During the week I went to speak at a Westminster Liberal Democrats event. The local party is typical of many across London which pose a particular opportunity/challenge (delete according to your mood) to the party.
Only limited electoral success for the party in the area in the past.
Huge surge in members in 2015-16.
Promising signs of progress but no big electoral breakthrough in the 2018 local elections. (Particular kudos to Westminster for doing brilliantly at standing candidates this time.)
A good attitude towards trying things that are not in the conventional party playbook (such as the use of whiteboards – as in the photo above). Lots of keen people wanting to be active.
And now – with local elections only every four years in London – the question of how to keep people engaged with activity building up towards the next council elections so that when they come round there are all the benefits of four years of solid activity to help propel a breakthrough.
Or, in other words, how to help more places be like Merton.
That is both down to the local team and to how the rest of the party supports such teams. It’s also an issue the party outside London should be particularly interested in because with over 1 in 5 party members living in London, it is the largest pool of extra volunteer labour in the party which could help win marginal wards in next May’s crucial elections outside London, many of which are within reasonable travel time of London.
Supporting local parties in London at keeping going through the classic post-all out elections dip in activity isn’t just about our future success in London, it’s also about our future success outside London too.
So here is a suggestion if you are a local party outside but close to London with elections next May: grab a local party in London to pair up with and offer mutual support. You may well have experience and skills to share – especially if you’ve been winning elections rather more than many London boroughs have recently.
I think it would be great if the party systematically organises such pairing up (as the email inboxes of some people who’ve had missives from me on this demonstrate…!). But we don’t need to leave it to anyone else to organise.
That is, after all, the liberal approach.