Tag Archives: elections

My first year as Director for People

It’s been just over one year since the Snap General Election was called on my first day e as Director for People. It was one heck of a start and it’s been a heck of a year. Out of the window immediately went my careful plan for membership development, training for volunteers, online fundraising and candidates. The roadmap to 2020 was suddenly obsolete. It was terrifying, but fast paced and fun.

This job is not dull. Working for the party is challenging and can be frustrating but ultimately rewarding.

One year in and …

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A Canvasser’s Dilemma: “Hello, Mr Smith”

Knock, Knock!  Door opens… “Hello Mr Smith, my name is Tahir.  We are out today …”

Mr Smith: Let me ask you a question. A Labour guy and the Tory bloke came last week and promised the same things.  What is it that makes you Lib Dems different or more caring and able to deliver this for me as compared to them?”

Tahir:  “Mmm…”  A simple question that is not easy to answer for a resident.

I often wonder what is our local government raison d’être that differentiates us and gives us resident voting loyalty, other than hard work on local issues and name/face recognition.

The Party is determined to maintain its historical reputation for being the party of community politics and decentralisation.  Councils are and should remain central to our plans for the country.  We want to reduce the powers of central government to interfere in democratically elected local government. 

Mr Smith: “You just want local elections to be held using proportional representation and introduce local income tax?”

“Well we believe in equality and fairness. That means everyone’s vote matters and counts when electing a representative, as it should. We also want to have more local power to make our own decisions based on local needs and not those imposed on us from central government. Don’t you think that fair?”

Mr Smith: “Maybe, but what about local Income Tax?”

“Well it’s a better system and fairer than the local rates. Residents should pay on their ability to pay and not an outdated rates system that over a period of time has become unfair resulting with the poorest people paying a much higher proportion of their income than the richest.

Local income tax is a fairer tax system to feed local needs like repairing pot holes, better upkeep of parks and hedges, provide community gardens, more funding for child protection and better services for pensioners, to name but a few.

Mr Smith: “I don’t want you to build on the green belt but we need more houses.

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Meanwhile, in liberal Europe… October’s election results…

Whilst British politics is dominated by Brexit, elsewhere in Europe, life goes on. And yes, the question of “what Europe?” is playing a key role in the changing scene, but it is not the only issue.

Earlier in the month, the Austrian Parliamentary elections saw the triumph of the shiny new leader of the Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP), Alexander Kurz, aged just thirty-one. Talk of a coalition with the far right Freedom Party (FPÖ), led by Heinz-Christian Strache, was somewhat curtailed when, once all the votes were counted, the Social Democrats (SPÖ) limped into second place by less than 1%. Putting …

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Different perspectives on election results

National vote third at 15%, up  45+ Councillors!  Scottish mainland seats gained!  Overall, these elections were an important step forward in recovery for the Liberal Democrats.

However, this was not a uniform set of results.  There were disappointing results in Wales and London, along with some English areas.  We should think twice when discussing with colleagues how we did.

Candy Piercy wrote this which struck a chord with me:

The hard working candidates and teams who lost will be feeling out of step with the rest of the party. It is not just Wales and London feeling the pain. There are many candidates who bravely put themselves forward hoping against hope that they would win.

So how should we be approaching things?  Well, the field of communication skills has some suggestions.

There’s a saying “the map is not the territory.”  People have different ways of interpreting the world.  A mental map of how they interpret things.  Their map may not only different from yours, but different to what is actually going on.

We should understand these different points of view, which comes naturally to liberals.  Avoid assuming people feel the same way about these election results. Instead, ask people “How do you feel we did?”  Listen to their experience. Feel how they feel. See things from their point of view. Empathise if they have lost and you have won.

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You wouldn’t think university finals and elections would mix….

The annoying thing about election campaigns is that they clash with exam season. In Scotland, Higher English happened on polling day, which is just great if you have or are a stressed out teenager.

Just the other day, I was talking to someone who combined university finals with a general election campaign, often balancing his books on the riso as he wrote essays.

Being a campaign foot soldier is a hard enough job if you are in the middle of such exams, but what about if you’re a candidate.

Edinburgh Central candidate Hannah Bettsworth is in the middle of her finals. Despite that, she has been representing us at heaven knows how many hustings as well as helping out our winning campaign in Western. By 5pm on polling day, she’d already hit 30,000 steps.

The local student news site did an article on her

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What’s your top tip for surviving Polling Day?

Polling Day is one of the most gruelling days in a political activist’s life. By its nature it comes at a time when you are already completely knackered. Liberal Democrats always work all year round, but there’s nothing to rival the intensity of an election campaign. By polling day, everything hurts.

A typical polling day starts before dawn as the early morning leaflets start to go out. Stealth is the key as you try not to wake up dogs or disturb people as you post that leaflet. I know a lot of people who got involved in the party or switched their support to us because of a good Good Morning leaflet, so it’s well worth doing.

For new members who have never done this before, it’s probably worth explaining a few things. Knocking people up isn’t as rude as it sounds. It’s about visiting people who have said they will vote for you and reminding them that the election is happening and how important it is that they vote.

You might also hear the word “shuttleworths” being bandied about. These are the lists of our supporters that we knock up. This is how they got their name, back in the day before computers when they were all hand-written.

Any activist will tell you that you need to keep going till 10 pm. One candidate in a council election lost by 3 votes last year after knocking off at 8 pm. Your polling day operation is really important and could make the difference between winning and losing.

And once the polls have closed, a particularly hardy few have to get themselves to the count and prepare themselves to concentrate as the votes are verified and counted. In a big national election, you may well be up for 24 hours or more.

So, how do you survive it?  You aren’t going to get much opportunity to rest, but you should take a short break after every stint to have some food (preferably involving carbs) and a nice cup of tea. There is not a challenge in life that can’t be helped by drinking tea. That’s a lesson taught to be by my beloved Granny and I swear by it. She would kill me if she knew I was making it with a teabag in a cup, mind you.

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Tim Pickstone writes…Help make the difference next Thursday

Farron  in EdinburghAll Liberal Democrats will remember what it felt like on Friday 8th May last year, the morning after the terrible 2015 General Election results .

This Thursday is our first big chance to build a more positive story about the progress we’ve made since, with voters going to the polls in one or more elections right across the UK.

A lot has been said about the Lib Dem ‘fightback’, but in politics it is elections that matter and our opportunity to ensure the Party makes a massive step forwards from 2015.

How well we perform next week will largely be up to us: Lib Dem members, activists and helpers.  We will make the difference between Lib Dems getting elected, or the opposition winning.

Thousands of people – candidates, activists, helpers, party staff have already been working hard for months.  But to get across the finish line we need everyone to help. 

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What’s the use of an elections database if it isn’t up-to-date during an election!

Mick Taylor and fellow Todmorden Lib Dems out and about

Mick Taylor and fellow Todmorden Lib Dems out and about

I am currently helping in a small local by-election for Todmorden Town Council. Amongst the things I have been doing is making sure that we use Connect properly. Imagine my frustration then when I discovered that it is not possible to add the voters who have come on to the register just in time to vote in the by-election. I have taken this up with the powers that be but have been told that they can only cope with the once a month regular register updates.

So the only way we can deal with this small number of new electors is to do it ON PAPER. I have also discovered that there is no way to remove defunct postal vote information, except by individual voter, a slow and time-consuming process.

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Opinion: Get your voters out electronically

HTC HD7 8It’s not a surprise to say far more people use social media now than when I first learnt political campaigning because Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and the whole lot didn’t even exist back then. Nor even did (glory be, you might think) Internet Explorer. Back when a beta version of Netscape was cutting edge, the scope for successful online political campaigning was tiny compared to now, when there are more people on the electoral register who use social media than will vote next week.

But the story of the last few decades isn’t just about the rise of the online world. It’s also about the increasing problems with traditional ways of communicating with voters on the ground. Fewer phone numbers are in the phone book; fewer households have someone in when you call round; and fewer properties have accessible individual letterboxes.

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Norman Baker in election leaflet typo – but he has the last word

Norman BakerTwenty years ago, I spent about 4 solid days, and nights, in a small flat in Chesterfield with a doggedly industrious group of Liberal Democrats. There had been a mistake with the imprint on the North Nottinghamshire and Chesterfield. This had not been noticed before the 250.000 leaflets had been printed. We had to stamp over the mistake and sort them. Oh, and for good measure, agent Paul Holmes, never one to underestimate anyone’s capacity for work, had procured 40,000 envelopes for us to stuff for a by-election in Bradford.

We …

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Austin Rathe talks to the Standard about the importance of political geekery

imageThe appointment of Obama’s strategist David Axelrod to advise the Labour Party has prompted the Standard to take a look at the digital operations of the three main parties. All three are looking to the success of the Obama campaign’s collection and use of data.

We know that the most effective digital campaigners are those who spend most of their time on the doorsteps. Jo Swinson was a Twitter pioneer, as was Willie Rennie and we know how much time Tim Farron spends on there. These three share a massive commitment and …

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Democratic Audit on the “scandal” of the poor value taxpayers get for the £800m spent on elections in the UK

Ballot paperDemocratic Audit, an independent research organisation based at the London School of Economics, this week published a report, Engaging young voters with enhanced election information. The title may not be the most exciting ever, but the report itself is worth a read. (You can download it here.)

The executive summary from the report’s authors, Patrick Dunleavy and Richard Berry, sets out the current problem as they see it:

Current arrangements in the UK only give very poor, fragmented and old-fashioned feedback to voters about what effect their participation has had, and what election outcomes were.

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Cowdenbeath by-election and local election results

The Cowdenbeath by-election result is in. From The Courier:

Alex Rowley (Lab) 11,192 (share 55.79%, +9.33%)
Natalie McGarry (SNP) 5,704 (28.43%, -13.17%)
Dave Dempsey (C) 1,893 (9.44%, +2.45%)
Denise Baykal (UKIP) 610 (3.04%)
Jade Holden (LD) 425 (2.12%, -1.77%)
Stuart Graham (Victims) 187 (0.93%)
James Trolland (SDA) 51 (0.25%)

In a result that should surprise nobody, Labour scores a big win in its heartland on a pretty low turnout of 34%. We lost our deposit, which was also, to be honest, eminently predictable. Cowdenbeath is not what you would call the most fertile Liberal Democrat territory at even the best of times. We don’t have a local …

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Opinion: A Penny For Your Vote? – the costs of winning votes

Votes for cashThe Electoral Reform Society has released a paper entitled A Penny For Your Vote?, which explores the connection between politics and money. It will come as no surprise to most Liberal Democrats that the equation between cash and seats is out of kilter. But the hard numbers contained within the paper may still come as a shock.

The amount of money spent winning a single vote ranges from £3.07 down to 14 pence dependent on where in the country you live. The disparity between these two figures equates to the small number being 22 times paltrier than the large one. This is because, as most of you will have surmised already, the amount of cash that parties pour into a seat at a general election is mostly down to how marginal it is thought to be.

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Liberal Youth co-option deadline extended to noon on 17th July

Remember last week I told you that Liberal Youth were conducting co-options for certain positions? Well, the deadline for nominations has been extended to noon on 17th July – that’s tomorrow.

Here’s a reminder of what’s up for grabs and how to apply:

Regional Chairs for North East and South Central regions

Regional Chairs are responsible for organising and assisting local Liberal Youth branches in their region and working directly with the Lib Dem regional executives.

We have positions open in the North East and South Central. For information on these positions please email Stuart Wheatcroft on [email protected].

To apply:

Please email  the Returning

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Wanted: Liberal Youth Regional Chairs, English Council Reps and Conference Committee members

After a lively and successful Activate weekend, which included campaigning in the Fitzherbert ward in Abingdon, gained in a by-election last week, Liberal Youth are looking for some more people to complete their team. Full details are on their website.

First of all, there are some places up for election – and I, as Returning Officer, thought it would be good to spread the word a bit further.

Regional Chairs for North East and South Central regions

Regional Chairs are responsible for organising and assisting local Liberal Youth branches in their region and working directly with the Lib Dem regional executives.

We

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