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  • Mark Pack
    Article: Oct 15, 2017
    By Mark Pack

    Mark Wallace's fascinating dissection of the Conservative 2017 general election campaign also includes some insights on Labour which are very relevant to the Liberal Democrats:

    • How many disparate groups can you think of who were allied to or sympathetic to Labour in the course of the election? Count unions, charities, pressure groups, campaigning social media communities, and crowdfunded advertising campaigns, and you'll realise there are a lot. Two separate senior Tory campaigners who have been keeping tally estimated to me that the number was in triple figures - not including the many other local groups and even individuals active in specific seats. Conservative policy decisions certainly exacerbated that problem - in particular, the pledge of a free vote on fox hunting and the failure to clearly confirm support for a ban on ivory, neither of which were central issues to the national campaign, nonetheless acted as recruiting sergeants for Labour online.
    • In the online war, that gave Labour two things: reach and trust. Between them, these third-party allies were able and willing to repeat Labour-supporting messages to many millions more people than were subscribed to or targeted by the official Labour Party outlets. Compounding the impact was the fact that people are more likely to trust a message from a group which is (at least nominally) outside the orbit of a party HQ, and which they're engaged with in their regular life outside election time.
    • That was a huge boost to the Opposition, and created a sense of (small-m) momentum which a primarily paid-for Tory campaign struggled to match. "We didn't see the tide coming," admitted one source close to the Prime Minister, and the failure of the Conservative Party to nurture a wider movement beyond its own membership proved to be costly.
  • Vision
    Article: Oct 12, 2017
    By Chris Hudson in Liberal Democrat Newswire

    Mel Gordon, Julia Ogiehor, Gareth Bell, Nick Da Costa, Emily Hirst and Chris Hudson are the founding members of Vision, another initiative that has come out of the enthusiasm from newer members for the party to do better. Chris Hudson explains what it's about.

    Vision will be the radical, energetic and exciting new group to drive forward liberal pro-European ideas, campaigning and mobilisation to support the Liberal Democrats. Vision plans to take member engagement in a different direction by introducing radical and progressive ideas to communities that have thus far evaded Liberal Democrat messages, and to engage members beyond the day-to-day operations of local parties.

    Vision was born earlier this year after months of collective soul-searching. A group of young and passionate members were feeling all too aware of the glass ceiling the Liberal Democrats cannot break through. We have come close and not for lack of trying or lack of progressive, meaningful policies.

    There was once a point when the Liberal Parliamentary Party could all fit inside a black cab. We do not think it wrong to draw comparisons with our current time. What helped the Liberal Party recover then was a group like Vision - of young, radical liberals who set the national political agenda and got the party back in the news, reversing its fortunes. We wish to replicate the spirit which drove this change over 50 years ago.

    Recently both major parties have moved toward the extremes, leaving a gap for aggressive expansion. Vince Cable has identified his strategy, but he and the party cannot do this fightback themselves. We must have more complementary ways to engage members of the party and the public to drive forward the Liberal Democrats.

    There are limits to what the official political party can do, which limits its appeal and reach simply by the nature of being a political party. By existing outside of this straightjacket, this new group will be freed to enter environments and appeal to people and communities which the Liberal Democrat Party has found difficult to reach, and therefore be able to have a political conversation with them in a unique way.

    Education, standing for difference, and pitching the benefits of liberalism to people will be the backbone of Vision's membership work. Giving people a space to increase their activism, develop their politics, and engage with our identified core voters who currently do not vote for the Lib Dems.

    Vision are looking to grow exponentially over the next few months, so watch this space to hear about our developments.

  • Liberate
    Article: Oct 11, 2017
    By Ross Shipman in Liberal Democrat Newswire

    The biggest and most successful online engagement ever run with party members is the Lib Dem Newbies group on Facebook: run by volunteers and mostly by newer members too. There's a lesson in that for party old lags like myself, Mark Pack, to learn from, which is something discussed further in the pamphlet reviewed above. To complement those reviews, I've also asked Ross Shipman from the Newbies group to write about their new project: Liberate UK.

    Since its as birth as a group of new members meeting in a local pub in 2015, the Lib Dem Newbies UK group has grown in strength and purpose to welcome thousands of people to the party and help new members learn new skills, connect with their local parties and meet fellow activists from around the country.

    By providing a welcoming and supportive network for new members, we have been able to help encourage hundreds of people to become voices for their community. Ranging from local community champions to hard-working new councillors, from national campaigners to even an MP, we are proud that we can support as many people as we can to change Britain's future.

    From such strong foundations, we want to reach out to those liberals across the political spectrum - those who share our liberal values - so we are launching Liberate UK, an outward-facing liberal group designed to engage with Lib Dem members as well as those who aren't necessarily politically active, but champion liberal values in their day to day lives. It is our hope that we will also be able to attract those who are liberals at heart, but might not yet know it.

    While many groups have tried to achieve the same; we believe that the same inclusive, supportive and engaging methods that have made Lib Dem Newbies such a success will allow Liberate UK to grow from strength to strength and bring liberals from across British politics back under the central Liberal banner that our country desperately needs.

    This movement is driven by its members and for its members. There will be content from campaigners, elected representatives, commentators, opinion pieces, events and, most importantly, a touch of humour.

    We hope that you will join us on our journey by liking and sharing our regular content; as we continue to fight for a truly Liberal government in the UK.

  • Page: Oct 10, 2017
  • Liberal democrats
    Article: Oct 10, 2017
    By Al Desmier in Liberal Democrat Newswire

    Perhaps the source of most frustration I've had since becoming involved as a Lib Dem activist is the institutional, bureaucratic superiority complex one has to deal with to do anything differently from campaigns we ran 10 years ago, 20 years ago and before.

    To be most commended in this pamphlet is the admission that even before the last general election, our party was failing. Failing to win elections but also failing to understand that voters now engage with political information in a range of different places, most of which we are currently nowhere to be seen. That the authors feel that as strongly as I do, gives me great heart that we can change.

    To change anything you have to take part and I thoroughly endorse this pamphlet as an inspirational vision for what we might be. I've been Chairman of my local party for less than a year and, with a very talented and committed team, we've ripped up much our campaign book and started again. We've given power to a new crop of would-be councillors who hadn't considered politics 18 months ago and are now desperate to win the first Lib Dem seats in Islington in many years next May.

    Islington's demise is emblematic of the problem this pamphlet highlights and seeks to challenge, namely that the 'leaflets stopped working'. From a Lib Dem controlled council in the 2000s and a Parliamentary target seat in 2010 to not a single councillor left in 2017, nowhere has felt the technological shift more than Labour dominated Islington. A London borough known for being socially liberal, it should be full of our core vote.

    That's not to say we don't use the old methods. We have two wards teams exclusively knocking on doors this month, getting some fantastic responses to our residents' surveys. But we are trying to do so much more - such as 10 second videos generated at street level and targeted on Facebook directly to residents via their postcode, giving us live interactions with local people that we've never had before.

    The way we treat local volunteers, new members and existing activists is picked up in this pamphlet. In my view, at the most recent general election we treated enthusiastic new members like counters in the board game Risk. Political generals sat in a far distant landed ordered new members into supposedly winnable seas at the expense of genuinely trying to build a local movement where the member had signed up and are now surprised why so many members feel let down by our result. Not enough was done to build a single message, a sense of cohesion and we have failed to really capture the ability and work of so many enthusiastic supporters, mainly through ignorance and a stark lack of emotional intelligence.

    There is no truer sentence in the whole pamphlet than, "No saviour is going to emerge to solve all these problems". We need to get more people involved, respectfully reject the old ways of doing things and create a clear offering to our voters and our members, and most of all, we need to change.

  • Reinventing the Liberal Democrats
    Article: Oct 9, 2017
    By Laura Sheerer in Liberated

    I found the opening scenario in Mark Pack and Jim Williams's new pamphlet Reinventing the Liberal Democrats: how to build a party for tomorrow almost uncanny. It is 2020, they imagine, and the 200,000th new member joins the party knowing exactly what its aims are, and is immediately invited to pick how she'd like to get involved, with all the necessary resources at her fingertips - a Choose Your Own Adventure approach to political activism. How did they know that this was exactly what I'd been wishing for when I joined just over a year ago, keen to 'do something' but unclear how to help? Sadly, it wasn't quite my experience - for me, faced with the competing demands of work and family, joining the party was easy. Getting involved was not.

    I'm not alone - with record numbers of new members joining the party, tens of thousands of us are facing exactly the same challenges. This pamphlet's response to those challenges is a breath of fresh air. The recognition that most of us fit politics into our lives, rather than the other way round, and determination that we should nonetheless be able to contribute to the party, in whatever way best suits our time and talents, to me seem the epitome of what the Lib Dems are about.

    The vision outlined in this pamphlet is of a leaner, nimbler party, with a clearly articulated, inspiring vision, using the best digital tools to connect with, enthuse and empower its members, to harness their ideas, energy and expertise. It's a confident, humorous party - engaging those outside the membership too - to build a diverse, inventive campaigning and policy-making organisation. The vision is of a party that's not only doing better than it did in the last two elections, but a party that's exceeding the Lib Dems' best ever election results. It's exciting, and it sounds like a huge challenge.

    Fortunately, the pamphlet doesn't stop there. It cites great examples of what's already being done, with online campaigning and grassroots initiatives like the Lib Dem Pint, to show that the party of tomorrow is starting to take shape today. But while it applauds that work, at heart this pamphlet is a call to action - as Mark and Jim say "no one else is going to do this for us" - and they end with an email address for anyone with ideas to get in touch with them. I suspect, if the other 100,000+ members find their vision for the party as exciting as I do, their inbox may soon be overwhelmed.

  • Liberal democrats
    Article: Oct 7, 2017
    By Mark Valladares in Liberal Democrat Voice

    It is easy to forget sometimes that a majority of Liberal Democrat members have joined since the 2015 General Election. Even in my rural corner of England that is Mid Suffolk, membership numbers have increased by more than 150%. What that means is a huge infusion of new blood, potentially willing to hold aloft the Party banner in elections, if only they could find out how. Perhaps I can help…

  • Vince Cable (Chris McAndrew [CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons)
    Article: Sep 15, 2017
    By Mark Pack

    Hooray! Another initiative from new Liberal Democrat members: this time a new podcast, called Liberated.

    Created by Laura Sheeter, it kicks off with an interview with Vince Cable (and hooray to him too for saying yes to being interviewed). It's great to see the plans she mentioned when we chatted a few weeks ago hitting iTunes for real.

  • Leaflet delivery
    Article: Sep 11, 2017
    By Mark Pack

    More data from the EPOP 2017 conference, this time showing what proportion of each party's membership claimed to have delivered leaflets during the 2017 general election campaign.

    Lib Dem members were the most likely to say they delivered leaflets, and the only party to have seen an increase on that measure since 2015: