Tag Archives: core vote

A view on the leadership election from a former Lib Dem member

I joined the party in 2014, and resigned my membership just over a month ago. I didn’t leave because of any ideological difference with the party’s direction per se but because I have lost faith that the party is capable of winning and putting our values in to practice.

In the second half of 2019, I thought our watershed moment had arrived when the party had managed to surge in the EU elections, and attract a raft of exceptionally talented and likeable MPs from the other two parties. Like we had seen in Canada in 2015, and France in 2017, I thought the UK was about to be engulfed by a wave of liberalism in the 2019 election.

I still maintain that this was achievable for the party, but like many have correctly recognised, there were fatally bad strategic decisions made in our national campaign that unthinkably left us with fewer MPs than we had in 2017.
I believe the key questions for the leadership candidates are rather complex and existential. It seems to me that the party has a greatly embedded culture of strategic incompetence that causes us to squander each and every national electoral opportunity we’re presented with.

In my view, the party needs to accept that whilst electoral reform is what we all crave, we have to play the game of politics under its current rules – and not the rules we would like to play under. With that in mind, we need to decide which party we want to replace in this binary political system.

It seems obvious to me that the Lib Dems would ultimately supersede the Labour Party as Britain’s primary progressive force. Yet, our voter demographics do not seem to indicate this as a remote possibility.

My view is that the 2015 collapse that has ultimately led us to this sorry state of affairs is because our party had spent many years building voting blocs via local reputation that had no coherency in a national setting – so when our vote started to crumble, there was no obvious subsection to target and preserve.

Much of this is due to the party’s inability over multiple leaders to carve out a ‘core vote’. It is widely acknowledged that Labour’s power bases are urban centres and the Tories have their base in rural shire counties – but who do the Lib Dems represent?

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged and | 52 Comments

The Core Vote

Through the feeds of politics-internet I haven’t been able to escape the BMG research on the UK’s political clans (find out yours here). If you’ve managed to escape the discussion there’s more information in The Independent (and a more in depth report here), but basically it splits people into ten values and identity groups and then analyses how each vote, essentially highlighting how fractured the current alignments are and how little the current party system reflects these clans.

For liberals of all stripes, the initial findings can be disheartening. People with explicitly authoritarian beliefs make up the largest part of the electorate at 38 percent. Those who might broadly be termed liberal are a much smaller group.

It’s not scientific, but the smattering of polls in various Lib Dem online discussion forums suggest that roughly two thirds of our members are ‘Orange Bookers’ (OBs). This is a group who favour market solutions but are broadly in favour of redistribution and government intervention when the evidence supports it. They’re supportive of free trade, free movement of people and are optimistic about multiculturalism. Another third are ‘Global Green Community’ (GGC). BMG define these as those with a more interventionist view on the economy, but with liberal and environmentalist stances on social issues. They want government to pursue an ethical foreign policy, and have little interest in the nation-state, preferring a civic interpretation of Britishness. After that we have a small smattering of members who fall into one or two other camps.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged and | 36 Comments

We can’t forget about our core vote if we want to win on June 23rd

It’s been said that the case to stay within the European Union will work at its best if it successfully appeals to the varied policy interests of different types of party-aligned voters. The idea is that Labour voters will be drawn to EU achievements like the Social Chapter on worker’s rights, Greens to the bold environmentalism of the Union and Lib Dems to human rights and free trade statutes. But most interestingly (and perhaps most vitally), Conservative voters are being courted by appealing to their party emphasis on maintain the integrity of British foreign policy.

Whilst this is fascinating and deeply important, I think that only constructing a convincing case for foreign policy that suits Tory voters runs the risk of portraying our foreign policy interests within the EU in a one-sided manner – and does so in such a way that we risk alienating Liberal and Internationalist-minded voters who might still be undecided. To put it bluntly, if we only talk about foreign policy towards the EU in terms of maintaining geostrategic alliances, a significant part (admittedly not a majority) of our (and the IN campaign’s) core vote might at least switch off or at worst be turned off the campaign. We must also remind people about the often scandalously poorly- publicised work of the EU as a global humanitarian actor if we are to stimulate our core vote.

I’m proud that it was our leader who first got the ball rolling on this kind of position – by talking not about the EU simply in terms of alliances, jobs and interests but in terms of peace and common progress. We have to build on this by talking to Liberal-minded voters about the humanitarian element of the European Union. 

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