Liberal Democrat Newswire #70: Tim Farron unveils new Shadow Cabinet

Liberal Democrat Newswire #70 came out last week and is below. Since it came out, Tim Farron has also announced his Parliamentary Campaigns Team.


Welcome to the 70th edition of Liberal Democrat Newswire, and a special welcome to Iris Walker from Aberdeenshire who won a copy of Vince Cable’s memoirs in the prize draw for new readers of Liberal Democrat Newswire. Your autographed book is in the post Iris and thank you for becoming a reader.

Thank you also to the very kind readers who make a small monthly donation to help cover the costs of Liberal Democrat NewswireYou too can join these munificent folk at www.patreon.com/markpack and, if you’re an Amazon customer, you can also support LDN by using this link to go to Amazon before making your purchases.

Best wishes,


P.S. You don’t have to wait for the next edition of Liberal Democrat Newswire to keep up with news. My site is regularly updated with stories such as The Liberal Democrats need a core votes strategy and A glossary of Liberal Democrat terms for new , and not so new, members.

In this edition:

How the leadership campaign polls did

Much to my relief, the Liberal Democrat Newswire poll for the leadership contest turned out very close to the result and was the most accurate of the published polling:
Lib Dem leadership race polling results
The tally of self-declared voting results on Twitter, by the way, was somewhere between the better polls and the rest: it put Farron in a 64-36 lead over Lamb.

As with previous Lib Dem leadership campaigns, each campaign’s own canvassing figures turned out to be more favourable to their own side than the eventual result. Something to bear in mind when interpreting the various Labour leadership campaign canvass returns currently being released.

It would be wrong to read too much into just one contest and how polling performed, but this does suggest that with appropriate caution useful insights can be garnered from such polling in future. The difficulty is knowing in advance of an actual result which adjustments are going to be the most important. For example, in this contest many people wondered if new members might behave differently from long-standing members, but when it came to the LDN poll, adjusting by length of membership did not make a significant difference to the result. But paying attention to the headline polling result at the time would have left you better rather than worse informed.

So watch out for more polls in future…

What went wrong with the Lib Dem polling?

By whatever mix of skill and chance, my poll on the leadership race performed far better than both the public polls and the internal Liberal Democrat polls did at the general election. So what went wrong with that polling for May?

As more information has come to light, I’ve expanded and updated my piece What went wrong with the Liberal Democrat polling and key seat intelligence?

The constituency results were well off what the party’s constituency polls told it to expect. What’s more, as in 2010, the party ended up doing things on polling day which, with hindsight, were tragically misplaced.

The poster boy for this in 2010 was running an intensive polling day operation in Oxford East, which was lost by 4,581, whilst neighbouring Oxford West and Abingdon didn’t get that help and lost by just 176. In 2015, amongst the places the party’s central London volunteer phone bank was knocking up on the eve of poll  was Maidstone – lost by 10,709. (Not all the phoning was misdirected as polling day phoning included Sutton & Cheam and Eastleigh.)

So those polls were done all wrong, right? Well, only if you ignore the more nuanced evidence which is to be gleaned from other polls, both right and wrong.

You can read the piece in full here.

Ryan Coetzee joins pro-European referendum campaign

The pro-European campaign for the forthcoming referendum is starting to come together and is deliberately looking for a cross-party feel. (Strictly speaking the organisation coming together is going to bid to the Electoral Commission to be appointed the official campaign group, but it’s also the only show in town on the pro-European side of the referendum campaign, drawing in the support of other pro-European groups, and so almost certainly will be the official pro-Europe group.)

That has included signing up a trio of high-profile figures from across the parties: Lord Andrew Cooper from the Conservatives, Will Straw from Labour and Ryan Coetzee from the Liberal Democrats.

Ryan is a somewhat controversial figure in Liberal Democrat circles so I asked him about his role. He said, “I’m doing it because I think it is absolutely in the UK’s interest to be a leading player in Europe. I also think it’s in the interest of the broader democratic world that Britain should lead in Europe. So it’s a cause I’m keen to campaign for.”

The anti-European side is split by controversies over what roles Nigel Farage and Eurosceptic Conservative MPs should have, with neither being that keen on the other being in the driving seat. The difficulties which many people have had over the years working with Farage are well illustrated in the excellent, and very funny, new book about the last few years in the life of Ukip: Following Farage – the ultimate political road trip.

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OMOV, strategy and policy-making: major changes coming to how the party operates?

The outline agenda for the party’s autumn conference in Bournemouth has now been published. In addition to a farewell speech from Nick Clegg and the first leader’s speech from Tim Farron, the agenda includes three significant areas of party reform.

First, the long-heralded introduction of one-member, one-vote (OMOV) for the party’s federal conference and committee elections. This would replace the current system of local parties electing conference reps who then are the ones who get to vote at conference and in the committee elections.

The previous attempt to introduce OMOV was derailed by numerous flaws. This time round, it should go through as the principle was widely (if not unanimously) supported last time and second time round the Federal Executive (FE) has consulted widely and carefully over getting the details right.

The move to OMOV is only one part of a wider set of possible changes in how the party is governed, with the FE having newly created a group to look at this bigger picture – a remit within which the English Party looms large and which should include the poor turnout in the leadership contest.

At a much earlier stage of consultation is how the party’s policy-making process should work in future, and in particular how better to involve members from outside London and the south east in the policy making groups which work in between conferences.

Conference will also see the latest stages in the party’s review of the lessons – both strategic and tactical – from the general election. I’ve written more about what those lessons should be with David Howarth in our pamphlet on core votes.

Don’t miss out!

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Are you reading a forwarded copy of Liberal Democrat Newswire? Or perhaps the web-based version? If so, then why not join thousands of others and sign up to receive direct to your email inbox future editions of what the Daily Telegraph calls a “must read” and which Tim Farron calls, “a must read for all Lib Dems or people who want to understand the Lib Dems”.

Summer reading

Want to be entertained with some amusing tales from the campaign trail?

Fancy getting a better understanding of how to run winning campaigns?

Wondering how other parties have recovered from disaster?

All that and more can be found in my list of six recommendations for your summer reading list:

You can read more about why I’ve recommended each of them here.

Tim Farron unveils new Shadow Cabinet

For the first time, the majority of the Liberal Democrat Shadow Cabinet is female, matching of course the female majority in the electorate. With an all-male line up of MPs, Tim Farron has achieved this by expanding the team to include peers and non-Parliamentarians.

This makes working out the pecking order in the team more complicated than usual. Normally, for example, you would expect the person with the Treasury/economics brief to be of major significance in the party. This time it has gone to someone who has said of their own politics, “I’m quite comfortable being seen as an Orange Book liberal” when running unsuccessfully for Party President against Tim Farron in 2010. However, the appointment of Susan Kramer has not caused the fuss within the party which you might otherwise therefore expect. That is because she is in the Lords – where her diligent hard work will, I’m sure, earn praise and gratitude – and so the frontline political role on economic matters will stay with Tim Farron, who will be the one facing up to Cameron and Osborne on economic matters in the Commons.

Two MPs are absent from the team. Nick Clegg has wisely judged that being on the frontline in 2015 would make him too much of a looming ghost from the past for the new leader (although some disagree). The widespread expectation is that he will, however, return to a frontline post later in the Parliament. The other missing man is Mark Williams, who will be getting an important campaigning post later in the year.

Two of those who were MPs until May 2015 have also taken up posts: Lorely Burt (business) and Lynne Featherstone (environment and climate change). With local government having gone to Watford Mayor Dorothy Thornhill and ALDC Chief Executive Tim Pickstone also on board with a campaigning role, this makes for a slightly less Palace of Westminster focused team than in the past – though the real test will be how the numerous peers go about their jobs, focused on Westminster or roaming far and wide beyond it.

Meanwhile, Norman Lamb sensibly slots in at health where he will be able to continue his excellent campaigning on mental health issues – and indeed demonstrate to others how Parliamentary campaigns can reach out beyond Westminster, having a real impact on people’s lives and bringing in new people to the party.

You can see the full Shadow Cabinet line-up here.

What do the Lib Dems believe?

Find out with the help of this handy poster:
What the Lib Dems believe: poster extract

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The real reason house prices are rising

Given Tim Farron’s passion for housing, it is likely to feature very strongly in the party’s activities over the next few years.

I’ve often blogged about why much of what is said about housing is wrong, such as the myth that rents are soaring – confirmed by the latest ONS figures which one again showed rents rising in line with earnings. But I’ve not really covered this topic in Liberal Democrat Newswire.

So here is the excellent David Boyle on what’s wrong with how most people view rising house prices:

One of my contentions, which was more difficult to prove, was the reason why house prices have risen so disastrously over the past three decades.

Conventional wisdom – not a happy phrase – suggests that it is simply a matter of supply and demand, and clearly there is an element of this. I’m not sure why the political establishment clings to the idea that this is the whole reason, but I suppose it is because it gives them the illusion that they have some control over it (not that they exercise it).

But it doesn’t really make sense. For one thing, demand from the Far East in particular may be infinite, at least we have to assume that, and there is no way we could build enough to satisfy the investors of Singapore.

For another thing, the great leaps in house price inflation – which have had such a devastating effect on the UK, narrowing the economy, tying up resources, and narrowing the life chances of our children – have all happened when the amount of money pouring into the housing market has soared.

The prices haven’t risen during periods of unprecedented housing shortages, like the post-war period. No, the real reason house prices rise – at least as much as they have – is because too much money has gone into mortgage finance.

It is certainly about supply and demand, but about too much money chasing too few goods. There are also too few goods, it is true, which clearly doesn’t help.

People involved in politics tend to look at me rather non-plussed when I say this, so I’m clearly not as convincing as I might like to think.

So I was fascinated to read in the Financial Times this week that a research project at LSE has confirmed what I’m saying – and which incidentally, Kate Barker also said: there is no close link between housing numbers and house prices.

You can read David’s piece in full here.

Thanks for reading

I hope you’re found this edition of Liberal Democrat Newswire interesting, informative, useful – or all three!

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Best wishes and thank you for reading,


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