You can tell it’s the silly season when….

… the Daily Mail has nothing better to do than write about an offer Liberal Democrat Voice sent to subscribers recently.

Andrew Pierce’s column in today’s paper quotes an email offering a chance to buy former LDV co-editor Mark Pack’s and Ed Maxfield’s book “101 ways to win an election” at half price. He wrote:

An interesting readers’ offer on the Lib Dem Voice website. The book, 101 Ways To Win An  Election, written by the Lib Dems’ Mark Pack and Ed Maxfield, is being sold at half-price.

Surely, top of the list should be ‘dump Nick Clegg’.

Some of us may take the view that being viscerally loathed by the Daily Mail and subject to numerous poison pen portraits within its pages is a good thing. Imagine how worried we’d be if they liked him.

Going back to the book itself, Stephen Tall reviewed it last year and apparently made Mark Pack blush in the process.

The authors have clearly put a lot of thought into creating a book which people will actually want to read — and to re-read — on a subject many but the most obsessed political aficionado might initially dismiss as dull and boring.

Drs Pack and Maxfield do not shirk the essentials of building a successful campaign (far from it), but neither do they dwell overly on the mechanics of, for example, capturing voter ID data, or copy-writing and art-working leaflets, or building a volunteer team. Instead, the book is structured into five sections — your message, your team, your resources, your communications, and your leadership — collectively totalling 101 individual chapters. With no chapter longer than four pages, it is easy to dip in and out of, while even entries you feel don’t apply to you can quickly be skimmed for nuggets of wisdom.

You may not know this, but the book was originally entitled 100 ways to win an election. I was lucky enough to be asked to comment on an earlier draft and suggested that they add in the section on replying to correspondence from voters as that relationship building is such an important part of any campaign.

I have a pile of what I consider to be life’s essential books at the side of my bed. It has everything from comforting Nigella Lawson cookbooks to Jane Austen to my favourite political book of all time, All’s Fair, by James Carville and Mary Matalin to my favourite parenting books. These are books that can very quickly drag me from despondency and doom to cheerfulness and sense of purpose. 101 Ways found its way there very quickly – you can turn to any page at random and find something helpful.

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

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  • If we were to dump him, Caron, and as you know the arguments are fierce on here on that point, I can tell you the Daily Mail would suddenly fall in love with him. It is his position they hate, not his politics / ideology!

  • Matthew Huntbach 12th Aug '13 - 2:12pm

    Surely, top of the list should be ‘dump Nick Clegg’.

    Unfair? Yes. But the reality is that in public life once something or someone gets a bad reputation, it can be almost impossible to shake it off. A few poor decisions, leading to nudge-nudge public criticism which then dominates the image, and that’s it. We saw this when the Liberal Party and the SDP merged. In fact the merger went smoothly, most people in both parties were working together harmoniously in the new party, it was actually just a few fringe elements in both parties (but mainly the SDP, which was the smaller of the two anyway) who weren’t going along with it. Yet the press decided to report it as a disastrous splintering, as if the whole thing had gone very wrong, and it was impossible to get people to see beyond that. The party had very painfully to build itself up by grassroots activity to prove the press and what people believed through that to be wrong. It was not all the press’s fault, however. There were some very bad mistakes made by the parties’ leaderships which made things worse. The central one was trying to make the new “Social and Liberal Democrats” appear to be a brand new party that had sprung up from nowhere, almost banning the word “Liberal” because it was thought this would make the party look old fashioned and remind people of where it had come from. The idea, so far as I could see and can remember now, was to recreate the excitement of the foundation of the SDP 7 years earlier. However, it didn’t work. Instead, people were confused, thinking these “Salads” were just one of the splinters along with the SDP and the Liberals. What should have been done was the opposite of what was done – the merger should have been played down, the continuation of the old parties played up, it should have looked like a continuation of “business as usual”. I said this at the time … (my suggestion was that there was a very simple no fuss way of merging the parties, which was to make the SDP an Associated Organisation of the Liberal Party, or whatever was the correct constitutional term, which could have been accomplished by a simple constitutional amendment listing it as such, alongside the Young Liberals, the Association of Liberal Trade Unionists and a few others with that status).

    The relevance of this for now? Nick Clegg and those surrounding him have made the same mistake – they’ve taken the wrong strategic presentation option and are unable to escape from it. It was the “Rose Garden” strategy that did it. The idea was to make us look bigger and more influential than we were, supposing voters would come flocking to us, excited at seeing Liberal Democrats standing at the Despatch Box. Combine this with the general election strategy of making the pledge on student tuition fees the BIG thing our party was offering, when it was a nice policy but not one we would able to push through in any coalition. I know, and have made in public in defence of our party, all the arguments about why we had to give in on this, why the fees and loans compromise isn’t as bad as it seems, but … Well, perhaps a cruder way of putting it would be the joke ending in “just one bleeding sheep and …”.

  • Matthew Huntbach 12th Aug '13 - 2:24pm


    the real problem is that our own members and supporters read the press, pick up the bile stories and believe them!.. then some of them leave the Party because of what they have read in the press/ heard in the pub.. When are the party managers going to get their heads around better communication with the membership?

    Sorry, no, at least not with me. I think a lot of press criticism of our party is very unfair, as I’ve suggested in my previous comment. I’ve defended in public in contributions to the national media, our party’s formation of the coalition, and the limited nature of the achievements it can make in that situation. One thing that’s keeping me in the party is that I don’t want to be associated with all those leaving it with the suggestion that somehow the Liberal Democrats could have caused a government with 100% Liberal Democrat policies to be formed, and they are bad and wicked people because they didn’t – I think that is a ridiculous line.

    No, what is pushing me to the verge of leaving the party is what is coming out from its central office managers. It is horrendous, seemingly designed to support the attacks from our opponents which say we have given in and become just another sort of Tory. It’s all this “What a wonderful government we have, how great it is to be in coalition” stuff that I can’t stand – especially when it comes along with support for right-wing Tory policies which we opposed in the past but we are now told are just what’s needed. Sorry, it didn’t have to be like this. We could have accepted the reality of the coalition without going on and on about how wonderful it is, when it isn’t. It’s a government which is five-sixths Tory, not a Liberal Democrat government. It’s a government which is going along with the policy mistakes made by the Tories since 1979 and carried on by New Labour 1997-2010, not a government which is reversing socialist Labour policies.

  • @ Matthew Huntbach

    I do not believe that members of the SDP would have agreed to merger if they had to accept the Liberal Party constitution and they became just an “Associated Organisation … or whatever was the correct constitutional term”.

    I agree with Matthew that the presentation of Conservative policies (that are in opposition to our policies as agreed by Federal Conference) as Liberal Democrat policies by the leadership is wrong and is a disincentive.

  • Matthew Huntbach 12th Aug '13 - 11:14pm


    I do not believe that members of the SDP would have agreed to merger if they had to accept the Liberal Party constitution and they became just an “Associated Organisation … or whatever was the correct constitutional term

    It would have given every member of the SDP full membership rights of the Liberal Party, but they would have been able to maintain their own organisation. They would have had the right within the Liberal Party to propose whatever policy changes or party constitutional changes they wanted, they would have had the voting power in the Assembly to push through what they wanted in accordance with their number.

    OK, it was a comment I made at the time a bit tongue-in-cheek, but seeing how disastrous the merger was when it happened, due to the mismanagement of the whole thing by the image-makers at the top, maybe it wasn’t such a bad idea. The key thing that was needed at the time was to make clear the merged party was the legal and factual successor to both the Liberal Party and the SDP, and that the Alliance was continuing much as it had before with the same people doing the same things – which WAS the reality. So making the merger look a small boring technical issue, with the Liberal Party and SDP continuing along, only the SDP now formally a part of the Liberal Party, would have been great. Instead, the image makers wanted to smash up the past, pretend it did not exist, pretend the new Salad Party was something that had appeared from nowhere with no roots or history. Not surprisingly, the result was that the public thought a disastrous splintering had happened, and the fake-SDP created by David Owen and a few nutters was able to get away with its outrageous claim that it was the continuation of the real SDP.

  • I think the reason why the 1988 merger was such a mess is not so much the presentation strategy adopted by the leadership of the new merged party, but the refusal of Dr David Owen and his supporters to allow party members to decide the future of the SDP. The merger had to happen. Owen, an authoritarian conservative who wanted to force people to join the Army and who openly praised Mrs Thatcher, needed to be removed. Merger was the only way to do it. And the Liberal Party constitution, which had secret membership lists and different rules in different places, wasn’t fit for purpose. The result – the Liberal Democrats led by Paddy Ashdown – was more than worth the pain. Sadly, a quarter of a century on, all those battles were fought in vain. The party is now a rump that is propping up a Tory government and facing oblivion in under two years. The only “big ideas” we hear in the party these days come from the libertarian right, and include things like scrapping planning controls, support for the tobacco industry and public nudity, none of which is likely enthuse the electorate and has anything to do with the values of the two parties (SDP and Liberal Democrats) I joined.

  • Martin Caffrey 13th Aug '13 - 3:00am

    You can tell it’s the silly season when…..

    You are advertising a talk by Simon Schama on his new book “The Story of The Jews” after only given MP David Ward a ‘slap on the wrist’ and temporarily withdrawing the party whip.

    Has he been re-educated yet? Get him in a ring with a Mossad operative, that will teach him. You could even give him Lady Tonge as a tag team partner!

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