What I wish I’d known when I started out in the Lib Dems

Bright eyed, bushy tailed and knowing almost nothing in 2017, being handed the keys to run a Local Party’s finances was a bewildering and exciting moment. I’m sure there are thousands of people who have had similar feelings.

There was always a mountain of things that needed to be done, matched by an enthusiasm to get going. As I moved through other roles, and went through elections, I picked up skills as I tried to work out what I should be doing and the best ways of doing it. While there were hugely experienced people around willing to teach what they knew, I realised quickly that there was no complete manual or guide. As people came and went from local politics, so too did the institutional knowledge they had nurtured.

So, I decided used my time in lockdown productively reading up, interviewing and collating best practice from different people who had done different roles across the country.

While there may have been quirks to Local Parties there were also many common problems and bright ideas. For me the big lessons from the process of writing Winning Here Winning There were:

  1. Keeping a group of volunteers organised and motivated is no easy task
  2. You can quickly get distracted and consumed by immediate issues
  3. You need a long-term multi-election strategy to win
  4. Working hard will not guarantee success, you also need to work smart
  5. Local Party know-how is easily lost when people leave/retire
  6. Coming up with reasons to logically vote Lib Dem is easy, creating an emotional argument is much more difficult
  7. There’s so much more to being in a political party than delivering leaflets
  8. Get a head start by learning the lessons of the past rather than replicating their mistakes

Having been a Local Party Chair, Treasurer, Agent, regional executive member, and campaigner in London, as well as helper at by-elections, I have witnessed the enthusiasm of campaigners keen for success, as well as the disappointment of wasted effort reinventing the wheel.

So, whether you are a seasoned campaigner, someone new to the party, or anywhere in between, there is always an opportunity to learn something new. I hope the expertise I’ve been lucky enough to absorb from some of our most seasoned as well as our newer members can inspire and help your local party to reach the milestones that matter to you – from getting more local members and gaining that first council seat to running the local authority.

You can find out more and purchase a copy of the guidebook direct from the publisher.


* Christopher is a member in Southwark, former Local Party Chair, elected member of the FPDC, and author of Winning Here Winning There.

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • Steve Trevethan 14th Apr '23 - 8:29am

    Thank you for an interesting and useful piece!

    Might someone from H. Q. Read it?

  • Graham Jeffs 14th Apr '23 - 10:37am

    Very relevant.

    Maintaining the tension of political activity is key. More than three weeks of “rest” starts the unravelling process. Hence my outrage that my local party is only interested in people in the adjoining constituency and has dictated that we should not even deliver leaflets here this local election.

  • It is always useful to write this down, but the problem is that new people don’t read it and think long standing members like me are obviously out of touch with more modern methods. Mick’s Guide to Fighting Elections covers almost every conceivable aspect of fighting elections, but clearly it wasn’t read by my former local party as they have decided that running a full slate wasn’t important and ignoring the fact that if you only have one candidate in a 3 member ward that anyone voting for the one candidate will then vote against them twice if they exercise their right to vote for 3 candidates. You can’t force people to read, but I often wish I could!

  • William Wallace 14th Apr '23 - 11:48am

    One of my recurring nightmares is what would have happened if I had accepted the pressing invitation to become election agent for my local constituency in the 1964 election, when I was a graduate student and had absolutely NO knowledge of electoral law, and only limited experience of canvassing. Thank goodness the party now provides more advice and training than then.

  • Nonconformistradical 14th Apr '23 - 11:56am

    And at least now there is a fair amount of eleciton law stuff available on the Electoral Commission website.

  • The book is awesome and I really recommend anyone who needs to do anything Lib Dem use it as a reference guide. From setting up a local party to organising a campaign to running an election. A lot of people have contributed to this book from MPs, to councillors, campaign experts to novices and some of the party greats. Do purchase a copy for yourself. Compliments a number of other Lib Dem publications!

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