With a new leader elected and committed to changing the rules for the Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrats* so that it no longer has to be an MP, that just leaves the small questions of who should be Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrats and what should the remit of the job be?
The latter David Howarth and I covered in our pamphlet on a new strategy for the Liberal Democrats:
The Deputy Leader post should be that of a national party campaigns chair – elected by all members, and with a role therefore that is separate from, and compatible with, that of the elected Party President. An elected Deputy Leader can be the person responsible for coordinating all three pillars [local government, Westminster and devolved institutions, and national thematic campaigns and PR list elections] and with specific oversight for that neglected third pillar – the national thematic and PR campaigns.
With an elected Deputy Leader chairing in future the party’s Campaigns and Communications Committee (CCC) that would give the CCC a meaningful role, party campaigning a clear accountability structure with a democratic element, and as a bonus avoid the need for contentious one-off separate structures to be created especially for different elections.
It will also provide a leadership figure to kickstart a refresh of the party’s campaign tactics based on grassroots experimentation to see what works. Testing out different campaign tactics, such as different survey designs to randomly selected voters and comparing response rates, is a well-established part of American politics that both Labour and the Tories have been quicker than the Lib Dems to embrace too. Indeed, too much of Lib Dem tactics in the offline world is rooted in long in the tooth conventional wisdom or old research dating back to the mid-1990s.
Just as the party believes in evidence-based policy making, and just as evidence-based campaign tactics are increasingly the norm for online campaigning where testing is so much easier, we need the same approach to our offline tactics as we move into a new world of deliberately setting out to create a large core vote.
Who would you pick and what remit would you give them? (And here’s why it would be a mistake to pick a straight, white man.)
* Strictly speaking the Deputy Leader of the Parliamentary Party in the House of Commons