You’re the Lib Dem Chief Exec – what three things would you do first?

When I joined the Liberal Democrat ExpandTeam as Honorary President in August I said I was “looking forward to bringing together people and groups that want to make it easier for members to get involved and give them a great experience when they do”. At our workshop, on 1 September that’s exactly what we began doing. We invited a small group of Lib Dems from our network to discuss Liberal Democrat Expand’s work and to ask the big questions about how we can all do something to improve member experience in the party.

We began by looking at some of the sources of inspiration for Lib Dem Expand, which launched in 2016 following a strong set of local election results in certain areas. The question then was: how do we replicate this across the country? What is it that makes certain seats thrive, and what can we do to transplant that into other areas?

The 50 State Strategy of Governor Howard Dean was the inspiration then. This committed the Democrats to invest in training and development across the country. And since then, new models have emerged: from Ship Creek in Alaska (read more here) to Onward Together (the video is recommended watching!).

So what could that look like for the Liberal Democrats? At our workshop, attendees shared their key takeaways from the likes of Onward Together:

  • They’re positive and outward looking
  • They’re engaged throughout the civic space
  • They take a holistic approach and know that it won’t change over night
  • They bring organisations and teams together and help candidates with training and funding
  • And they provide access to mentorship and role models – helping activists forge their own paths

Those are key insights – and that’s what we would like to build for the Liberal Democrats.

We’ll be discussing this lots more with lots more Liberal Democrats up and down the country. On 15 September we’ll be running a networking informal fringe at Brighton Rocks. Attendance is free and all we ask is that you think of your answers to our big question:

  • You’re the Chief Exec of the Lib Dems. Money and resource are no obstacle. What are the first three things you do? What are the barriers you have faced? What can you do to overcome them? What support do you need?

See you there.

Liberal Democrat aims to build a ‘650 Strategy’ for the Liberal Democrats, inspired by the 50 State Strategy of Governor Howard Dean for the Democrats.



* Elaine Bagshaw is the Honorary President of Liberal Democrat Expand. She serves on the party’s Federal Board and is the Parliamentary Spokesperson for Poplar and Limehouse.

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This entry was posted in News and Op-eds.


  • Lorenzo Cherin 12th Sep '18 - 2:17pm

    Elaine gives us what I ask for and try for here and everywhere, not least in our party, something positive , unifying, outward looking, appealing, to many in and out of our party!

    Elaine, spend time much here and you get to a level of groaning at the negativity.

    Sir Vince puts forward ideas, good or bad, they are criticised before the day is done…

    Jo Swinson speaks on immigration, criticised before the policy is debated…

    Every day I see activists who are positive making an effort that is obvious throughout our for want of a better phrase, great, Britain! Make Britain great again, vote Libral Democrat, does not sound good. Know we have a great country and could have a great party and make it happen, does.

    Elaine needs to expand on this and come over to this and other sites often with this venture.

  • David Evans 12th Sep '18 - 4:11pm

    “You’re the Chief Exec of the Lib Dems. Money and resource are no obstacle.”

    “What are the first three things you do?” Wake up. Stop daydreaming. Get to work.

    “What are the barriers you have faced?” A party hierarchy which has made a cottage industry out of finding things to do other than facing up to the problems that caused things to go so badly wrong in the first place – even though those are the problems that are still holding us back.

    “What can you do to overcome them?” Get the leadership to listen to the whole party and not just those who agree with it. Especially get then to seek out and listen to those who used to support us who no longer do so.

    “What support do you need?” We need the support of those good Lib Dems who left in dismay and disillusionment because of the mess we made of coalition – before it is too late.

    Liberal Democracy can recover, but it is us who have to make things change, and change has to start with ourselves. Saying ‘We were right, we were right, we were right,’ hasn’t worked, isn’t working and will not work. The only alternative is to keep kicking the can up the road and waiting for something to turn up.

  • Richard Underhill 12th Sep '18 - 4:55pm

    Suppose that there is a cross party decision for a people’s vote on an EU deal.
    Suppose that there are multiple choices to be decided by a transfer system.
    Note that the EU parliament does not initiate legislation,
    note that today there was a call from a leader that it should,
    start to prepare for a manifesto that would be radical, democratic, popular and preferably liberal, while being aware that three of these criteria are defined variously.

  • Sue Sutherland 13th Sep '18 - 1:08pm

    Thank you for this Elaine. I didn’t know anything like this was happening.
    First thing I’d have set your group up as Lib Dem Involve and consulted all members about what they need from the party to get more involved -if they want to. Set up an official suggestions/problems Facebook group.
    Second thing I’d make sure that activists, especially those in previously un worked constituencies, had support from ALDC about how to start up from scratch, or their nearest campaigning constituency if they’d like to help there.
    Third I’d make sure any lone new Councillors had somewhere to go for help and guidance. This may already be done by ALDC. Make sure ALDC is well funded.
    Fourth I’d make sure all members heard about our election results with explanations about the political conditions in those constituencies or wards available only to members.
    Ask members questions to see where the majority would wish the party to position itself in national politics. Persuade MPs etc that they should trust the membership on this. Ensure that all members’ groups are consulted when policies relevant to them are being worked up. Ask the FPC to give policy working groups a guide on the results of consulting with members so that policies are integrated.
    Carry on consulting with members to give feedback on how the working groups are developing the policies.
    Make sure all members are given information about the party, Committees and how they work, MPs etc, Councillors in their area, party activists, other members, organisations within the party, how to contact Lib Dem Involve.
    Respond to members suggestions about how the scheme is working.
    Then I’d start thinking about creating a Lib Dem Expand group.

  • Christopher Curtis 13th Sep '18 - 8:19pm

    The first, second and third thing I’d do, is to get our digital communication to be much, much better so the process of discussion and debate, the emergence and approval of policies and the focus of campaigning involved many more people, albeit more of them online. And I’d also make sure that our digital communications went straight to as many people as possible as a way of overcoming the lack of mainstream media exposure a minority party gets. I’d make sure our news was attractive, well-written, funny and even entertaining so people came straight to it, instead of via quotes in other sources.

  • Firstly very good work @Elaine Bagshaw – I applaud anyone who gets off their backside and does something. And if we want to go say in a Northly direction – someone who is going North East is going roughly right.

    But… we are back to the old targeting versus boosting ourselves nationally arguments. And I am afraid I come down more on the targeting side. But I sorry the Dean strategy was wrong – look at Obama and look how Clinton didn’t target enough. And if it was wrong for the big powerful well-resourced American Democrats – it is definitely wrong for us.

    I think the matter was crystalised for me by Michael Meadowcroft on LDV. And he has done some excellent work talking about Liberalism to many in many different areas and this is to be massively applauded. But… he also said how the party didn’t invest enough in his seat of Leeds NW in the 80s and it was lost for want of a pennyworth (or two) of tar and the odd organiser or three!

    It seems widely un-intutively but to win a seat where may be we just held our deposit in 2017 – it is absolutely crucial to first win nearby seats that we are better poised in – not spending massive of time finding that one person who is in when we canvass. So every hour we spend in a target seat is worth 4 for our own development seat. Let’s not pretend what sort of army we are – we are an insurgent guerilla force! Millions of hours of Lib Dem time will be spent next week in arcane arguments as already has been on LDV. We will be lucky if we get the sixth item on the news for the leaders’ speech and I doubt whether it will feature in the newspaper that anyone (well – any real person) reads. Now don’t get me wrong conference is important for readying our army. But colleagues for every hour that you spend in the conference spend 4 in a target seat between now and Christmas – the Lib Dem fitness plan is just the ticket to prepare for Christmas dinner and 8 for every hour in the conference bar!!!

    But we also need to throw massive stones in our own seats. Campaigning on issues – the incompetent Labour/Tory council, may be a hospital ward closure, more money for our local school etc. A key local issue – I may misquote him but I think Tony Greaves says that occasionally you can paint too much by numbers – campaign on the right local issue and the focuses and tweets write themselves and people will come and join up (in whatever form!). Forward, comrades – towards the sound of the gunfire!!!!

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