3) “taking the liberal democrat franchise” … LOL!
    4) “Brand” – This caused me to double check the am/pm of the posting time. Franchise/brand – no we are a radical reforming egalitarian centre left political party. It is those MPs and advisors who have lost site of this who have caused the most damage. Speaking of which
    5) “It is not all Clegg’s fault though mistakes have undoubtedly been made.” It may surprise you to know I agree, not all the mistakes can be laid at NC’s door but it has all happened on his watch, it was he who got too cosy with the Tories from day 1 and he who along with Laws and Browne etc who foisted the New Lib Dems project on us.
    6) “Sacking him will not make a difference”, pure opinion – and almost certainly wrong.

    Regarding Bill’s final point “There is nothing that the centre can do to help these local campaigns other than to give them all the money they possibly can and to direct to them all the other mobile resources that Liberal Democrats can muster. Choose the MP/seat, who you wish to help save, and go there, physically and virtually.” … I commend this to everyone.

    @jedibeeftrix 19th Jul ’14 – 4:38pm “i find SD’s analysis a lot more convincing than that of bill.” … just for balance and in case anyone is in any doubt, I find Bill’s analysis a lot more convincing than that of SD 🙂

  • Green Voter 19th Jul '14 - 6:07pm

    “Sacking him will not make a difference”,

    I agree with this if this is all that is done. If Cable takes over but policy remains the same, I will keep voting green.

  • Tony Dawson 19th Jul '14 - 7:08pm

    @Stephen Donnelly”:

    ” after years in opposition Liberal Democrats almost accidentally found themselves in government. This has involved making tough choices”

    Eh? From where I sit, they would not recognise a tough choice if they fell over one. They basically did not have a clue about how to work a minimalist coalition between two Parties with a very limited true ‘overlap’ of positions -and. most unfortunately, they still don’t.

  • Green Voter 19th Jul '14 - 7:42pm

    I have just seen that Cable is backing TTP. Not good news from a party that is nominally in favour of evidence-based policy

  • David Allen 19th Jul '14 - 7:59pm

    Bill le Breton said:

    “The effects of endeavouring to change the (sub-Thatcherite) message portrayed by the Leadership … now merely reinforce the ever stronger belief that Liberal Democrats a) would say and do anything that got them into office, and b) that they could not be trusted.

    This has become the new Liberal Democrats’ Catch 22. If you don’t change, then, a) and b) are confirmed. If you do change, a) and b) are confirmed.”

    Very well put. Clegg ratted on our party’s principles and declared a sub-Thatcherite agenda. The public know what a rat looks like. Now, Clegg is proposing to re-rat on sub-Thatcherism, and differentiate his way back across the political stage into some sort of soggy middle position. This is not going to make him look any the less like a rat.

    Where I disagree a little with Bill is on his final recommendation, which was to campaign locally and try to win specific seats on the basis of a personal vote for individual real Liberal Democrats who have stuck to their principles. It might be the least bad thing for individuals to do. However, I fear that most voters will simply write off all our candidates as subordinates to Cleggism, and vote accordingly.

    What will actually work will be to overthrow the leader, declare a democratic recapture of the party by its historic majority, choose a new leader with very different policies, and show that our change in policy is for real. About 40% of our membership has voted for that, up and down the country, in SGMs. It has nearly been enough. We just need a few more members to recognise that not only is it principled, it is also the only thing that will rescue our fortunes.

  • Green Voter 19th Jul '14 - 8:33pm

    @David Allen
    The catch 22 does not apply to me. I could accept change. The problem is that it has to be credible change, seriously endorsed. With TPP , the spin that abandoning the bedroom tax is due to evidence and the new emergency bill from the government, I see no sign that that change is actually desired by the leadership. It seems to be business as usual.

  • David Allen I agree, and it is what I have been in essence calling for since later in 2010 when it became obvious what the real implications of both the actual coalition agreement signed up to, the policies eg NHS changes which were not in the Agreement, and the general way our leadership was behaving, became clear.

    David – can you elaborate on your statement about 40% of members – that has grown substantially since last I heard. Update me (and us) please.

  • Stephen Donnelly 19th Jul '14 - 10:26pm

    @Stephen Hesketh

    I could have mentioned the relentless hard work that many activists has put into getting elected over a generation. They worked hard, helped countless people, and encouraged all the political parties to be better connected with their local electorate. They unseated the hard left in many Northern cities. In many other places competent liberal administration remain in a position of power because they are doing a good job. After the formation of the coalition many, many councillors lost their seats entrely because of national politics, and have often been replaced by people who will not give any service to the local electorate. This must be sole destroying for those involved, and if it had not been for their hard work we would not have been in a position to get into a position of national power. The progress in local government, together with the decline of the appeal of the two main parties, gave us an opportunity. I refer to it as ‘accidental’ because the campaign we ran at the last election did not deserve the breakthrough that we got.

    However my main point is this: It would not have been possible to achieve this if the national party had been forced to take hard decision which inevitably come through being in government. Once we entered government, and stopped being a protest party, the local strategy was fatally undermined.

    Look up the words ‘franchise’ and ‘brand’. Sorry you don’t like it, but they do apply because there was no clear political direction to much of our work. Liberal Democrats did take different position in different parts of the country. Many of our policies were simply unrealistic having been formed with no real expectoration that they would need to be put in practice. Some of our local councillors could have been members of any political party.

    The situation the party finds itself in was inevitable and there are no easy answers.

    It is perfectly possible that you are ‘radical reforming egalitarian centre left’. I am a liberal.

    No offence ment : Mr Le Breton.

  • Bill le Breton 19th Jul '14 - 11:17pm

    None taken Stephen

  • @Stephen Donnelly
    “The situation the party finds itself in was inevitable and there are no easy answers”

    Yes, there are answers. First, if you are a serious party, you prepare with realistic policies. If this was not done, then the leader must carry the can. Second, you have a real coalition rather than just going along with, say, secret courts and NHS reform.

    Can you refute this?

  • Tim13, Jonathan Pile has posted some figures on his website, which indicate an overall 34% vote for a leadership election:

    http://libdemfightback.yolasite.com/news.php

    40% might be slightly optimistic. However, there are also an awful lot more people in the following three categories:

    (1) want Clegg to stand down, but don’t think we have time to choose a new leader before the 2015 election

    (2) are scared that a leadership change could harm our popularity – but will support a change if / when they recognise that it is in fact our only hope

    (3) left the party in disgust a long time ago, but would return if we chose a new leader

    When group (2) see how our polls have declined even in this last year, group (3) return to fight, and group (1) see the momentum for change, then the figures will change. It won’t take much to turn 35% into more than 50%, and then SGMs will start voting for change in far greater numbers.

    That, at any rate, is the optimistic view. It certainly could happen that way, which is why Clegg has begun his differentiation campaign this early. It’s his own survival that he is trying to ensure.

  • A large part of Nick Clegg’s job — the one he was voted into by the membership — is to make, in consultation with his advisors, big strategic decisions about the political direction the Party takes and how it presents itself.

    The biggest strategic political decision he made was the calculation that the Party could win more votes on the centre-right than on the centre-left. This calculation appears to have been founded on insufficient evidence, and perhaps little more than wishful thinking; its outcome has been obvious.

    When the executive in charge of a business makes a big strategic decision that results in lost customers, steeply falling sales, and expected bankruptcy within a year, the shareholders ought to know what to do.

  • Sorry, David Allen, I thought you might have something a bit more substantial than Jonathan’s small sample, reasonably wishful thinking. That is not to say that I don’t welcome Jonathan’s Lib Dem Fightback efforts and message, just that I don’t think it is genuinely very representative on a wide scale in the party of people actually prepared to take action. I understand your 3 categories of people, and the argument you make, but until there is a critical mass it will not happen.

  • Bill le Breton 20th Jul '14 - 10:53am

    David – 1 above wrote; “The biggest strategic political decision he (Clegg) made was the calculation that the Party could win more votes on the centre-right than on the centre-left.

    That is it in a nutshell.

    That belief ran through everything he did, said and tried to persuade the Party Conference to suuport prior to the election in 2010. It ran through the post election negotiations, it is written in permanent inked throughout the Coalition Agreeement, it governed the tactics of the Rose Garden as well as the the major decisions since on health, welfare and security.

    No doubt there have been times when we negotiated the Tories back from their inititial starting points on policies, but it is the postion from which we started that was critical in where agreement was reached.

    I find it hard to see how Stephen Donnelly above, and others, can call my analysis a ‘conspiracy theiry’. Clegg and his key advisers were explicit on this at every opportunity following his election (but not prior to his election) as leader.

    He more often than not carried Conference with him on this ‘adventure’. And he carried a large part of the Parliamnetary party with him. He has been able (as any leader would) to press ahead with this agenda by his ministerial selections, his selections to the House of Lords and his appointments to Party jobs – such as responsibility for directing the production of the manifesto.

    That is what a ‘successful’ leader does. S/he pursues their vision and often ‘drags’ their party behind them.

    He was restrained more prior to the Manchester debate in 2010, but he has used his power ‘effectively’ since then.

    Success and effective here refer to his own definition of progress. He has been less successful in guarding his (and our) reputation. He has been careless in his pursuit of his vision often setting back his intended progress. He has been cavalier about the way he has treated those who were not commited to his vision or his tactics. He has not used a ‘big tent’. He has endeavoured to manifest the conviction of a Thatcher, when at heart seeming more comfortable in the role as a pragamatist with a belief that management was the key. He looks for the shortest route between A and B, which as Pilgrim found, can lead one into mires. Perhaps that is why he has carried fewer and fewer of his party with him over the years.

    So, as I wrote above, his legacy is our new Catch 22: There is a strong perception among 80% or so of the electorate that he, and therefore we, a) would say and do anything that got them into office, and b) that he cannot be trusted. His approval ratings remain around minus 59% and we languish at around 8% in the polls.

    Yesterday the Party President gave a speech that effectively started the next leadership contest on a slow burn. It was like a rewind in policy and positioning to a point before the last Leadership election. It is exactly the speech that he and others should have made at the first meeting of the Parliamentary Party after the Euro elections. But he and others held their fire.

    And so we must prepare for and fight the 2015 with our Catch 22 around our necks. Silly really, but there …

  • Two quick comments.
    1 I did find the correct link for the report but was then told my iPad can not read PDF documents, NOT true.
    2 The Euro campaign was negligible in Cheltenham. All I got was one posted leaflet. The local Focuses did not even mention the Euro election or name Graham Watson. Net results all local LibDem seats held but a surprisingly high UKIP vote.

  • Paul in Wokingham 20th Jul '14 - 12:26pm

    @David-1 and Bill Le Breton – or as John Curtice says in this interesting article on the Democratic Audit blog on the LSE website: http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/politicsandpolicy/five-minutes-with-john-curtice-part-3/?utm_content=bufferbad8a&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer

    “I see no reason why the general election should result in a transfer of voters back from Labour to the Liberal Democrats unless there is a severe decline in Labour’s ability to offer anything. Because in a sense those Liberal Democrat voters that are going to Labour are primarily there because of push rather than pull.”

  • David Allen 20th Jul '14 - 1:07pm

    Tim13, you’re right that the critical mass for change is not yet there. But it may not be far away.

    Bill le Breton, “Yesterday the Party President gave a speech that effectively started the next leadership contest on a slow burn.” Let’s hope you’re right with your first fourteen words and wrong with the last four!

  • Cara Jenkinson 20th Jul '14 - 4:09pm

    I would agree with other comments that this report is far too inward looking – talking about the mechanics of the campaign rather than whether we were campaigning on the right issues and with the right messages. It is also difficult to understand what the report is getting at – what does “far greater attention needs to be given as to the direction of air war messaging” mean? I would also agree with the comment that whoever is signing off on our campaign messaging should be sure to spend time on the doorsteps – in a variety of constituencies.

  • Paul Hayes
    But I think I am right in saying you got the highest percentage of any local area in the SW, and had the whole SW voted similarly, we would have come close to two MEPs, not just retained Graham. Our District in Devon also scored above average, with pretty well no campaigning other than a rather patchily delivered freepost. All leads me to say, that sometimes doing as little as poss is the most effective solution. Certainly being leaderless is sometimes helpful, as shown by the superb Dunfermline result in 2006.

  • Tony Dawson 20th Jul '14 - 8:29pm

    @Stephen Donnelly :

    ” It would not have been possible to achieve this if the national party had been forced to take hard decision which inevitably come through being in government. Once we entered government, and stopped being a protest party, the local strategy was fatally undermined.”

    So, presumably those of us who just achieved the best Lib Dem local election result EVER in our town immediately following the best local Lib Dem result EVER in town despite the national ‘picture’, which results followed the best Parliamentary result in our constituency EVER have been achieving the impossible? I would remind you that what the Party has been polling in about 600 constituencies is an interesting diversion which, under FPTP, butters no political turnips.

    I am sorry, Stephen, but I wrote and laid out a lot of what we have been saying here in the last few elections and would point out to you that those Local Parties who consistently poll above 40 per cent generally routinely offer their electorate far more than being a ‘protest’ party. As for what has been done ‘since we entered government’, some of our ministers have done some useful things as ministers. As Party Leaders (ie serious politicians), they have been largely worse -than- useless.

  • Tony Dawson 20th Jul '14 - 8:34pm

    @Peter Hayes:

    “The Euro campaign was negligible in Cheltenham”

    In which case, your Euro candidate (as well as local candidates) may have got a better result than would otherwise be the case. I do not know this, as I never saw your literature, but if it was anything like ours, by following the general national ‘line’ (as peddled by the Party of ‘UM’) it would have done nothing but turn-off most voters from voting Lib Dem.

  • I have tried intensively via the various links, but I STILL cannot access this report. Why is it being made so difficult to get to? In a minute I shall be believing conspiracy theories. Can someone give me a detailed guide to getting into it, please?

  • SIMON BANKS 21st Jul '14 - 9:50am

    I contributed thoughts to the review and I’ve read the report. It’s worthy and shallow.

    One major problem was created right at the start, thanks no doubt to the rush by the leadership (and I don’t mean just one person) to be seen to be reacting to anger, confusion and even despair. The review presented itself to potential contributors in very vague terms. Nothing like terms of reference were shared. That meant that people self-edited: for example, many will have excluded views about fundamental matters because the review appeared to be about communications. Then no doubt the panel had to decide for themselves what was relevant and what wasn’t.

    The response rate is actually quite disappointing – “over 700” out of all our activists, let alone other members. In our small and struggling local party to my knowledge two people responded. That means we were vastly over-represented.

    The recommendations are worthy, if in places written in gobbledegook which suggests some techno-nerd’s unamended draft was accepted unamended (see recommendation 3). In places they are uncritical: for example, the report points out that the party employs campaigning experts and suggests their expertise should be made more available to local campaigns, but does not examine whether those nationally-employed experts actually are effective. Understandably, the report does not, in suggesting ways in which national messages could be better integrated into local campaigns, review whether we currently have a national message fit for that purpose. That there should be better two-way communication and mutual interlinking of campaigns is an important perception if those at the top really listen, as they clearly didn’t before that pathetic “all the others do lots of silly things and waste money” local government campaign launch (not mentioned in the report).

    Finally, any good consultation process (and I have professional experience of this) should properly summarise the consultation comments in the feedback. The summary in the report of what those 700 plus people said is disappointingly thin. A fuller summary should be released.

    Sorry to be so critical, but here as with our recent election campaigns it’s important to learn from weaknesses.

  • Rachael Clarke 21st Jul '14 - 2:48pm

    If anybody on this thread remains unable to access the report via the members’ area of the website, you can request a copy via [email protected].

  • Andy Williams 22nd Jul '14 - 12:23am

    Can I just point out to Peter Hayes that the Euro result in Cheltenham was the highest in the South West apart from Gibraltar and that our vote slippage from the last Euro elections was the lowest in term of percentage. He may have received one leaflet but others received direct mail about the euro campaign from both the MP and the MEP.

  • Andy Williams , you make a very good point.

    But one that in the final analysis indicates that in a UK wide election the best result for us Liberal Democrats was Gibraltar !!!!

  • I decided to publish my own report and agreed completely with my findings http://keithareed.blogspot.co.uk/2014/07/lib-dems-in-therapy.html

  • Thanks to Rachael Clarke (above) for sending me the report.

    It is truly awful. It has to be the worst report I have ever read in any sphere of life I have worked in, or read via the media or the net. It is filled with jargon which most people will find difficult if not impossible to crack. It seems to be aimed at making recommendations without defining the nature of the problems reported to it, and so you only occasionally manage to divine what those problems may be. It looks, if I read it correctly, to be trying to buttress what appear to have been centralising tendencies employed in the wake of the loss of Short money and other diminution of income since the 2010 election. Instead of carefully defining problems, including, let’s face it, the overarching political problems, which must include the leadership, and showing directions for a more successful change of tack, it seems to blame the campaigners, at HQ and locally, for the problems. Just press on with the same solutions, only train yourself better! It suggests that a review of the party be carried out post 2015 (presumably when the entire structure falls apart anyway because of Parliamentary and further council losses), rather than accepting there may be some kind of review necessary NOW.

    I would be interested to know what systematic distribution of this report to Regions or local parties is thought sensible. I know that my local party, and I should think my region, would tear into it big time. I would also be interested to know how the councillors represented on the body think what they have recommended actually helps anything progress within the party? Someone above said it was “worthy”. That is just what it isn’t.

  • Adding a thought to my post last night, for those Liberals of a 60s and 70s generation, it looks totally upside down. It seems to be recommending that the powers that be know best, and that others need to parrot their lines. This is the direct opposite of what we fought over many years to achieve. And, in a compliment to Nick Clegg, it may have been arguing in many words of jargon, his message of “we have no time for opposition (alism), we are a party of the centre”. The centre referring both to a “political” centre, and an organisational centre. What a travesty of what generations of us have fought for.

  • I have learnt, reading up on James Gurling, that he is, in his day job, a communications consultant. He has also been Chair of Campaigns and Communications Committee. So, I wonder, firstly, why he is commissioned to write a review of work that he, presumably, had a sizeable role in delivering, and secondly, why on earth he would allow such an appallingly written report to see the light of day in his name?! Any answers?

  • Paul in Wokingham 25th Jul '14 - 9:28am

    I do find myself wondering whether any of this really matters. The MPs who get re-elected next year will basically be those who are well-known and well-liked by their constituents, and who manage to energise the foot soldiers to knock on doors and deliver leaflets.

    They will win in spite of the party, no because of it. What we put in the manifesto and subtle nuances of message (e.g. “Stronger Economy, Fairer Society” versus “Fairer Economy, Stronger Society”) will be an irrelevance to most people.

    If that analysis is correct, then we are going to be left with a bunch of very idiosyncratic MPs after next May.

  • Peter Watson 25th Jul '14 - 9:55am

    @Paul in Wokingham “The MPs who get re-elected next year will basically be those who are well-known and well-liked by their constituents, and who manage to energise the foot soldiers to knock on doors and deliver leaflets. … If that analysis is correct, then we are going to be left with a bunch of very idiosyncratic MPs after next May.”
    Or if Tim13 is correct about the organisational centralising tendency of the party, then what we will be left with could be those MPs in whom the leadership has chosen to invest the party’s resources.

  • Paul in Wokingham
    It probably doesn’t matter now, because a massive reorganisation will have to take place next year anyway. Had this report spoken to anf for more people and opinions within the party, and had addressed issues which might be prevented or ameliorated for 2015, there might have been a small chance that the party would make a small advance.

  • “establishing a process for canvass responses to feed back into the messaging process,”

    What does this actually mean in practice. If canvass results are coming back and you are just looking at the raw numbers it doesn’t tell you much about how that is related to messaging. For that you need more qualitative studies – in a local campaign that would be discussion between activists about what people were saying on the doorstep. But you can’t do this just with Connect stats.

    It reads like something which is written to make people think something will be done when actually it won’t

    But the whole report is very weak – totally lacking in clear and timetabled recommendations.

  • no Garath is right the link doesn’t work and after ten minutes of searching I cannot find the damn thing I just get asked to log in over and over again

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