Four campaigning lessons for the Lib Dems from the Oldham by-election

A large pile of direct mail letters. CC0 Public Domain

What to make of the Liberal Democrat result in Oldham West and Royton?

Lost deposit, same vote as at the general election and a fourth place, but the Lib Dem result in Oldham West and Royton looks better if you peer into the details. more

Labour MP Andrew Gwynne has written a franker post-mortem than many on the campaigning lessons from the Oldham West and Royton by-election.

His focus naturally was on why Labour won, but much of what he says is applicable to Liberal Democrat campaigning too, especially these four points:

  1. Persuade people who used to support you that you are (still) on their side: “we had to earn the right to be listened amongst people who like [our] values but who do not quite believe that we stand up for people like them anymore”.
  2. Traditional paper-based literature is still at the heart of campaigning: “Every single elector had at least one piece of literature from us, and key voters had many more”.
  3. But it works best when used smartly: “the delivery of the message … came in the form of extremely sophisticated targeting, both with direct mail and doorstep canvassing” (although the full story of good data use in campaigns is a little more complicated).
  4. And it needs to be supported by extensive canvassing: “We had three rounds of canvassing in total. Our first round focused on every individual that had ever voted in any election, regardless of political history. Our second round of canvassers visited those voters that had either remained uncontacted from the first round, or who had told the first canvassers that they might be supporting Labour, were still undecided, or wouldn’t say. Our third and final round of canvassing, most of which was done in the final week, was focused on firming up the weak Labour vote.”


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