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  • Cable and Liberal Democrats
    Article: Jun 16, 2018
    By Mark Pack Author, 101 Ways To Win An Election in Liberal Democrat Newswire

    Last but by no means least is where similar discussions in the past have tended to start (and not get much beyond): what rights should registered supporters have compared to fully paid-up members?

    Aside from the question of voting rights at conference and in ballots, there's a range of factors to consider.

    Attending events: at a local level, this happens frequently already. The non-member deliverer gets invited to the thank you party. The non-member donor is allowed to buy tickets for a fundraising dinner. But for federal conference, in particular, there's an obvious change to make: to allow registered supporters to come and be inspired without having to pay the (rightly) eye-watering rates reserved for non-members who are media, lobbyists and similar at the moment. That same logic can also be applied to across other events, such as state and regional conferences, too.

    Party policy working groups: these are mostly, in effect, restricted to party members. But they don't have to be, and indeed including a wider spread of sympathetic expertise in their membership could bring many benefits. Allowing registered supporters to apply to be members of such groups would still keep the safeguards of the current appointment process; it would also open up it more.

    Becoming a party candidate: allowing non-members to run as official party candidates would be highly controversial and raise the question about what the point of membership at all is. However, that's not quite the same as saying you have to be a member all the way along the process. In its most restrictive form, some party candidate processes require you to be a member for 12 months before you can go through the approval process (which can take several more months) which then, in turn, means that you can apply to be a candidate.

    Parts of that process could be opened up to registered supporters too, such as allowing them to apply for approval and so to learn from that process more about whether or not being a candidate is for them before kicking in the requirement to join at a later stage.

    This is also, whisper it quietly, what many local parties already do: they hunt out people who would be great councillors who are not yet members and take them through a process that doesn't make joining the party and waiting months the initial step even though it does involve joining at some point. Having an easier route in than 'pay up and wait a year' has produced many great and dedicated Lib Dem councillors. The rest of the party could learn from what can work so well for local government.

    Voting rights: the big one, in many ways. Should voting remain restricted to paid-up members? There's a range of voting rights that can be argued over:

  • Liberal Democrats
    Article: Jun 15, 2018

    With all the privacy notices flooding your inbox, you'll know the UK Data Protection Act passed into law.

    We would like to say a big thank you to everyone involved in training, webinars, the Spring Clean, and getting ready for GDPR. We could not have done it without your help.

    The bad news is that we always have to work within the new regulations now!

  • Cable and Liberal Democrats
    Article: Jun 15, 2018
    By Mark Pack Author, 101 Ways To Win An Election in Liberal Democrat Newswire

    That branding, of course, won't work if it doesn't have the substance behind it to substantiate it. Attracting people to be a part of the fight for causes they believe in requires the party to continue to step up its running of issue-led campaigns - most notably the Stop Brexit campaign.

    It also needs to fit with the rest of the party: both to tap the extra capacity to recruit and service supporters that comes from doing so and also because the best use of supporters is to tap them to help deliver our overall strategy of building up a grassroots campaigning movement. That means fully involving the grassroots in the supporters scheme.

    It's also the way to broaden out the party's diversity - having a registered supporters that party bodies who reach out to particular communities can recruit into.

    After branding, therefore, comes data: the data from the 200,000 secret-ish club plus that for the various ad hoc local lists around the country, not to mention party bodies who do outreach, need to be joined up in an integrated way that supports multiple parts of the party using it. One shared scheme rather than disparate, unintegrated and not mutually supporting schemes. That requires some hard thought on the best database(s) to use, the best way to share data and any necessary updates in the party's data rules.

    It should also involve copying that Canadian Liberal tactic mentioned above: if some data needs to be protected in order to maximise the fundraising potential for the party, then it should be done on the basis of local parties and party bodies who know what they're doing and can show they can run excellent comms getting access rather than a blanket ban.

    This will play to the different strengths of different parts of the organisation much better:

  • Cable and Liberal Democrats
    Article: Jun 14, 2018
    By Mark Pack Author, 101 Ways To Win An Election in Liberal Democrat Newswire

    The mechanics of a registered supporter system are important and can be controversial - especially if they involve questions of internal democracy. They are, however, not the whole picture and indeed in the past, such as during Charles Kennedy's time as leader, muted discussions about opening up the party to a wider network of supporters quickly got sucked into an internal, mechanistic focus.

    That isn't the whole picture, as consideration of why you're a member or supporter of any other organisations quickly shows. Sometimes we sign up for what we get. I used to be a member of the British Film Institute to get cheaper cinema tickets and when my visits dropped off, I ceased. I didn't join to cast a vote for BFI internal contests, even though membership gave me that. (In fact, even as someone who reads all the bits of paper they are sent, I found them quite baffling. What were all those coded references to choices of building really about?)

    But often we sign up to express support. That's why I am (I think) a member of the friends of a local green space - I wanted to support them, I gave them a donation and I'm happy to occasionally amplify their messages online. It's about showing support for a good cause.

    Likewise, a registered supporters scheme needs to be more than those dull words indicate (and why I've toyed with calling it a 'friends of…' scheme). Rather it needs branding as an outward-looking, welcoming and new way of involving people in fighting for the causes that are important to them.

    A good related example of the power of branding an initiative effectively has been Your Liberal Britain's collaboration with former party leader Paddy Ashdown for the Ashdown Prize for Radical Thought. The mechanics at the heart of the prize are little different from the support the party offers to anyone to submit a conference motion. If anything, the Ashdown Prize is a more convoluted process. However, the presentation of the scheme meant that while there are usually well under 100 motions submitted to a federal conference, the Ashdown Prize generated 1,140 suggestions. As a rough calculation, having a differently presented way of submitting ideas generated in one go more submissions than a decade of federal conferences have secured.

    We already do a bit to involve registered supporters. Those emails with 'exclusive' early opportunities to view the next party political broadcast, for example, have not always been member-only. Those are baby steps for what could be possible.

    Thinking more like a broader supporter organisation would be necessary. A chance to pose questions for Nick Clegg to ask in his next podcast? A book club featuring the likes of Jo Swinson and Lynne Featherstone? That's the sort of content we would need to experiment with.

    As such content takes time to think of, create and manage it enhances the value of having a registered supporters scheme that is one the whole party contributes to, rather than one which simply places more pressure on a small number of staff.

  • Cable and Liberal Democrats
    Article: Jun 13, 2018
    By Mark Pack Author, 101 Ways To Win An Election in Liberal Democrat Newswire

    There's also another reason to create a proper registered supporters scheme. The party has unintentionally created one already, and it's large: it has around 200,000 people in it, double the party's current membership.

    This creation wasn't a deliberate plan. No conference motion was passed. No party committee gave it the green light. What's more, most people in the party don't even know it exists.

    Its data is kept mostly secret from the party's frontline campaigners - and in turn, the party's grassroots campaigning is neither harnessed to recruit people to it nor is it directly aided by the current scheme's incarnation.

    Accidental, top-down, divorced from our grassroots and in effect secret. That doesn't sound ideal and - as I'll go on to detail - it isn't.

    It also means the default, what happens if we do nothing, isn't not to have a registered supporters scheme. It's to carry on with the one we've got.

    The existing list of 200,000 plus people is the incidental side-effect of the very successful efforts to grow the party's membership. A large part of that has been running online campaigns to get people signed up with their email addresses and into a funnel of activity which aims to raise money and turn them into members. The overwhelming focus is on generating members and money - and given that's the remit the different staff working on this over the years were tasked with, it's worth emphasising that it's no criticism that this is just what they did - and did very successfully.

    But the incidental side-effect was to build up this large database of people who have signed up to support at least one campaign (registered their support, one could say) and who don't become members. They get some servicing from party HQ: but it's from a small team whose main priority is money and members.

    What's more, having the whole system reliant on a small number of people in one place greatly reduces its potential benefits. It means that the huge volunteer capacity in local parties and party bodies across the country isn't tapped to help involve and motivate registered supporters - or to recruit more.

    The rest of the party doesn't get to know who they all are, unless you sort of engineer it backwards by looking for petition data added to Connect that you know hasn't come from your own local party. But even then, you don't get to see their email addresses, and it's nothing like as convenient or helpful or complete as having an actual list.

    It also means that this pool of registered supporters is not integrated with the mini-pools that exist all around the party, such as the collections of non-member supporters who different local parties have in their leaflet delivery networks or on their social event invite lists.

    The ability to tell registered supporters about what is happening locally and how they can get involved locally is massively curtailed by this HQ-only approach.

    It is an approach whose roots are understandable. When I've asked HQ staff before about being able to access email addresses for the registered supporters for regional or local campaigning the answer has been that they don't want just anyone in the party contacting these people in case that undermines the effectiveness of the money and membership sells people are taken through.

    Not without logic, for sure, but also a long way short of optimal given the way it pans out: not integrated with the other lists of supporters in the party, not available to directly help grassroots campaigning, only able to be serviced by a small number of over-worked staff and focused overwhelmingly on being a money-raising operation rather than the creation of a grassroots campaigning movement.

    Again, there's a leaf that can be taken from the Canadian Liberal Party's book: they too didn't let just anyone in the party access their new supporters data. But what they did was set a quality standard for their equivalent of local parties: if you demonstrate the ability to run high-quality communications then you get access to the supporter data. That can even be turned into a positive incentive to train, learn and improve - as there's a benefit available to your local party if you do so.

    So how can we take the existing de facto scheme and make it into one that maximises the benefits for the party and fits our organisational priorities:

  • Article: Jun 12, 2018

    On May 4th, South Cambs Lib Dems stormed to victory in all up elections on new boundaries, winning 30 of the 45 seats. Previously we'd held just 14 out of 57 seats. Cllr Bridget Smith became the leader of South Cambridge District Council, and won the chance to put liberal politics into practice and make people's lives better where she lives.

  • Cable and Liberal Democrats
    Article: Jun 12, 2018
    By Mark Pack Author, 101 Ways To Win An Election in Liberal Democrat Newswire

    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.

  • Lucy V Salek
    Article: Jun 7, 2018

    My name is Lucy and I'm the candidate for the parliamentary by-election in Lewisham East.

    The team here are working so hard to get a great result here. And it's working.

    We are closing the gap between us and Labour in Lewisham.

    This is an area that voted 60% to remain in the European Union. Hardened former Labour supporters are willing to lend Lucy their vote to send Jeremy Corbyn a message because they're so angry with Labour for giving the Tories a blank cheque for a hard Brexit.

    And now MPs are going to be voting on the EU withdrawal bill just two days before polling day.

    If we can get Jeremy Corbyn truly spooked that his hard Brexit stance is losing him his core voters, he may finally stand up to Theresa May and support our call for a final say on the Brexit deal.

    There is so much at stake in this by-election.

    We could pull off something incredible and change the direction of Britain's future.

    Every day it becomes clearer that that Labour are not going to deliver on their promises to save us from a hard Brexit, and every day more Labour supports are joining us. We have the ingredients in Lewisham for a great result. With your support we will have the resources to make this happen.

    Thank you

    Lucy

    Lucy Salek - by-election candidate in Lewisham East

    PS: if you can't donate at the moment, can you help us in other ways. If you can join us in Lewisham, sign up here: libdems.org.uk/lewisham-volunteer. And if you can make some calls for Lucy, head here: libdems.org.uk/make-calls

  • Mark Pack
    Article: May 24, 2018
    By Mark Pack Author, 101 Ways To Win An Election

    Email isn't new. It has been around for only one year less than me but is still only patchily used by local parties even though more than four in five voters use email. That is more people with emails than with reachable individual letterboxes in many urban areas, for a start. Indeed:

    The story of the last few decades isn't just about the rise of the online world. It's also about the increasing problems with traditional ways of communicating with voters on the ground. Fewer phone numbers are in the phonebook; fewer households have someone in when you call round; and fewer properties have accessible individual letterboxes.

  • David Buxton
    Article: May 21, 2018
    By The Voice in Liberal Democrat Voice

    Last month, David Buxton wrote about how the Government's freezing of the Access to Elected Office Fund meant that he simply couldn't stand in the 2017 General Election:

    For the 2015 General Election, I obtained a grant of £40,000 from the Access to Elected Office Fund, which I used to participate in the Liberal Democrat candidate-selection process. But I could not have participated without the Fund's support.