Tag Archives: general election review

What the Thornhill report should mean for Young Liberals

Many have rightly heralded the party’s open and honest attempt to understand our defeat as a gamechanger for the Lib Dems. This is a chance to address not just the damp, but the dry-rot and subsidence too. In the spirit of Dorothy Thornhill, I think it’s time we addressed all of the party’s structural problems. The report repeatedly and rightly mentioned the need for greater BAME involvement in the party, which is holding back our ability to win seats and appeal to a broader base of liberally-minded people. We are also being held back, however, by an absence of young people in the party.

In statistical terms, the Lib Dems are quite a young party; as of 2018, 27% of our members were between the ages of 18-39. If you look at the 18-24 age-range, which is when most young people who go to university will do so, only 6% of our party come from this group, relative to almost twice that in the population at large. Considering how many of our target seats have universities in them, there is huge opportunity for growth here. We do have a relatively young membership compared to Labour and the Conservatives. But this is like being the tallest penguin: our party is still overwhelmingly reliant on older, experienced, members who are dwindling in number. Unless young members stay within the party, we risk brain-drain to the two larger parties amongst ambitious young liberals. Unless we can recruit and maintain a cadre of young members who become integrated into party structures, we risk losing institutional memory whilst also campaigning with methods stuck in the past. The view that we can win in the 2020s with the same methods that won the by-elections of the ‘90s is beyond delusional. Young liberals are vital to future campaigns, and not just doing the grunt work.

Young Liberals should offer a natural recruitment ground in the party for such talent, and it should be a place where young members can gather experience of how to run serious campaigns effectively. But too often it falls short; irrelevant to the lives of most young members, YL is the preserve of a small clique of insiders. YL needs major reform; too few branches are learning best practice from each other about how to grow, too many positions go uncontested, or contested by the same old faces. Turnout in YL elections is shockingly low, when turnout is published at all. The Chair of Welsh Young Liberals was elected with 13 votes. 7 positions on the federal executive went uncontested last election season, other positions are vacant. The atmosphere inside YL, including the shutting down of the infamous Chatbox, certainly coheres with what many were saying in the Thornhill report: we’re quick to criticise each other and the party, and slow to encourage one another. YL at the moment is not fit for purpose; how will it make a credible case that it should keep its seat on Federal Board, whilst it continues to spend so much money on its conferences, and so little on developing branches and winning campaigns?

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 23 Comments

The Election Review reviewed

I found myself unexpectedly disappointed by the General Election Review.

Given the presence of a number of respected and experienced colleagues, I anticipated an analysis that spoke to the acute disappointment with the national campaign felt by the hundreds of barely functioning constituency associations which had struggled to raise the cash deposit and in many cases had just managed to pay for the one Freepost leaflet, but there was no solace in its winsome words. Couched in elegant prose one has to read between the lines to discern any critical comment.

Anyone would think that the party had fallen slightly short of its expected performance as opposed to botching the best electoral chance it had for decades as the only party fully supporting a European stance that was riding high in the pre-election polls. This was my seventeenth general election and in terms of missed opportunities it was the worst HQ election campaign – particularly, as I read, HQ could not, for once, plead poverty.

The party is in a parlous state. A majority of constituencies are “derelict” in the sense of not being self-starters and only being capable of presenting paper candidates at local elections. Leeds may not be typical but as England’s third city it should be noted that only one of its eight seats has a functioning constituency party – and having finished in third place despite being a “target” seat, I now fear for that one’s future. We have councillors in only three of the thirty-three wards – and this in a city which we ran as the dominant party in coalition from 2004 to 2011. There is no citywide Liberal Democrat body and no candidate panelling. And without an end to the increasingly disastrous twenty-five years targeting policy and a deliberate two year revival strategy, seat by seat, nothing will change. But there is nothing in this Review and its recommendations that appears to recognise this situation let alone address it.

Posted in Op-eds | 38 Comments

By forcing a narrative, the General Election Review misses an opportunity

I’ve been looking forward to finally having a review of the 2019 General Election to work through. It’s clear that we have many lessons to learn – and that learning must start with a clear and dispassionate statement of the facts, the opinions and the unknowns leading up to our defeat on December 12th.

This review is not that.

The review published yesterday has very little in the way of citations. In multiple places, figures are stated as facts – but we have no way of reviewing those facts. The one place I did find a citation (p43, “The specific research …

Posted in Op-eds | 16 Comments

The Election Review: Hardly News!

I welcome the Election Review and most of its analysis and recommendations. That’s not surprising: I decided last year that I could no longer stand the frustration of being involved with the Party’s governance bodies and stood down (after, believe or not, 50 years of pretty constant engagement).

My main concern about the Review is that it sees governance in terms of formal structures. That’s a mistake – most organisations function reasonably with almost any structure as long as they get right the other elements of governance. Just look at the NHS! That’s why, writing …

Posted in Op-eds | 9 Comments

The greater forces behind our election defeat

The long awaited General Election review has been published. It talks about many of the points disgruntled Lib Dem activists have been making for the last six months (the revoke policy, the ‘I can be your next PM’ message, the over ambitious targeting) and also looks in much more detail at the structural and staffing problems which were haunting the party.

It’s a good read, which makes many important points. I think activists find it comforting, in a weird way, to look at the short and long-term mistakes we made and think – ‘if only we had done a few …

Posted in Op-eds | 23 Comments

Why do we insist on making each other the enemy?

I told myself I was going to avoid joining in the whole narration of the General Election review, but this part really hits home for me.

We are as critical of ourselves as we are of others; many talk of being under ‘friendly fire’ from our own members or colleagues, with mistakes viewed as personal failures.

Members who have previously held office frequently contact staff – at all levels – offering views, advice and criticism. They expect to get heard and are disappointed if they are not. Staff feel that ‘no’ is an answer that cannot be given.

During my 10 years in …

Posted in Op-eds | 15 Comments

2019 Election Review – the Social Democrat Group responds

The Social Democrat Group is a grassroots organisation which seeks to promote the social democratic, as well as the liberal, tradition in the Liberal Democrats. In response to the publication of the party’s 2019 Election Review, the group has issued a statement broadly supporting the report.

In particular, the group welcomes the references in the report to the need for the party to concentrate on the issues that really matter to normal people. We believe that if we are to start winning back people’s trust we need to emphasise the big ticket issues of health, education, transport, housing, the environment, that …

Posted in Op-eds | 3 Comments

The party President writes…Key party decisions coming up at the Federal Board meetings next week

How do we improve as a party and achieve greater success in future elections? That’s the theme running through the bumper set of key decisions the Federal Board is looking at next week at our meeting. (Or rather meetings, as to avoid Zoom fatigue, we’re splitting one long meeting into halves on consecutive nights.)

Included in that will be the Board’s first considerations of the independent election review, headed up by Dorothy Thornhill and coming out later today. Thank you for all their hard work to her, her colleagues and everyone who contributed evidence to the review.

Even without that review, there are some things we already know we need to change, in particular our use of technology. That’s why the Board will also be looking at major plans to overhaul our approach, learning from the best of those outside politics and from politics overseas. A big part of the plan is much better use of volunteer expertise.

Posted in Party policy and internal matters | Also tagged , , , , , , and | 17 Comments

Election Review team announced

A short while ago the Federal Board announced that Dorothy Thornhill would be leading the Review of the recent General Election.

Dorothy was the first directly elected Mayor of Watford, a post she held for 16 years until 2018. Since 2015 she has served as a Lib Dem peer in the House of Lords.

Dorothy has now announced the members of her Review team, and a wonderfully diverse bunch they are:

Carole Ford I joined in 2015 and since then have stood as a council, Scottish parliament and GE candidate.  I am the Scottish spokesperson on Children and Young People,

Posted in News | 60 Comments

Introducing the General Election 2017 Election Review

After the 2015 election disaster, a comprehensive post mortem led by James Gurling analysed what had gone wrong and made a huge number of detailed recommendations of what should be done differently next time.

However, the snap election of 2017, coming just two years later and out of left field, meant that we were still recovering from 2015 and had not had much chance to implement many of those changes.

Another disappointing result demanded further analysis, although a snap election was a very different challenge. So the Federal Board concluded that a review should be relatively ‘quick and dirty’ and sit alongside the 2015 review in informing future decisions.

Finding someone completely uninvolved in the election to lead the review proved an impossible task, and in the end Gerald Vernon-Jackson failed to dodge the bullet and was appointed just after the Bournemouth conference. Three months having already elapsed since polling day, Gerald was asked to produce something fast. He mustered a strong team and over a long weekend of intensive work they interviewed some 58 stakeholders from across the party.

Their report was produced quickly off the back of that evidence-taking and serves as a candid appraisal of the snap election campaign. It was formally received by the Federal Board and sent to the Federal Campaigns and Elections Committee and Federal Audit and Scrutiny Committee to inform ‘lessons learned’ exercises.

Some eyebrows were raised at the anecdotal character of the report, but in fairness to Gerald and his team it was exactly what it said on the tin: a coherent synopsis of the perceptions of 58 stakeholders and the panel itself, drawing together the common threads from the accounts they heard. It does not purport to be a comprehensive analysis of the sort conducted after 2015, and was always designed to sit alongside the earlier report in providing a route map for future campaigns.

Posted in News | 30 Comments

Don’t forget to have your say on the General Election campaign

After every General Election, the party conducts a review of the campaign so that we have a written record of what worked, what didn’t work and what we need to learn for the future.

The ink was barely dry on the huge number of recommendations from the 2015 campaign when we were off again.

There is a difference in the process this time. In 2015, it was the job of the Campaigns Committee to run the review. This time, though, party structures have changed. The Governance Review ensured that the Campaigns and Elections Committee runs the election so they can’t be allowed …

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 6 Comments

Reaction to the General Election Review

Welcome to our whistle-stop tour of the coverage of our General Election Review. If you’ve missed our earlier pieces, you can read the document here.

The Mirror has a poll at the end of their piece. 28% of respondents say they’d vote for us in the future. I’ll take that.

The BBC quotes Tim Farron’s response:

The review – carried out by members of the party’s Campaigns and Communications Committee – made a string of recommendations to help the party fare better in any future coalition.

These include that Lib Dems should make it clear they will only automatically vote for legislation covered by the coalition agreement, and that the “wider party” should be represented in the negotiations.

Tim Farron, who replaced Mr Clegg as leader, said: “Blame and criticism can provide short term satisfaction, but do nothing for a future vision.

“This report is about setting a way forward, recognising the mistakes we made, and learning from them.”

Posted in News | 4 Comments

Six key points of the General Election Review

The Liberal Democrats’ Campaigns and Communications Committee has published its Review of the 2015 General Election today. Have they correctly analysed what went wrong? The review team conducted extensive interviews with key players and based its conclusions on feedback from 7500 party members. The report doesn’t pull any punches. Many activists will identify with its criticisms and will be heartened by its recommendations. In fact, from what I can see from social media, even some of the harshest critics of the last few years are finding this review to be satisfactory.

And, in the media, Patrick Wintour had this to say:

Posted in Op-eds | 28 Comments
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