Tim Gordon writes… Feedback from the members’ survey

Earlier this month I launched a national Members’ Survey, which went out to all members currently on the Party’s email list. Given that a previous survey told us very clearly that members want to be surveyed more it is perhaps no surprise that we had a great response rate.

As well as the multiple choice responses, we had hundreds of more detailed comments letting us know exactly what you think about the party strategy, policy and your experience of being a member. This information is invaluable and I have already presented your views to Nick Clegg, key Ministers and our MPs.

The overwhelming message on strategy was that you support our role in the coalition and the approach the Party took in 2010. Over 80% of you said that we were right to enter the Coalition after the election, and almost all agree that this is a better government for having Liberal Democrats in it. There is also strong support for staying in government until the next election.

Contrary to reports in the media, Liberal Democrat members remain committed to the idea of coalition. Nearly 70% of you would like to see the Party enter into a second coalition after the next General Election should there not be an outright winner. Less than one in ten want to return to opposition, with the difference being support for a confidence and supply arrangement. Only about a quarter had a preference for a political partner; so strong support for Nick’s view that it was for the voters to effectively decide who we should negotiate with (i.e. the party with the most support nationally).

The comments show that although life in a coalition has not always been easy, there is recognition we have been able to make a difference in government. 57% of you pointed to the raising the income tax threshold as the Party’s greatest achievement in government to date. This, incidentally, matches our own research amongst voters – hence the theme of Conference: “Fairer tax in tough times”. This is a Liberal Democrat policy that we all need to communicate with pride.

I’m pleased that Nick Clegg will be launching our new Fairer Tax campaign at conference and this will be the focus of our campaigning over coming months. Interestingly in policy terms 50% of you think we should now focus in government on tackling tax evasion and avoidance, which is also a key part of our campaign message.

Your policy priorities were very clearly the economy (72%), unemployment (53%), poverty/inequality (48%), the NHS, Education, housing, social care for the elderly, pensions and the environment (all 30%+).

When it comes to generating growth, you favour investment in infrastructure by some margin. On education, “a stronger emphasis on vocational courses” stood out as something you would like to see prioritised – which is reflected in the investment by Nick and Vince in a 50% expansion in apprenticeships. On the environment you want to see more investment in renewable energy and public transport.

Despite this, it is clear to me from the comments that we must work hard in coming months to ensure clearer communication of our political strategy at every level of the Party. We also need to provide you with more support in promoting government achievements. For those who are still unsure of some of our achievements in coalition, we have this week launched a new pamphlet called “What have the Liberal Democrats ever done for you?” If you are coming to conference you will get a printed copy in your delegate pack, otherwise you can download a copy from the party’s website.

In terms of your experience of being a Party member, 93% of you say that you have heard from your local party in the past 12 months, which is great. The number falls to 75% for regional and Scottish/Welsh parties. Across the board we see members wanting more opportunity to get involved in political discussion and policy-making – activities I am keen that we help to stimulate, particularly as the manifesto process begins next year.

Many of you said that you had never attended Federal Conference (it’s not too late to register), and as yet only 10% of members have taken part in one of the new online Q&As with Ministers. This is a pity as they get a very high favourability score from those who do attend. We will continue to look for other ways to make sure that there is an effective political dialogue between members and elected leadership: all ideas welcomed.

Many thanks to all took part in the Member Survey. We offered a prize draw for those who took part, which I’m delighted to say was won by John Mitchell from Ealing Borough.

If you want to take part in future Member Surveys, make sure that the Party has your e-mail address by e-mailing [email protected]

If you want to discuss the survey in more detail then please either catch me at conference or come to my member Q&A (Tuesday 25 September, 1630-1730, West Bar, Brighton Centre).

* Tim Gordon is Chief Executive of the Liberal Democrats.

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10 Comments

  • Communication and motivation go hand in hand and if it is true that in Wales and Scotland a quarter of our members have not heard from their local party in the past twelve months, no wonder membership is falling

  • No mention of the “not going to conference because of accreditation” responses, either, Stephen…

  • Interesting to see what the membership actually thinks, rather than what some people think they think.

  • Kevin Maher 23rd Sep '12 - 9:40am

    The absolute minimum is for every member to be invited to an AGM every year. Either some local parties are not functioning properly or members have short memories.

  • If 7% of members can’t remember hearing anything from their local party in a whole 12 months, that is not so great.

    Quite so it’s the best part of 3,500 members. It might even be worse than that, I’ve never heard anything from the local party in 2.5 years of membership. The region do send out quite a bit of stuff though and some unreasonably cheery chap at HQ calls every so often asking for money.

  • If you haven’t heard from your local party then you’ve identified an opportunity where the party can improve.

    Have you thought of volunteering to help with this? Do you know how to get in contact?

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