Why I am cursing Tim Gordon*

Tim Gordon is the Chief Executive of the Liberal Democrats. In the three years of his tenure he has done wonders to professionalise our Headquarters operation and make it election-fit. He is also a very nice man. So what has he done that deserves such a provocative headline?

We first need some context. It’s barely two weeks since we had those “you must give us all your money now because we have some major donors who will match it” emails. I gave the first time, and when there was a push on for donations after Nick Clegg’s Last Leg appearance, the day we raised £50,000 in one day, I gave again. Not a huge amount, because I don’t have a huge amount.

Why did I bother? Because I want to see to see people like Christine Jardine, Jo Swinson, Layla Moran, Mike Crockart, Lynne Featherstone, Mike Moore and Dorothy Thornhill elected to Westminster in May and that costs money. I want them to have the best possible campaign behind them.

Ok, so you have already decided I am soft hearted. Hell, you actually knew that anyway. But this afternoon, another missive came. This time from Tim Gordon. This one got me raging. because he pressed the Thatcher button. Apparently the Tories have had some auction for their mega-rich donors last night. One of the items was a bronze statuette of Margaret Thatcher, which apparently sold for £210,000. He doesn’t elaborate on how much shoe shopping with Theresa May went for.  You get two hours of her company, tea and a £500 shopping voucher for some posh Bond Street shoe shop. It’s a pity we can’t auction that off for our funds. I’d love to spend a couple of hours telling her where she’s going wrong on immigration, terrorism and, well, everything her department does that a Liberal Democrat isn’t responsible for, really.

You push the Thatcher button with me and rage comes out. She’s one of the reasons I’m still here, involved in politics after more than three decades, because I lived through the damage she caused in the 1980s. Not only had this email reminded me what a unfair fight we’re involved in, with That Lot having squillions of humungously rich backers ready to throw six figure sums at them, but it also struck at the core of why I’m a Lib Dem. So I stumped up. Again.

Oh well, my sister didn’t need a 40th birthday present anyway**

I reckoned Tim deserved the price of a couple of pints for all the hard work he’s doing. I just wonder what LDHQ will do next to mess with my head and get me to give them more money.  If you feel the same, donate here.

*No members of Liberal Democrat staff have actually been harmed by acts of sorcery in the production of this article.

**Well, that may be a bit of an exaggeration. I do value my life.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 10th Feb '15 - 7:35pm

    Not going to disagree with you on that one. I was just amused by the idea of May being forced to spend two hours with me.

  • Stephen Hesketh 10th Feb '15 - 8:12pm

    Caron Lindsay 10th Feb ’15 – 7:35pm
    “Not going to disagree with you on that one. I was just amused by the idea of May being forced to spend two hours with me.”

    Caron, I am absolutely up for a bit of crowd funding if you think you could make that happen 🙂

  • Little Jackie Paper 10th Feb '15 - 8:33pm

    More seriously however it does raise the question of party funding and political funds more generally. I don’t for a moment think that I have any answers here but perhaps we should be looking for ways to reduce the costs of politics.

    I don’t know if there has ever been any study on whether big spending actually makes any difference.

  • Adam Killeya 10th Feb '15 - 8:58pm

    As amusing as it would be to have Teresa May spend two hours with you I would pay even more to have Michael Gove spend two hours teaching the 30 students of my choice…

  • Keep checking my bank balance to see if some rich relative has suddenly decided to deposit a large wedge I could dip into to donate to the numerous requests for cash. Unfortunately I have no such rich relatives so I will be doing the next best thing I can do…. Take a week of work to help out our MPs …. Just don’t tell my wife 🙂

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 10th Feb '15 - 10:30pm

    Time is precious too – we all need to make unreasonable demands of ourselves over the next few months.

  • Harry Hayfield 10th Feb '15 - 10:53pm

    Here’s a promise. You get back into government and introduce the Carer’s Bonus (£100 a year in the first year rising to £250 a year in the last year of the Parliament) and I will add 10% of that to my annual membership fee. Fair deal?

  • Having done a Focus delivery and seen the Conservative leaflets arriving with piza adverts. Why not go for the Tory financed adverts and have on all Focuses delivered free by members and supporters

  • I have a rather different gripe. I am often reading my emails in bed and when I get these appeals am often inclined to respond. One used to be able to do this using Paypal. I can remember my Paypal login but not my credit card number. So I’m afraid I don’t get out of bed and find a card and so it doesn’t happen. I have sent in notes three times to the office and had no explanation for abolishing the Paypal option. I even spoke to somebody at the conference in Glasgow about this but it wasn’t followed up. It is a firm rule in fundraising to make it as easy for the donor as possible!

  • Nick Tregoning 11th Feb '15 - 10:04am

    I’m all in favour of Theresa May being obliged to spend as much time as possible buying shoes and drinking tea.

  • Are you sitting comfortably?

    Apparently ‘Shoe Shopping with Teresa May’ sold for the princely sum of £17,500.

    No, that’s not a typo. Seventeen and a half thousand pounds.

  • Caron, if you want to help any MPs you respect to save their seats, then I would suggest you give any money you can afford directly to their campaign.

    Tim Gordon might be a lovely man, he may have made HQ more professional, but in reality the national campaign we are running isn’t going to save any Lib Dem MP their seat or win any new seats. Only local work by effective local campaigners will do that now.

  • peter tyzack 11th Feb '15 - 10:57am

    I’m with Adam as regards Gove, great idea. Anyway Caron, I would be pleased to accompany you shopping anytime and treat you to tea after, you do great work for the party in your thought provoking pieces, here and on Fb.. but sorry, no £500 voucher.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 11th Feb '15 - 1:37pm

    Yeah, but Peter Tyzack, it would be great fun, but I’m sure I wouldn’t annoy you as much as I’d annoy Thersa:-). Anyway, cup of tea in Liverpool?

    Phil Rimmer, what do you think the party are doing with the money they get centrally? It’s being spent on things that matter and will make the difference on the ground.

  • Phil Rimmer 11th Feb '15 - 3:25pm

    Caron – fair question. Things done centrally, that “matter” and will “make a difference on the ground”, must be judged according to the suitability of the campaigning for the situation and their possible effectiveness at delivering votes where they are needed.

    I have 2 problems which lead me to recommend donating to local campaigns. First, given our very low ebb in the polls, recent elections and the poor quality of most of what appears to be happening (in my opinion based on 30 odd years as an agent and campaigner), I honestly do not believe that the national campaign is going to deliver very much in terms of votes.

    Secondly, and flowing on from my first problem, if my experience as an agent has taught me anything it is that, no matter how good or bad a national campaign, a very good local campaign can push through this to win additional votes. This is most especially the case if your candidate is already locally well known and respected. However, this still requires cash and, aside from a handful of MPs and constituencies, I suspect that most of our winnable seats will be desperate for every extra pound that they can get.

    This general election must now be seen as a rescue mission and I would bet my last pound that, at this stage, financial and human resources will be put to better use by campaigns in winnable constituencies than they will by the national campaign.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 11th Feb '15 - 10:14pm


    I know how money given nationally have put resources into seats on the ground whether it’s staff, phoning, direct mail, literature, training, all really good practical stuff. They’ve been quietly building capacity and strength on the ground for the last few years. I’ve seen the effect on the ground of this massive investment in multiple seats and it’s been exactly what has been needed. I think your assessment is unfair and incorrect.

    This is a national campaign like no other we have ever faced. Our national record will be relevant everywhere. I have done it myself in the past – been part of a campaign that has steadfastly and resolutely ignored the national campaign because we actually did know better, and we won. However, times have changed since then.

    There seems to be an assumption that these clever and skilled people who work like demons in our HQ are actively working to harm the party. Do they always get everything right? No, of course not, and neither do you or I, but they do massive amounts of good work that go unappreciated.

  • “However, times have changed since then.”

    How? Is there evidence for this and how compelling is it?

    I’ve done the unreasonable demands bit plenty of times. It isn’t going to happen this time and a big reason for that is disillusionment not so much with the party’s record but the fact that I don’t have any confidence in the strategy being adopted. 84 days to go and look at the polling trend – maybe it will all come good but who knows.

    There is a reliance on incumbency and the local constituency ground game – which is fine but two big elephants in the room. Incumbency saw vote share drop in held seats in 2010, the local ground game saw a net loss of seats (both of which happened on an increasing vote share)

  • Caron – sorry but times haven’t changed that much. As for the national campaign, I will repeat something I said in a previous debate. The national campaign organisers appear to have forgotten anything they ever knew about campaigning and completely forgotten the core elements of Liberalism. Unless it improves, and quickly, the national campaign may damage the chances of some candidates and sitting MPs. It’s happened before.

  • The problem in 2010 is that we had a large increase in vote share in hundreds of seats where we had no or little chance of winning.

  • Caron Lindsay 11th Feb ’15 – 10:14pm
    “……I know how money given nationally have put resources into seats on the ground ….
    I’ve seen the effect on the ground of this massive investment in multiple seats and it’s been exactly what has been needed. ”

    Caron, You make a very bold assertion.
    How many seats in Scotland have benefited from the “massive investment” you describe ?
    and as a consequence – how many MPs we will have north of the border on 8th May ?

    You do not have to name the seats or give away any campaigning secrets, just give us a comparison to 2010 when Liberal Democrat MPs in Scotland numbered 11.

    I think you might owe Phil Rimmer an apology. It strikes me that his advice for people to send money straight to those seats where the money can make a difference is sound advice.
    Are you really saying that the money might be improved by being laundered by all those very clever people at party HQ whoever they are ?

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 12th Feb '15 - 1:53pm

    JT: 11 seats have benefitted and I can see a path to victory in all of them. I’m certainly not going to write any of our lot off.

    I don’t owe people an apology for disagreeing with them, John. I don’t have a problem with people donating direct to seats – I’ve done that too. In the last wee while, I’ve given to Kennedy, Swinson, Jardine and Crockart. It’s these darned emails and my soft heart. I just think that money sent direct to LDHQ will be well spent too.

    And now I’m waiting for a torrent of heart wrenching emails from the other 70 odd key seats.

  • On the “ground game going well” point. if you look at the Lord Ashcroft polls done in Sept and Nov he looked at 35 Lib Dem seats. On the “have the main parties contacted you in the last few weeks” question in 16 the Lib Dems trailed their main opponents, and in a further 7 were 5 points or less ahead of their main opponents (its a reasonable position that the Lib Dem ground campaign needs to be a fair bit more intensive than their main opponents – though I have picked 5% completely out of the air!)

    So there is a reasonable case that in half to 2/3rds of Lib Dem seats there either isn’t a lead in the ground game or it isn’t big enough

    Maybe I’m my usual cheery self – but pretending things are going to be better than the signs are suggesting they are is one of the fastest ways to kill morale and enthusiasm there is.

  • the first thing Nick claimed to have done when elected leader was ‘professionalise the party’
    “The first was to professionalise the party – he points out the Lib Dems now have a new chief executive, a new head of campaigns, a new head of communications and a new fundraiser.”

    This followed on from Ming who also “professionalised” the party
    7 Feb 2006 – Leadership campaign archive of Ming Campbell ” he has stated his intention of professionalising the party.”

    Funny then it still needed professionalising in 2012.

  • Caron

    “This is a national campaign like no other we have ever faced. Our national record will be relevant everywhere.”

    What evidence is there that there is any kind of ‘national campaign’ which is either relevant to or being communicated effectively to either the population at large, or national media, or any significant actors in the coming election? Indeed, there is a very good argument that those Lib Dem MPs who are going to win in May will do so partly because there is nothing effective coming out of the centre which might well conflict with their own messaging and complicate their local tasks.

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