Those in the centre are those least interested in politics

The ever-excellent Paula Surridge made an excellent point on Twitter about how those in the political centre (on the left/right scale) are less interested in politics:

1 in 5 don't know who the leader of the Conservatives is

Another piece of evidence for the Olympic women's hockey theory of politics, aka the public pays far less attention to politics than most political activists realise. more

In Paula Surridge’s tweet, she framed this as an important finding for the future of The Independent Group. It is also an insight very relevant to the Liberal Democrats, echoing a point I made when speaking this weekend at the South Dorset Liberal Democrats Annual Dinner.

Part of the battle for the Liberal Democrats at the moment is one for perceived relevance amongst both the public and the media. Many of the solutions lie very much in our own hands in the Liberal Democrats.

Council by-election victories and membership growth provide the weekly fuel in the battle for political relevance, providing evidence to use and being objectives that everyone, whatever our role in the party, can contribute too. So too Parliamentary by-elections when they next come around and the huge opportunity the May local elections provide.

It’s also why I’ve been an advocate of us behaving more like a year-round campaigning movement since long before talk of campaigning movements was fashionable, indeed since before Justin Trudeau became leader of the Canadian Liberal Party.

Running campaigns and building coalitions with those outside the party all year round, rather than treating “campaigning” as a synonym for “electioneering”, not only promotes our values, it helps make us relevant.

And yes, part of that is about reaching out beyond party members – which is why creating a registered supporter scheme is such a key part of the next steps on the party’s recovery. There have always been more people who are willing to help the party but not join us than there have been party members. Yet we have not done nearly enough to make the best use of that wider pool of supporters – and the current setups for doing so are badly broken.

We need to fix them, and fix them soon.

8 responses to “Those in the centre are those least interested in politics”

  1. That idea of people in the centre being less interested in politics is an interesting one, but is it correct? Most Lib Dems would see themselves as being in the centre but also being hugely interested in politics….

  2. the extreme (or adversarial) viewpoint always makes good coverage in the press, people ‘like a good fight’, but once they have elected their politicians they expect them all to work together to get on with the job. Which is why our adversarial chamber system is so wrong.
    Mark, we should make more of the fact that our membership is bigger than the Tories..

  3. I’ve found that most of my followers on twitter are from other parties, especially Labour. The LibDems that do follow are mostly activists who campaign all year round. Unfortunately I do agree that too many centrists, including centrist LibDems [I’m guessing that not all LDs are centrist], only appear again at election times – having missed the fun of the campaigns over the rest of the year. That said, I am grateful to have the “team” with me all year – as we do our small part to keep politicians doing a better job [as we see it of course]

  4. I find that most of our members are not particularly interested in politics so I would be very surprised that our voters are.

  5. I prefer saying that those at the extremes are most interested in promoting their own particular view point that is more egotistical than political. How do you gauge interest? It is not being subsumed with an ideological obsession.

  6. I’m not at all sure that most ACTIVE Lib Dems would see themselves as being in the centre. There are plenty who would see themselves as being somewhat left of centre and others who reject the relevance of left and right (and might therefore refuse to answer the question).

    The finding does not surprise me. It does not in any way rule out there being some politically-alert centrists, but if you’ve never thought much about politics, when asked a left-right question, you’ll probably opt for centre, “pretty middle of the road”, even if those views you have might actually place you well to the left or (more likely) the right.

    I do thoroughly support Mark’s plea for campaigning to mean much more than electioneering. This should not only gain us more support than it loses, but also give us a clearer profile in the public mind, the lack of which is a major reason for our tiny core vote.

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