Who’d have thought you’d find THAT in a secret Lib Dem campaign email?

martin horwoodThe Gloucestershire Echo has somehow got hold of a campaign email sent round Cheltenham Lib Dem MP Martin Horwood’s team.

It says two main things:

… that the Lib Dems should have two “core messages” in Cheltenham: That Martin Horwood is the “best person to represent Cheltenham” and that it is “going to be a two horse race”.

Adding later:

“We think that we have got a very good local MP in Martin Horwood who is a great asset to the town.”

Secondly, there’s this highly surprising fact:

is “important to ruthlessly squeeze Green-ish voters who may wish to vote Green as an alternative to Lib Dem”.

The Greens didn’t even stand in the seat in 2010, but it is kind of basic campaigning that you try to squeeze the vote of all but your main opponents.

Having their key campaign messages, i.e. what a good asset to the area Martin Horwood is, repeated in the local paper is not going to do the local team any harm, even if there is a bit of the email which says that the national Lib Dem brand is “toxic” and there’s talk of reducing the size of the bird.

* Newshound in training. I'm sweet and full of mischief, just like my stories.

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18 Comments

  • Joshua Dixon 13th Jan '15 - 8:13pm

    Don’t. Touch. The. Bird.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 13th Jan '15 - 8:37pm

    I agree, Joshua. I’m a big bird fan…

  • Peter Watson 13th Jan '15 - 9:47pm

    I’m not sure I agree with Newspuppy about the “two main things” in the email.
    I would suggest that the more significant points for Lib Dem campaigning are

    “In my recent doorstep experience the contrast between the questions “Would you be voting Liberal Democrat?”, and “Would you be voting for our local MP Martin Horwood?” is quite dramatic.

    and

    “Unfortunately the Lib Dem ‘brand’ is now toxic outside of its local government dimension, that will have to be sorted out post G.E.

  • It isnhopefully becoming obvious to everyone that the best thing we can do in this general election is help good Liberal Democrat MPs in the seats where they can hang on.

    There are five or six seats where outside help could make all the difference between success and failure.

    In 2010 because of incompetence at the top we actually lost seats and failed to win others by very small margins. The party is talking about only winning two dozen seats in all so helping good MPs like Martin Horwood makes sense.

  • “In 2010 because of incompetence at the top we actually lost seats”

    So nothing at all to do with the Tories pouring massive amounts of effort and money from rich donors into unseating our MPs then?

    Presumably due to incompetence at the top we also increased our vote share by one percentage point too?

    And presumably it was due to Nick Clegg’s incompetence that in the 2009 local elections our vote share went up by 3% to 28%, putting us second behind the Tories.

    The trouble with your “it’s all Nick Clegg’s fault” argument is that our defeats began after we went into coalition government, not after Clegg became leader.

  • Whilst I think we’ll win more seats that John predicts, I think he is right about strategy. Has been my view from quite early in the parliament that this election will be about fighting hard in a limited number of seats. Even seats where we have small majorities are seeing lots of direct mailings this year, a sensible allocation of resources.

    Ideal? Far from it, but we must deal with the reality infront of us – regardless of our views about the leadership, government etc.

    As such, the email mentioned in the article is largely spot-on.

  • Tony Dawson 14th Jan '15 - 9:55am

    @Peter Watson :

    “Unfortunately the Lib Dem ‘brand’ is now toxic outside of its local government dimension, that will have to be sorted out post G.E.”

    We would not have to wait as long if one particular individual were prepared to ‘do the right thing’ Titus Oates-fashion.

  • @RC:

    “In 2010 because of incompetence at the top we actually lost seats”

    So nothing at all to do with the Tories pouring massive amounts of effort and money from rich donors into unseating our MPs then?”

    N it was not. It is about time this silly excuse was squashed stone-dead.

    There were constituencies receiving major Tory onslaught which went forward in 2010 just as there were very similar constituencies next door to them which went backwards. And the Party was denied any sort of sensible and inclusive Inquiry into why there were such profound differences.

  • Richard Shaw 14th Jan '15 - 10:14am

    To be fair to John, he doesn’t mention Nick in his post. He might be referring to the incompetence of local parties and/or certain former MPs, who do bear more responsibility for recruiting local volunteers and members, delivering leaflets, etc. than the party leader or the national exec.

  • Matthew Huntbach 14th Jan '15 - 10:20am

    RC

    And presumably it was due to Nick Clegg’s incompetence that in the 2009 local elections our vote share went up by 3% to 28%, putting us second behind the Tories.

    How many people in 2009 knew that Nick Clegg was our leader?

    He benefited from “Cleggmania” in 2010 because he had made so little impact that until the first Leaders’ debate hardly anyone was aware of his existence. This meant there was a very short period where he did well because he had a novelty factor, it lasted less than the duration of the election campaign, which is why we ended up for the first time I remember with a share of the vote no higher than where we were in the opinion polls at the start of the general election campaign.

    I believe in constructive criticism, so though I’ve been a critic of Clegg throughout his period of leadership, I’ve never done it in a “nah nah nah nah nah” way, but always:

    1) Acknowledged the real difficulty he and the party were put in by the 2010 general election result, which left us in a very weak position which few outside committed supporters of the party are able or willing to understand.

    2) At any time where I say he’s done wrong, I’ve always said what he should have done instead.

    In almost everything, he and those surrounding him have done the exact opposite of what I believe and have said should be done. But at least I’ve tried.

  • Peter Watson 14th Jan '15 - 11:24am

    @RC “Presumably due to incompetence at the top we also increased our vote share by one percentage point too? And presumably it was due to Nick Clegg’s incompetence that in the 2009 local elections our vote share went up by 3% to 28%, putting us second behind the Tories.”
    Do you think this was because of Nick Clegg’s competence or even good enough, considering the unpopularity of Gordon Brown and the Labour government at a time of frightening economic problems.

  • @ Matthew Huntbach

    “This meant there was a very short period where he did well because he had a novelty factor, it lasted less than the duration of the election campaign, which is why we ended up for the first time I remember with a share of the vote no higher than where we were in the opinion polls at the start of the general election campaign.”

    This is untrue. Yougov and Opinium had us on 17-18% in the week before the dissolution of parliament. And what about the absolutely massive campaign of media hate and ridicule against Nick Clegg which started after the first debate as the Tory press realised that Cameron might not win outright? The level of vitriol directed against him was of quite another dimension to the coverage meted out to previous Lib Dem leaders, who had mostly been ignored or patronised.

    @ Peter Watson
    “Do you think this was…even good enough, considering the unpopularity of Gordon Brown and the Labour government at a time of frightening economic problems.”

    I think that given the amount of money and press firepower behind David Cameron as leader of the Tories it was a respectable performance, but disappointing nonetheless. Don’t forget, at the start of the 2010 election, the Conservatives were on 38-39% and most bets were on an outright Tory victory. They were projected to take many seats off us.

  • Richard Shaw 14th Jan '15 - 12:29pm

    It appears I missed the “at the top” portion of John’s comment, so it does look like he’s referring to Nick and/or the general national leadership. However I do personally believe that responsibility for our performance in GE2010 and performance in subsequent elections (good or bad) does lie more with our state/local parties. We are a highly federalised party and quite a fiercely independent bunch sometimes.

  • There were a number of people “at the top” of our party in 2010 who if they had exercised better judgement would have capitalised on the very high support for Liberal Democrat candidates after the first TV Leaders Debate.

    OK the first debate was a fluke which nobody had planned for, but those who had the power at the top of our party did not know how to respond. On one night in one TV studio Clegg had been lucky, like a first-timer in casino he put everything on black won the jackpot.
    But did he or those around him use his winnings wisely?
    Did they go out and win those seats (both Conservative and Labour held seats) where a few hundred voters switching from Labour to Liberal Democrat would have increased our number of MPs by to 75 or more?
    No they started boasting about Labour being dead in the water and goading Labour voter back into the Labour camp.

    The clear fact remains that during April 2010 our party’s support in opinion polls went down from almost 30% and slightly ahead of Labour — down to 23.5% for Liberal Democrats on polling day.

    Did the very, very unpopular Gordon Brown grab voter’s support during the first week in May 2010 ?
    Did the very, very popular Nick Clegg leak support like a broken bucket?
    The facts speak for themselves.

    Whatever your chosen interpretation —
    Labour ended up with 30% and 258 seats.
    We ended up with 23.5% and only 57 seats.

    Nobody can deny that it was Nick Clegg who boasted only days before in an interview with The Times that —
    ” .. Lib Dems had replaced Labour as the progressive force in politics and that the election now boiled down to a two-horse race ” between him and Mr Cameron.

    Those who have forgotten – Cameron’s Conservatives ended up with 37% along with 306 seats.
    Clegg’s Liberal Democrats got 23.5% and only 57 seats.
    If it was a two-horse race between Cameron and Clegg – it was not exactly a photo-finish was it ?

    Nick Clegg has a history of empty boasts that come back to haunt him. During the party’s leadership election he boasted that he would double the number of Liberal Democrat MPs (we had 62 at the time).

    So how many of Clegg’s defenders are putting their money on us getting 124 seats this May?

  • @John

    How someone commenting as a Liberal Democrat can make a comment comparing vote share of the two larger parties and seats versus those of the Lib Dems without once mentioning the dreadful iniquities of the first past the post system is utterly beyond me. We’ve never once got near to our vote share in terms of MPs, for obvious reasons.

    If our paltry seat tally is due to Nick Clegg, why did we only get 23 seats with 25.4% of the vote in 1983? We’ve always been hugely disadvantaged by FPTP. Everyone knows that.

    The gain after the first debate was more at the expense of the Tories than Labour, from which the Tories never fully recovered.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Opinion_polling_for_the_United_Kingdom_general_election,_2010

    However, where we lost seats, we lost them to the Conservatives, not to Labour. So on neither count does your argument add up.

    What really hurt us was the media onslaught on Clegg immediately following the first debate which has scarcely let up in the past five years. The media, both from left and right, have had Clegg in their sights in a way that no Lib Dem leader has ever faced before. Only on the doorsteps and with leaflets have we been able to counter this to some extent, but overall it has hugely damaged us, as it was intended to do.

    The vested interests behind the media set out to toxify our national brand and they have been so successful in doing so that even many party supporters and members have begun to believe what they are saying. QED.

  • Peter Hayes 14th Jan '15 - 4:45pm

    I see why another thread is for infrequent posters! So back to topic.
    Cheltenham has been a Conservative target but they do seem to choose unsuitable candidates, a black Birmingham lawyer in one case and others with weak links to the constituency. In 2010 they saturated the area with Vote Conservative posters, presumably these could be costed across parliament and local election expenses, even now their leaflets come from paid for deliverers with pizza adverts. I suggest every Focus should have “paid for and delivered by members and supporters” below the masthead.

    An occasional deliverer.

  • RC said: ” our defeats began after we went into coalition government, not after Clegg became leader.”
    I’m sorry that is not correct, our percentage of the poll may have increased slightly in 2009, but we lost control of one Council, and ended the election with two less Councillors.The 2009 local elections were a big disappointment at the time, we had expected gains in the shire Counties against the Tories, but in the main these didn’t happen. In 2010 we lost control of 4 councils, and had a net loss of 132 Councillors. If you don’t believe me check the figures yourself of the BBC website. We’ve lost a hell of a lot more since of course, but the rot set in after Clegg became Leader, NOT after the party went into Government.

    Historically Liberal/Liberal Democrat support has often ‘peaked prematurely’ in a General Election, and fallen back in the last week. This happened in February 1974, 1983, 1992, and in 2010. As Leader Clegg should have been aware of this, and ensured we moved scarce resources to ensure we did not lose so many seats by small margins. (Oxford was a classic example, we lost the seat we held, and narrowly failed to pick up the other seat we were targeting).

    I’m not saying “its all Clegg’s fault” but he has been Leader for 7 years, some of the blame has to be laid at his door.
    I feel he has some key faults which have contributed to the Party’s decline:
    1) A failure to engage with or listen to those in the party who have far more experience of campaigning and competing in tough electoral times than he will ever have
    2) A tendency to become petulant and irritable when challenged by radio and TV interviewers (usually when they are trying to wade through his waffle to get an answer!)
    3) He looks and sounds like the privileged establishment figure he is (in marked contrast to Charles Kennedy who had a natural rapport with ordinary people)
    I could make lots of other criticisms too, but I feel these are three obvious ones that could (and should) have been corrected by now. The fact that they haven’t been suggests to me that Nick is either arrogant, in denial, or both.

  • To be honest, I find all these “it’s a two horse race” claims very bad.

    Firstly, it not a two horse race. Every candidate is running and the voters can pick whichever one they want. To tell the voters only candidate X or Y can be their MP seems extremely undemocratic.

    And of course, it is not true either. Candidates can come from 3rd place to win as the SNP did in so many Holyrood seats in 2011 and a party can also fall from 1st place to 3rd place as I predict the Lib Dems will in Gordon. I predict the Lib Dems will not even manage 2nd place in Gordon at the next election, but if I were, say a Tory, I would never presume to put out leaflets telling the voters in Gordon they could in reality only choose between our candidate or the SNP. It would be very arrogant and very undemocratic to do that.

    Also, I think you’ve no right to complain about the unfairness of the FPTP system. If you’re putting out leaflets telling people that locally it’s a two party system you can’t then go complaining if Labour and the Tories use that argument nationally.

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