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  • Liberal Democrats, open, tolerant and united
    Article: Dec 4, 2017
    By Mark Pack

    You can join the Liberal Democrats quickly, easily and safely online here.

    There are lots of reasons to join the Lib Dems. Some people join because they want to stand up for our values, of openness, tolerance and unity. Some because they want to help us win elections. Others so they can stand for election and stand up for their community.

  • Mark Pack
    Article: Dec 1, 2017
    By Mark Pack

    Welcome to another in my occasional series on useful, interesting or controversial findings from academic studies of our elections.

    Today it's turnout and the question, "Is voting habit forming?" In other words, if you persuade someone to go out and vote in one election, do you get a bonus benefit in that they are also then more likely to vote in future elections?

  • Mark Pack
    Article: Nov 11, 2017
    By Mark Pack in Liberal Democrat Newswire

    I am going to give you some polling figures about two different policy areas. One was in the headlines regularly during the 2017 general election, and indeed previous elections too. It is a policy area credited with a large part in boosting the popularity of one party and with explaining the struggles of another party. That credit/blame allocation is so widely shared by people from all points of the political spectrum that it is conventional wisdom even amongst unconventional pundits.

    The other policy area is best known for being an example of a topic that some political activists get excited about but which the public is unmoved by. It rarely gets many headlines at a general election and was almost completely absent from the scene in 2017. For one brief period a few years back it got headlines for a while and was notable for not exciting the public when it did.

    These two paragraphs are, of course, the setup for a trick question that is easy to see through. Which of these two issues scored most highly when the public was asked to select four or five issues that Britain should prioritise in the next few years?

    The first gets mentioned by 28% of young people and the second gets mentioned by 27% of pensioners. The second gets mentioned by only 14% of young people and also scores 14% amongst pensioners. In other words, in each age group both the issues are seen as important as each other.

    The names of them? Tuition fees and electoral reform. Yes, tuition fees and electoral reform are weirdly seen as important as each other. (Fuller data here.)

    It's a great example of the complex relationship between having popular policies and securing more votes. Most often, it isn't the policy itself that wins or loses support but rather what the policy says about the party (or leader) more generally - are they on your side, are they competent, do they care about the things you care about and so on? Labour's policy on tuition fees, despite being a policy that benefits better off young people rather than the least well off, hit the right general notes: a policy about the future, about giving people opportunities, about understanding the worries people have.

    Although technically electoral reform is considered as important an issue to address, highlighting it in the same way would have been, I strongly suspect, massively less successful - because the wider points it would have highlighted would have been more about being seen off at a tangent from the main concerns people have, not addressing the pressures they face, being about politicians wanting to get one over on other politicians and so on.

    That's a challenge for electoral reformers to address (in brief, they need to go along the same sort of road which climate campaigners have gone along to understand how to frame their case in a way that works with where public opinion is starting).

    It's also a warning against the view of political messaging as being about creating a bundle of policies, polling them individually and creating a pick'n'mix of those which individually come out best. That then leaves it a matter of luck as to whether it adds up to a coherent and successful package or not. The smarter approach is to work backwards from the bigger picture to policies which illustrate it, as Jim Williams and I set out in Reinventing the Liberal Democrats.

  • Mark Pack
    Article: Nov 8, 2017
    By Mark Pack

    The obvious reason to stand for election is because you want and hope to win. A related common reason is that you want to win and hope that standing this time means you can win on a future occasion. But it also makes sense to stand even if winning isn't on the foreseeable agenda and you are what is often called a 'paper candidate'*.

  • Autumn Kickstart
    Article: Nov 5, 2017
    By Ed Stephenson Campaigns Officer, ALDC

    This is your last chance to book your team onto Kickstart. With already 190 signed up, this promises to be another great event.

    I always look forward to Kickstart as a mentor - there is always a great buzz and you get to mix with some of the best campaigners in our party.

    If you've never been before to Kickstart, you'll get great training and bespoke mentoring for your team looking ahead to your next electoral success.

    Kickstart is the bootcamp you need to attend to win.

    If you are not already a member, join us to get a fantastic discount on the event. Act fast, as the deadline for final bookings is the 10th November.

    > Book yours and your team's places here>

    If you cannot make it this time, but are still interested, we are already taking bookings for next year. Our July Kickstart 2018 is 6th - 8th July and 23rd - 25th November.

    Thanks for your support.

    Ed Stephenson
    Campaigns Officer, ALDC

  • Tim Pollard
    Article: Nov 4, 2017

    Tim is the Liberal Democrats Deputy Head of Insight, a key part of the team that keeps Connect (our voter database) running and provides analysis to teams fighting elections all over the UK.

    Our interview with Tim is part 2 of our series on the team that support local elections all over the UK, we sat down with him to find out what he does to support elections - especially the crucial ones coming up in May 2018 - elections that will be Vince's first electoral test as Leader.

    Hi Tim, how long have you been working for the party?

    I made the transition from volunteer to paid staff when I became an organiser in Bristol in 2004. I became regional campaigns officer in 2007 and took on a nationwide role in 2011.

    Where are you working to support elections this year?

    This is often decided quite late in the day, and may well be remote working anyway, but on any given week, I can be helping teams anywhere in the UK. Fortunately, most of what I do can be done from anywhere.

    What sort of things do you do to support those elections?

    I try to help campaigners make the most of their data by providing short cuts to allow them to get on with campaigning.

    This can be in the form of simple tick boxes for bringing up lists of voters that they want to target for different reasons (e.g. voter ID, recruitment, direct mail shots, get out the vote operations etc), or it can be about creating visualisations of their data to help them make strategic and tactical decisions (do I have enough data, what type of data do I have, what is that data telling me etc.)

    Are there any important results people should keep an eye on in May?

    Our performance in London will be important this time around. 2014 and 2010 were both difficult years for local election candidates in London (for different reasons) and our membership there has seen the biggest increases since 2015, so if we are making progress we need to see that reflected in terms of our base of councillors too.

    What's the best bit about working in elections?

    Actually feeling like you are doing something to fight for what you believe in rather than just shouting at the television.

    What's your favourite election food?

    The need to get something quick and filling is all the excuse I need to eat loads of sushi.

    And what's the funniest thing that's ever happened to you on election day?

    I once knocked on a woman's door during a by-election in Bristol on polling day. She had a right go at me, claiming we'd been harassing her all day, with leaflets, door knocks and phone calls and telling me that it was really too much. I apologised and asked if she'd been to vote yet. She looked quizzically at me and said: "Is it today?!"

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  • Mark Pack
    Article: Nov 3, 2017
    By Mark Pack in Liberal Democrat Newswire

    What Liberal Democrat strategy should be has been a particularly regular theme of this newsletter and my other writings for the last two years. In part that has been a response to the experience of writing 101 Ways To Win An Election with Ed Maxfield. It focuses on what candidates and campaign managers should do to win specific seats. Writing all that down highlighted just how much else there is to say about how political parties succeed which goes beyond the book's focus on the individual seat. A national party running a successful campaign has to get plenty right which the book doesn't touch on.

    It's not only our book which doesn't say that much about those wider issues. The Liberal Democrats in general don't spend much time thinking, practising or learning about them either. Just look at the list of training sessions the party puts on. Lots on how to artwork leaflets (a very important skill) but almost nothing on branding (a crucial element of the backdrop against which those artworking skills get used).

    Of course, regular readers won't be surprised to know that I think a large part of the answer to those challenges which fall outside 101 Ways To Win is to have a core votes strategy. It's not the complete answer, however, as winning elections is about securing votes from not only your core support but also from others. Yet a core votes strategy has come to be seen at times as being at odds with those other approaches. That's wrong, and here's why.

    First, though, an apology. If you want someone to blame for the fact that adopting a core votes strategy and targeting tightly to win seats are sometimes seen as opposites, then I'm a good person to pick. Sorry. And if you think you really like one and really dislike the other, hoping that arguing for one is a way to dis the other, then bank my apology ready for after you've finished reading this piece.

  • Camapign for Gender Balance
    Article: Nov 1, 2017
    By Natalie Chindipha in Liberal Democrat Voice

    The Campaign for Gender Balance (CGB) and the Candidates & Diversity Team are pleased to announce that applications are now open for the 2018 edition of the Future Women MPs Weekend, to be held in Milton Keynes on 24-25 February 2018.

    The weekend is an intensive residential training weekend for aspiring female MPs; designed to equip you with the knowledge you need as a candidate.

  • Campaigning
    Article: Oct 23, 2017
    By Mark Pack, Author, 101 Ways To Win An Election

    Handy advice from Campaigns & Elections about what to do if you're starting from scratch (or nearly from scratch) at building up your social media use for political ends:

    Now, I'm only covering Facebook and Twitter. There's a plethora of social media tools out there. But if your campaign is just launching, focus on where the largest audiences are and do them well. Be careful not to overextend your campaign resources…

  • Exit from Brexit
    Article: Oct 21, 2017
    By Mark Pack, Author, 101 Ways To Win An Election

    It looks like a network of 13,000 Twitter bots (yes, 13,000 bots, or the equivalent of 20 for every Parliamentary constituency to give that number a bit of perspective) was used to pump out pro-Brexit messages during the European referendum last year.

    As Buzzfeed reports:

    • Researchers have uncovered new evidence of networks of thousands of suspect Twitter bots working to influence the Brexit debate in the run-up to the EU referendum.

    • The findings, from researchers at City, University of London, include a network of more than 13,000 suspected bots that tweeted predominantly pro-Brexit messages before being deleted or removed from Twitter in the weeks following the vote.

    • The research - which is published in the peer-reviewed Social Science Computer Review journal and was shared exclusively with BuzzFeed News - suggests the suspected bot accounts were eight times more likely to tweet pro-leave than pro-remain content.