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Why the Lib Dems need a good registered supporters scheme

June 12, 2018 2:06 PM
By Mark Pack Author, 101 Ways To Win An Election in Liberal Democrat Newswire

Cable and Liberal Democrats

Back in 2015 when David Howarth and I wrote our pamphlet setting out how a core vote strategy would give the Liberal Democrats the foundation for durable success, the idea of creating a registered supporters scheme featured for two interlocking reasons.

First, the concept of being a member of a political party is, despite the recent resurgence in the membership of many parties, still something many people find off-putting. That's why you find not only people who regularly vote for a party passing up on membership, you also find people who regularly put up a poster at election time doing so. And even some who regularly campaign for their chosen party too, most notably by delivering leaflets. That indicates a big missed opportunity to offer people something which better fits with what they want and what they are comfortable with.

Second, having a scheme with very low barriers to entry which people can join is an essential part of how all sorts of organisations build-up loyalty from their supporters, fans, customers or participants. The high churn rate amongst those who vote Liberal Democrat is, as David and I set out, a huge deadweight on the party's success. A wider scheme which can help turn more Lib Dem voters into long-term loyal supporters isn't just a question of maximising revenue or an organisational tactic: it would be a strategic move in the party's rebuilding.

It's worth noting that opening up their party to the wider public through such a scheme was similarly part of the Canadian Liberal Party's strategy for recovery, one which took them back into government. Indeed, the basic idea of a party setting out to welcome into its structures new people in new ways is a regular feature of political recoveries from across the political spectrum.

Searching out new people to come and join the movement was also a distinguishing feature of Jo Grimond's highly lauded leadership of the Liberal Party. As The Guardian reported (in its Llandudno Liberal Assembly coverage of 1962): "His first task was to find disciples, to persuade liberal-minded men and women who are in positions of responsibility and authority that they could themselves weaken the element of cynicism in modern society by entering politics themselves."

All of which are good reasons to turn that registered supporters idea into reality.