The 12 Op-Eds of Christmas (Day 2)

Throughout the festive season, LDV is offering our readers a load of repeats another chance to read the 12 most popular opinion articles which have appeared on the blog since 1st January, 2009. The eleventh most-read LDV op-ed of 2009 was by Jury Team co-founder Morus, and originally appeared on 8th April …

‘A flop’? Jury Team responds to Mark Pack

May I first of all begin by thanking Lib Dem Voice readers for indulging us, and to the editors for letting me write a response to Mark Pack’s post, Jury Team: so far, it’s a flop.

You won’t be surprised that I disagree with some of Mark’s points – the idea that all of our media coverage was friendly, and this strange accusation that we were ‘going out of our way to solicit anonymous donations’. Neither are true – our press officer did well to get as much coverage as possible, but that didn’t stop the knives coming out.

Similarly, our position on donations is (I think) more open than any of the other parties. We have committed to restricting donations to £50k per donor, and felt telling people who made small donations that we needed to harvest extensive personal information under the auspices of reporting to the Electoral Commission would have been dishonest. Paypal allows us to prevent abuse, and we are not inclined to take lessons from a party that accepted a £2.4m donation from Michael Brown.*

On Twitter – I’d prefer to reach 750 people and have the same number ignore us, than reach 100 people and have a great ratio. We’re a campaign on a budget, and trying to get a message out quickly and cheaply, so no apologies there.

We’ve had over 500 people begin the forms to stand as candidates, and will this week have sufficient candidates to fill the lists in each of the 12 regions. More have said they are waiting for Westminster.

We’ve had a couple of thousand votes so far, and in the remaining couple of weeks expect that our Open Primary will have seen more people involved in the selection of our candidates than any of the other parties. With more money and more time, I think that the proof of concept we were seeking from the European elections could mature into an interesting campaign for Westminster.

We cannot possibly know after only four weeks in the public eye if the project will be as successful as we would hope, but I think we’ve started an interesting conversation about what we should be expecting political parties to do with respect to open primaries and engaging the 98% of people who aren’t members of those parties.

It amazes me that with so much distrust of both Labour and Conservatives, that third parties such as the Lib Dems should not have capitalised on that antipathy – in spite of the ample resources provided by groups such as the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust.

I don’t know how many candidates the Lib Dems will run for the European elections, or how they were chosen, or how many applicants there were for those places, but it is a little rich to criticise a month-old start-up for failing where you too have failed, in spite of greater visibility and resources.

I would hope that a belief in re-engaging a lost voting population and espousing greater democracy, transparency and accountability were things that Liberal Democrats would be able to at least treat charitably. I respect the party for its stance and actions over expenses and sleaze. In fact, other than the inexplicable three-line whip to abstain on offering a referendum on Lisbon, I find much to admire.

However, for as long as the unprincipled powerhungry join Labour and the Tories, and the sanctimonious hinterland belongs to the futile efforts of us political purists, I’d like to think that avoiding petty hostilities was the least we could expect of each other. Truce?

* Morus is an active member of Jury Team and regular contributor to

Editor’s note:
* this sentence originally read, ‘Paypal allows us to prevent abuse, and we are not inclined to take lessons from a party that the party that solicited £2.4m illegal donation from Michael Brown.’ As Lib Dem Voice has constantly pointed out, the Electoral Commission’s verdict that it was “reasonable for the Liberal Democrats – based on the information available to them at the time – to regard the donations … as permissible. It remains the Commission’s view that the Liberal Democrats acted in good faith at that time, and the Commission is not re-opening the question of whether the party or its officers failed to carry out sufficient checks into the permissibility of the donations.”

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