Tag Archives: 2019 general election

“An accident waiting to happen” – comprehensive, astute and blunt panel report on the 2019 elections

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Over the weekend, I have been thoroughly reading, and inwardly digesting, the 61 page panel report on the 2019 elections.

I started making notes of passages which would make good quotes for this article. But my list was soon very long. Pulling out pithy quotes turned out to be like shooting fish in a barrel.

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On thing we did really well for the 2019 general election – raising shedloads of dosh

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There is nothing quite as wonderful as money.
There is nothing quite as beautiful as cash.
Some people say it’s folly,
But I’d rather have the lolly.
With money you can make a splash.

Eric Idle (Monty Python), “The Money Song

If you haven’t already done so, it is worth having a look at the Electoral Commission’s reports of Q4 donations to the political parties.

The Liberal Democrat report is particularly fascinating.

Between 1 October and 31 December 2019, the party received donations totalling £13,372,664 from 433 donors. That is more than the Labour party received in the same period.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 12 Comments

How to send your views to the Lib Dem elections review

Over 22,000 (yes, twenty-two thousand) submissions have already been made to the party’s independent review into the general and European elections. But that’s not stopping the review team, headed up by Dorothy Thornhill, from wanting to hear more…

One opportunity to do that in person is at the party’s spring conference in York, from 10:10am on Saturday 14 March in the main conference hall.

But don’t worry if you can’t make it to the party conference.

Posted in Party policy and internal matters | Also tagged | 8 Comments

Why didn’t remain politicians connect?

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What did the 2016 Remain campaign and the 2019 Revoke Article 50 position adopted by the Lib Dems teach us?

– That policies must engage people, not patronise them.

Let me explain.

Most analyses agree that Brexit will negatively impact the more deprived communities the hardest.

So the question being asked by so many people is this: why on earth did Cornwall, one the UK’s most deprived regions which receives so much funding from the EU, and which appears to have a lot to lose and little to gain, vote for Brexit?

The Leave message during the referendum may have been based on misinformation and lies but it was packaged as a message of hope for improvement and change. This was a stark contrast to the Remain campaign which consisted merely of warnings, hence it being dubbed ‘Project fear.’

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Professor John Curtice: Revoke policy did not hurt Lib Dem popularity in election campaign

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The latest excellent edition of the Journal of Liberal History deserves this extra plug.

Professor John Curtice’s nine page study of the Liberal Democrat performance in the 2019 general election is a must-read.

You can subscribe to the Journal of Liberal History here.

As one might expect, it is thoroughly based on comprehensive psephological data and the article has a long list of bibliographical references.

Posted in Liberal History | 58 Comments

UPDATED: The 91 seats where the Liberal Democrats came second in the general election (or The Sunday data workshop experiment continues…)

Thank you all for your excellent comments to my earlier post, pointing out the errors in my spreadsheet!

I see it as an experiment in community data creation!

My main problem is that I did not screen out seats with a large Nationalist element, mainly in Scotland.

Posted in General Election | Also tagged | 6 Comments

Community data creation – A first (and wrong) attempt at listing the constituencies where the Liberal Democrats were second in the general election

UPDATE: This post has now been superseded. I have now issued a new post with the revised spreadsheet showing 91 seats.
Thanks everyone for your input on my errors, I hope you enjoyed joining in!

A friend asked me if I knew where, on Sir Tim Berners-Lee’s ingenious interweb device, there is a list of the 90 seats where the LibDems were second in the general election in December.

It turns out that I couldn’t find such a list, so I have created it – displayed below through the magic of Scribd.

Posted in General Election | 30 Comments

Dorothy Thornhill will chair panel to review into both the General election and the European elections

This comes from a post by Party President and Co-leader Mark Pack, on the party’s website, explaining some output from Saturday’s Federal Board meeting:

Election Review

The (Federal) Board has commissioned a review into both the General election and the European elections.

This review will be run independently of those who ran the elections, with a panel of experts who have a broad range of skills from knowing about grassroots election campaigns through to understanding what the very best decision-making processes in organisations look like.

Posted in Party policy and internal matters | Also tagged | 4 Comments

LibDems failed to shift enough Tory remainers – Electoral Calculus on 2017->2019 voter migration

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Martin Baxter’s Electoral Calculus website has an excellent Infographic on Voter migration 2017 – 2019. Using human figures (voters) to represent one percentage point of the voters, he not only shows where 2017 voters and non-voters went in 2019, he also graphically shows 2016 EU referendum preferences.

His conclusion on the LibDems is interesting:

Posted in Op-eds | 37 Comments

We let the remainers down – now we need to focus on a Green New Deal

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The Liberal Democrats let the EU Remainers down, right from the 2016 Referendum.

On Nick Clegg’s recommendation the architect of our disastrous 2015 election campaign was appointed as chief of strategy for the remain campaign. The result was entirely predictable.

The party then spent four years in the wilderness. A steady, but uninspiring, leadership from Vince and hard work from our local government activists saw the party slowly improve its position.

In the 2019 Euro Elections the Remainers put their faith in the Lib Dems, only to be let down again at the General Election. This time a combination of a terrible campaign, inexperienced and badly advised leadership, fear of Corbyn and First Past the Post ensured that faith in the Lib Dems was once again misplaced. Not all our fault, but with a good campaign and steady leadership we should have made 50 seats, and the picture today would have been different.

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Annoyance of LibDem MPs over power of “new sexy people” in 2019 election decisions – Five candidates ready for party leadership contest – Timetable today

Ailbhe Rea has written a long article on the Liberal Democrats for the New Statesman.

There are some interesting points about the 2019 election covered, based on reported conversations with our MPs:

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Paddy & President Jed Bartlet can’t both be wrong – Education should be our flagship

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Pretty much everyone has a view on why we had a bad election and, more importantly, what we should do next. I’m a member of Barnsley local party and here are my two cents…

Johnson’s Tories look like they have weathered the storm and are in for a few stable years as a version of Trumps Republicans, appealing to the English rustbelt and the odd white supremacist.

They may be untouchable for a while.

We have just experienced our third bad (so very bad) election in a row.

However Labour, by its standards, has had a shocker. They have not won an election now in 14 years.

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Antony Hook MEP writes… Co-operation to win in 2024? It comes down to four questions

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The 2019 General Election was the sixth since I joined the party as a student in 1998 and its result was by far the most frustrating. The consequences of the 2019 election will be more considerable and long-lasting for our country than any I saw before.

How this happened, and what needs to change to do better next time, will be subject of a General Election Review, which I expect will be rigorous and take an objective, honest view based on evidence.

If I quote a football manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, do not think I am trivialising. Sir Alex understands more about successful leadership (including managing resources and dealing with the press and a support base) than many people in politics. One of his maxims was “defeat does not matter, what matters is how you come back from defeat.”

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Confessions of an amateur activist

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I confess. I came late to the Party, almost three years late after post 2016 referendum ruminations on what life might be like on this small island, stranded at sea from our nearest European neighbours, reliant on our back gardens and allotments for a staple diet of root vegetables and tuber crops. We were taking back control of our borders, our people, our values, hell, even our bangers. As our nostalgia for the post-war period grew, so did our ability to stomach xenophobia in all its ugly guises, holding our metaphorical noses at the whiff of French saucisson or its bigger, brasher Bratwurst cousin.

Well, bollocks to that. Like nearly half of the electorate who voted Remain, we too felt stranded. We had a fight on our hands to stop Brexit and stand up for progressive pro-European liberalism. I joined the Liberal Democrats in early 2019 and took part in a couple of marches, the first time I had taken to the streets since my student days in the late 80s protesting against Maggie and the Poll Tax.

Posted in Op-eds | 3 Comments

It must be the right people who fall on their swords

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In October 1805 Napoleon was in what is now the Czech Republic and desperate to engage the armies of Austria and Russia, which had converged, before they became too strong to overcome. The Russian commander-in-chief, Kutuzov, also realised that Napoleon needed to do battle, so he counselled retreat. But the Austrians and Tsar Alexander, buoyed by what they believed was reliable reconnaissance information, overruled Kutuzov, who was demoted. Napoleon, by various stratagems, lured the Austrians into a battle on terrain of his choosing, near Austerlitz.

You can see where this is going.

French reinforcements, of whom the Austrians were unaware, arrived unexpectedly. Napoleon won one of his greatest victories, and an awful lot of people got killed. The Holy Roman Empire effectively came to an end a year later.

This is what happens when the top command makes the wrong decision.

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Opinion from an activist: What is happening now is just not good enough

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Billy Joel once wrote:

You’re not the only one who’s made mistakes
But they’re the only thing that you can truly call your own

This implies two things. Firstly, that you recognise a mistake when it happens. Secondly, you learn how not to make the same mistake again.

The Liberal Democrat leadership shows little realisation of step one and no recognition that step two might be helpful.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 33 Comments

“Her disastrous miscalculation” – Sir Nick Harvey’s view on Jo Swinson’s support for December election

Former North Devon MP, Sir Nick Harvey stood down as Liberal Democrat party chief executive shortly before 20th October last year.

In this fortnight’s Private Eye, a letter from Nick is published which severely criticises a decision made by the then party leader, Jo Swinson, soon after he left the role on 28th October.

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LibLink: Wera Hobhouse – Without proportional representation, there’s no future for moderate politics in Brexit Britain

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Over on the Independent, Wera Hobhouse MP argues that the whole EU referendum and ensuing mess came about due to the faults of the First Past the Post voting system, and has now left us with a government elected by 44% of voters which can deliver any Brexit it wants, despite 52% of voters voting for parties committed to a People’s Vote or revoking Article 50:

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No vision

‘Where there is no vision, the people perish’. The Lib Dems did not communicate a positive vision to the electorate because we have not created that vision for ourselves. Vision is derived from values and without a vision there is no plan. Our manifesto was wishy washy; no ifs, no buts, we failed to “Get it Done” and hence the General Election result.  Here are some ideas for debate. We need a Lib Dem vision and thereby a radical and progressive agenda.

  1. The Athenian leader Cleisthenes (507 BC) introduced demokratia, or “rule by the people”. Europe, its birthplace, and now, in the 21st century, the European Union (EU) embodies democracy. We need to resume our place at the heart of a flourishing EU to underpin the sovereignty of the citizen, underpinned by a common currency, universal security and democratic government which can ensure peace and security for our society.
  2. At the heart of global trade is money and that monetary system is out of control and injurious to humanity; it is not fit for purpose and must be reformed. The cause stems from the privilege enjoyed by private banking to create money from nothing in the form of demand deposits and lending it at interest. The solution is to correct the system by moving money creation to a public body working on behalf of citizens. A sound monetary system will underpin fair trade and thus ensure equality, liberty and freedom for citizens.
  3. Well-being is at the centre of individual and community health, happiness, and prosperity. Well-being pivots on the self worth of the individual citizens and their communities and is the foundation of an egalitarian society underscored by universal education and health care provision.
  4. There is limitless potential in the application of new technologies where advances in medicine, communications, power generation and food production can be exploited. We must rebuild our physical infrastructure. Cybernetics will be at the heart of this transformation. The purpose of technology is to free people from repetitive and boring jobs enabling them to become self fulfilled human beings.
  5. The long history of democracy and law enshrined in a written constitution is the underpinning of Human Rights. The Cyrus Cylinder (539 BC – religious freedom and racial equality), the Magna Carta (1215 – equality before the law), the First Geneva Convention (1864 – law of armed conflict), the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) and the Ruggie Principles (2008 Human rights in the international private sector) all provide the basis for a written constitutional and electoral reform necessary to become a 21st century democracy.
  6. Ours is the first generation to properly understand the damage we have been doing to the planet and probably the last generation with the chance to do something about it. Our divisive and degenerative behaviour undermines households, the commons, the marketplace and the state. It needs to be replaced with a sustainable distributive and regenerative model whereby we husband our planet so that we cannot only survive but thrive.
Posted in Op-eds | 27 Comments

Thoughts from Guildford

The results of the GE have not been easy to digest. As one of the many target seat candidates who almost made it, the results hold a double dose of sadness. Sadness that in Guildford we came so close yet didn’t succeed this time and also for our nation that it’s ended up with a government so unrepresentative of the values that I still believe it holds at its core – fairness, openness, welcoming of diversity and a desire for integrity in its politicians.

Locally and nationally we will review the election campaign in due course, but I want to share two of my take-aways from this election.

Never underestimate the passion and resilience of Lib Dem campaigners!

In recent years Guildford have struggled to build a team. Yes, we took the leadership of Guildford Borough Council in May but when the election was called my campaign manager and I questioned how we could deliver the scale of campaign needed. Our action days have been poorly attended, our delivery network had shrunk significantly, and the team of active campaigners had shrunk to 10 maybe 15. We couldn’t envisage what happened once the election was announced.

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Glass looks half full to me

Trawling through the general election results, I see that the Liberal Democrats finished second in 91 seats.

Disappointed they didn’t finish first in all of these? Of course. Disappointed they didn’t finish first in even 10 of these? Yes, that too.

But the disappointment should be set in relation to the progress the party has made since 2015 and not just compared to expectations from earlier in the summer this year. For this, I’ve been crunching some numbers to see how Liberal Democrats have fared over recent general elections.

Following the 2015 election, there was a general expectation that it would take many years for the party to recover. That’s still the case. Remember, in 2015 the Lib Dems came fourth or worse in 524 seats. And in 185 of these seats the Lib Dems actually finished fifth, sixth or seventh.

So the party could potentially claim a respectable result in barely 100 seats across the UK four years ago. By contrast, in the 2019 election the party finished in the top three in 443 seats.

Posted in Op-eds | 56 Comments

General Election 2019 – campaign positives and negatives

Here are what I think were some positives and negatives about our campaign messages and strategy. They are based largely on the points made to me as a candidate by voters or members and other party activists have endorsed the points I make. They are not in any particular order of priority. Some of the negatives were to some extent beyond our control, but they are matters we need to face better in future.


  1. We said correctly that we are by far the strongest party for Remain.
  2. Our manifesto was full of excellent proposals and was the only credibly costed

Posted in Op-eds | 26 Comments

Hard work and optimism will be our party’s salvation

So it’s happened again. Despite hoping against hope that the polls were wrong, and that we were having an impact in the target seats way above our polling levels, we’ve been left with a diminished parliamentary party for the third successive general election.

We started with such high hopes, but end with the cause of Remain now surely lost, and a hard-right Tory government with a majority big enough to do more or less what it likes.

Are there any reasons to be cheerful?

The seeds of our possible regrowth are contained in our defeat. We must start by holding this government to account, exposing their lies and broken promises. Boris Johnson will surely get the Withdrawal Agreement through parliament now, but that is the easy part. The protracted negotiations that follow will be a major test for Johnsons’ government, and may well provide opportunities to score hits.

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What should we do first?

I am reeling. It’s not just the catastrophe of this election, but what feels like our country sliding inexorably into darkness, to which we’ve been turning for more than a decade and which, despite our good intentions, could not have happened without LibDems.

One of the few benefits of disaster, is that it forces you to take stock and examine things you might never question otherwise. It drives you to redefine and rediscover what is really important to you: to find a firm foundation on which you can rebuild when everything else has been swept away.

We are in a new world with no way back. I don’t think this is a time to move a bit to the left or right, tweak a few policies, start co-operating with Brexit or Labour or whatever else. It’s certainly not a time to try to “get our old party back” to when things were marginally better than they are now. There’s no possible leader who can magically solve all our problems.

It is a time to revisit our core values and beliefs.

Posted in Op-eds | 22 Comments

Back to radical

A Radio 4 pre-election programme featured a ‘focus group’ which described the Lib Dems as “irrelevant” and “wishy-washy”. They were neither ‘left’, nor ‘right’, but somewhere lost in the middle. The Benny Hill tune was suggested as an appropriate Party theme.

This and the election result may be a distortion of the true representation of what the majority of people think, but for too many the Lib Dems are seen as stuck ‘hey-diddle-diddle-in-the-middle’ of nowhere, taking a little from both of the two major parties without constituting anything of great substance or profundity itself.

So, whatever the debate within the party might be about ‘centrist positioning’, for much of the electorate, Lib Dem positioning has little ‘relevance’; at best it insinuates a willingness to join a party coalition, and we know what a disaster that can be.

Posted in Op-eds | 52 Comments

2019 was the party’s least efficient General Election campaign

If the objective of a general election is to win the most Commons’ seats we can (which I assume it is), then 2019 was the least efficient general election in the party’s history.

That is, if you define efficiency as garnering votes in such a geographical way so that we maximise the number of seats we win. The figures are as follows:

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 33 Comments

Our party co-leaders want to hear from us

Our current co-leaders, Sal Brinton and Ed Davey, have written to party members asking for their initial thoughts on the general election campaign and results.

They write:

…we know we have a lot of work to do and many lessons to learn.

In the new year, we’ll be conducting a full independent review of this election. This will include a chance for you to give us all of your views on what worked, what didn’t, and what we need to do differently in the future.

But we also want to give you a chance to share your views before the Christmas break.

Posted in Party policy and internal matters | 29 Comments

Nick Tyrone: At least the general election result has buried the UK’s flirtation with direct democracy

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On his website, writer Nick Tyrone has written a post entitled “Here’s one thing that was definitely positive about the general election result”.

In it, he argues that at least the general election has killed off the UK experiment with direct democracy and led to a resumption of our historical representative democarcy:

One of the things that has infected UK politics since June 2016 has been this clash between direct and representative democracy, with direct democracy often being given the greater nod by both the public and the media. The Leavers began to treat the referendum result as if it was the ultimate democratic event for all time, one that trumps every other election that has ever been and will ever be; Remainers played the same game for the most part, campaigning for a second referendum. It was as if we had changed the entire constitution without anyone being consulted.

Posted in Op-eds | 17 Comments

The General Election – it’s time to stop looking for someone to blame and take action

In March 2017, I wrote a thought piece for this journal called “Brexit, it’s time to stop looking for someone to blame and take action”. I took my own advice (more on this later on) but it made me think it was important to write a similar article today simply changing a couple of words in the title.

When that exit poll dropped on Thursday night I was distraught.  Unlike in June 2016, I had feared this result would happen  as soon as the Farage/Johnson pact came out and given the way the  campaign had gone, but seeing it actually materialise was a fundamental blow.  Once again that sinking feeling, both for what it meant for the country but also how harsh it was on so many candidates and activists who deserved far better.

Like in June 2016, I fear for what the result will mean for the U.K (and to some extent this party) in the short, medium and long term. And like in June 2016, its easy to spend your time looking for someone to blame:

  • Should it be at all who voted for this General Election to take place?
  • Should it be once again be at Boris Johnson, Michael Gove and their cabal for putting together a campaign full of lies, most notably that ridiculous “GetBrexitDone” which is so far from the truth it is unbelievable.
  • Should it once again be at many sections of the media who failed to properly hold the Tories to account and call out the lies?
  • Should it be at all those that voted Conservative, against their interests, for the first time, for being persuaded by their false arguments?
  • Should it be those within the LibDems for the general strategy in the campaign including sticking with the Revoke Policy (which for balance I voted for at conference having listened carefully to the debate and thought was right when up against no deal) once a Brexit “deal” was agreed?
  • Should it be at Jeremy Corbyn for being so unelectable to so many of the population that those who would be inclined to vote Lib Dem (or Dominic Grieve in my seat) – or even tactically for an anti-brexit Labour MP, decided that they could not take the risk their votes could put him in Downing Street?
  • Should it be at the whole Labour Leadership for being hostile to any sort of anti-tory pact and then actively campaigning in seats they could not win (e.g. Wimbledon & Finchley) costing the Lib Dems the seats?

Like in March 2017, I realise that, although whilst all these points may well be justified, some more than others, just looking to apportion blame is not going to help. Of course you need to reflect and learn from mistakes but simply looking backwards will not help.

Well a few months after March 2017 I took my own advice, I rose up and took action.  Two years ago this weekend (15th December 2017) I started a new non-partisan twitter account building a community of regretful leavers called @RemainerNow!  It soon became a national campaign using various channels and I would like to think it became a key part in the anti-brexit movement (more on @RemainerNow).  We may have failed in our quest to get a Final Say and stop Brexit but I at least know that I (and the others that contributed) tried our hearts out.  But we have only lost the battle, we must win the war for our country’s soul.

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More out of Hope than Love

I rejoined the Liberal Democrats this weekend.

I left some 18 months ago, agreeing with many that the party had lost its way over Europe. Our MPs voted for a referendum and then we denied its legitimacy.  It was a fair call to demand any deal be put back to the British people – but it was not fair to block and obfuscate at any attempt to ensure that deal kept us close to our European friends. I felt really angry that values we all shared had been eroded for short term political convenience.

In the end the party became a single issue Revoke campaign that appealed to absolutely nobody. We have ultimately failed to stop or lessen what amounts to a Hard Brexit. Combined, this is a crushing defeat.

So why rejoin?

This time for me, it’s more out of hope than love. I had a go at being part of something new, but as the last few years have shown, all these movements have been beset by the problems of ego and insular thinking. I came to the conclusion that the most likely way to create the country I’d like to see is by being part of changing our party from the inside. I don’t think it will be easy. Nor do I think there will be much point hanging around if, after a terrible election campaign, the party fails to listen and adapt.

Having had the chance to look from the outside and analyse our rivals, it’s quite clear the Lib Dems have lost their way as a campaigning force. As a former organiser I know how heretical it is to question our field campaigns – where simply slogging it out and dumping tonnes of paper through doors, regardless of what it says, will lead to ultimate victory. It hasn’t and it won’t.

Posted in Op-eds | 31 Comments

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