Working to build a liberal core vote in Merton

Merton photo 2

Merton Liberal Democrats were very pleased and somewhat surprised to be among the first winners of the Party’s “referendum pledge challenge”.

The vast majority of the winning groups are areas of (often recent) historic strength for the party with an organisation to match – so it was a real boost to us to see the local group’s name up there.

Last summer, bolstered by our newbies, we agreed a selection of campaign themes that articulated who we were and what we wanted to achieve as a group. This included the EU referendum/staying in the EU. A co-ordinator was appointed for each theme, to keep a watchful eye on developments in the area, and make sure we never forgot the themes in the heat of campaigns.

On the prompting of the EU campaign co-ordinator, all our street stalls during the London elections were about the referendum from an early stage. We’d also agreed that we would ask about the referendum as a secondary question when doing voter ID, but in many places we found it an easier conversation starter to go with the EU, before moving into asking for support for the London team.

Given the results across London in May, we were pleased that our target areas gained some of the highest vote shares for the Lib Dems on the proportional London List, beaten only by (some of the) wards in areas that have/did have Lib Dem MPs. And we were back out with an EU stall on the Saturday 7 May.

Since then we’ve had an “EU launch” discussion event with Tom Brake MP, where we went armed with a number of “asks”. This helped us to begin building up funds again, we repeated this via email to our members and supporters. It also meant we took on board new ideas, such as an EU letter writers’ circle – getting multiple angles of the Remain argument into the local media.

Merton photo 1

Regular door-knocking sessions and use of Connect’s Virtual Phone Banks has given us a high contact rate (we’ve asked people about usual Party support too – which is a part of building for the future), but we’ve also attempted to integrate online, SMS and email campaigning to support this. Our monthly local news email bulletins to thousands of voters included not only a strong pro-remain argument, but a recognition that people were looking for non-partisan information – so we directed them to Full Fact’s EU referendum pages, to help build trust (and because we’re confident that the facts back our pro-Remain position!). We also asked people to tell us how they planned to vote using this link – which has resulted in more than 100 new referendum voting intentions.

We’ve mentioned the closeness of the polls to members and supporters by phone and SMS, and several new and former volunteers have offered to help donate, deliver leaflets and take posters.

Obviously, we’ve delivered leaflets and direct mail in our target areas, but we’ve supported people to deliver leaflets to their neighbours outside of that.

We now have a decent-sized pool of people that have told us they would vote Remain. We’re planning for a full polling day operation, with email and SMS “knock up” (if you would like a copy of our guide on the technical steps to do SMS knock up, please email Simon on [email protected]), supported by phone banks, door-knocking and leafleting.

If you can help on the day, you’d be made welcome at 2 Aston Road, SW20 (near Raynes Park station), our base of operations!


* Anthony Fairclough is Vice Chair, Merton Borough Lib Dems and is writing in a personal capacity

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One Comment

  • Liberal Neil 21st Jun '16 - 9:39am

    Great article Anthony. Shows what can be done with limited resources when you apply them effectively.

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