The problem with the Lib Dem brand isn’t what people think it is: LDN #123

Liberal Democrat Newswire #123 came out last week, with an in-depth look at the party’s strategy and snippets of news such as just how well the party’s fundraising from smaller donors did in March. Brexit is good for one thing at least, it appears.

You can now read this edition of Lib Dem Newswire in full below, but if you’d like the convenience of getting it direct by email in future just sign up for it here.

Welcome to Lib Dem Newswire #123, in which I’m trying something a little different. I often write about Liberal Democrat strategy, so this time I’m including the full video of a talk I recently gave in London on just that subject. As you’ll see when you watch it, I break down the big challenge for the party into two elements – the party’s reputation and the party’s perceived relevance. The problem with the former isn’t what people usually think it is, and the solution to the latter requires us to start acting rather differently.

Hope you find the video interesting and a nice variation in format. Do let me know one way or the other!

Sharp readers will notice that photographs have remained in LDN this time around. Thank you to the many people who voted and the very clear result you gave in my mini-poll last time. No second vote required.

Happy watching,


P.S. I’m off to Bedford next Saturday for some election campaigning. If you’re within reach of London Bridge and would like to join the team heading over, grab the details here.

In this edition:

Where next for the Liberal Democrats?

Huge opportunities in the May council elections, the chance of European elections after all (timetable here) with Lib Dem candidates currently being selected, the likelihood of a very winnable Parliamentary by-election and a leadership election just around the corner: it’d be temptingly easy for Liberal Democrats to think ‘heads down, leaflet outs, carry on as we are’ might just be all that is needed to turn things around for the party.

Especially as March was the best-ever month for Lib Dem grassroots donations outside of an election campaign.

However, that would be a mistake because seizing the opportunities there are for the party requires us to change the way we do things.

Here’s me talking at Kensington and Chelsea Liberal Democrats explaining it in more detail…

Mark Pack speaking on Liberal Democrat strategy

Irina von Wiese campaigning

Freedom of movement is the antidote to intolerance and extremism

Irina von Wiese has recently been selected as the Liberal Democrat PPC for Hammersmith and is an ardent pro-European. Writing for Lib Dem Newswire, she explains how her family’s history has made her such a strong supporter of the EU.

My name elicits questions. The first name is Russian, the last name is German.

My grandmother’s entire family, apart from her mother and herself, was killed by the Red Army. She escaped from Tbilisi, in what is now Georgia and was then still Russia, by the skin of her teeth, to arrive in Weimar Germany in 1923. Her refuge lasted for ten happy years, then she and her own young family were faced with another type of totalitarian oppression. They survived, but the horror of war and hunger left deep physical and mental scars in my mother.

My father, whose own family had fled from Eastern Europe, climbed a wall to reach the freedom of West Germany.

This is the history of 20th century Europe, reflected in the stories of survivors and the gaping holes left by millions of victims.

So for me, growing up in post-war, Cold War divided Germany, the European Union has been one thing above all: a guarantor of peace. Free trade, economic and security co-operation were not the end, but the means to strengthen and perpetuate this peace.

For millennia, people have known that nothing prevents war as effectively as the interdependence that comes with trade. The freedom to move across national borders is not just about sunny beaches and ski slopes. It is about getting to know people and understand what makes them different, and what makes them the same. It is the antidote to intolerance, radicalisation and extremism. It is also what makes us cherish our own culture and heritage, without the assumption of superiority.

In 1996, I took for granted the chance to move to the UK, work for a British firm, qualify as a solicitor and settle in London. There, I met a Greek immigrant whose father had survived a German POW camp. Our parents’ and grandparents’ stories stay with us, but our own lives have moved on – juggling careers, social life and family in different countries, we take our freedom for granted. Our daughter considers herself English and shares a classroom with children from all over the world. This month, she’s off to Hamburg for a school exchange, and next summer she and her friends plan to go Interrailing across Europe.

Today, I am a British citizen and a Liberal Democrat Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Hammersmith, where I have lived for many years. I am also standing for the London Assembly election in 2020, as part of a team as diverse as London itself.

I am immensely grateful to this country for the opportunity it has given me, and well aware that not everyone is as fortunate. For the last two years, I have shared my home with refugees from across the globe, people like my grandmother who have lost everything and are hoping for a fresh start.

I want them to know that they are welcome in London, a city which shares Liberal Democrat values: open, tolerant and inclusive.

Good luck with your campaigning Irina. You can follow her on Twitter here.

Mark Roberts's meat raffle tickets and Mark Roberts on his smallholding

Unusual fundraising in Stockport

Here’s an unusual twist on the traditional Liberal Democrat fundraising raffle: Mark Roberts, council candidate in Stockport, has a smallholding. His lambs are… let’s say, ‘ready for the next stage’. So he’s put that opportunity to good use with the Mark’s Meat Raffle.

Liberal Democrats on the Put it to the People march - photo courtesy of Al Bayliss

Are the Lib Dems about to lose an MP? Never Mind The Bar Charts #6

Welcome to the latest episode of Never Mind The Bar Charts, in which Stephen finally gets me to talk about Brexit. But only after discussing the Newport West by-election, the reliability of the national opinion polls, the likely Liberal Democrat leadership contest and whether the party might be about to lose Norman Lamb from its ranks.

You can listen to this episode Never Mind The Bar Charts online here.

Or, you can find Never Mind The Bar Charts on Google Podcasts, iTunes, Pocket Casts, PodBeanRadioPublic, Spotify and Stitcher.

Episode #5, a look back on Vince Cable’s record as party leader, has also come out since the last LDN. You’ll find it on all those podcast sites or up on my site here. Hit subscribe in your favourite podcast app to get the latest episodes straight away when they appear.

Show notes

  • Norman Lamb’s comments about his future can be read about here.
  • The Lord Ashcroft polling discuss was covered in more detail by me here.
  • A fact correction on myself: the second Brexit Party person to have to stand down was the party’s treasurer.

Person wearing a Lib Dem badge - photo courtesy of the Lib Dems CC-BY-ND 2.0

In a world of Trumps, Le Pens and Putins, the Lib Dems are on the other side

Vince Cable gave his last spring federal conference speech as leader, setting out how in a world of Trumps, Le Pens and Putins, the Lib Dems are firmly on the other side.

Edward Davey has set out part of his pitch to be the next party leader with a piece for the New Statesman: “Liberalism is in crisis. Here’s how it can be saved“. Ahead of a possible run for party leader herself, Layla Moran has gone public with the story behind how she was charged by the police in 2013 (the charges were later dropped).

It’s so obvious the will of the people has changed, argues Lib Dem MP Christine Jardine, while Lib Dem MEP Catherine Bearder was one of a cross-party group to write to the BBC accusing it of normalising white supremacist language.

Paul Scriven, the former leader of Sheffield Council, is standing down from the council this May, although he will continue as a Liberal Democrat peer.

Edinburgh Western MSP Alex Cole-Hamilton has vowed not to be scared into silence by cybernats after revealing he and his staff have been issued with attack alarms as a result of online abuse.

Congratulations to Lib Dem PPC and lawyer Kamran Hussain for seeing his firm win the Best Northern Law Firm prize.

Lib Dem supporter scheme banner

Lib Dem registered supporter scheme off to a successful start

A few weeks on from the conference vote to create a registered supporters scheme for the Liberal Democrats, how are things looking?

Party HQ has been promisingly prompt with the first wave of support material for local parties and, more importantly, several thousand registered supporters have already been signed up, with 2,000 in just the first 24 hours alone.

Those people are geographically spread. No surprise that places such as Oxford West & Abingdon are near the top of the list for the number of supporters signed up. But over nine in ten constituencies have had at least one supporter so far, and hotspots for sign-ups include Worcestershire in the Midlands.

Crucially, the people signing up are significantly more diverse than the party’s membership. This was a key reason for creating the scheme – as argued by the party’s new Vice President BAME, Isabelle Parasram, in the debate. (For the evidence behind this argument, see my post on the research into how party membership disproportionately appeals to the privileged.)

So far, the supporter scheme is getting people who are on average seven years younger than party members, ten percentage points more female and three percentage points less white. Early days and much more work to be done to have a supporter base, let alone a membership base, that properly represents the diversity of the country. But so far, we are succeeding at making ourselves more diverse than we were.

As for whether supporters will become (more) active, that’s in large part down to local parties who now have access to the data. There’s plenty of promise here too from the experience of those local parties who have followed up previously with names of national petition signers. As David Wright put it about the experience in East Cambridgeshire:

We view people who have signed national petitions on the party website as ‘gold dust’ as we find about half of them will deliver for us (and one is now a member and candidate). I hope that supporters will be as useful.

You can sign people up as supporters, or if you’re one of my readers who aren’t a party member, sign up yourself, at www.libdems.org.uk/support.

A 'thank yoiu' message with a small plant - CC0 Public Domain photo

Liberal Democrat Newswire is provided for free. Thank you so much to all the kind readers who donate to help cover its costs. It’s quick and easy to sign up for a small regular donation with a direct debit using GoCardless:

Thank you! (Other donation options, including by PayPal or cheque, are here.)

Post-it note - "In case you missed it"

Another round of lawbreaking by Leave campaigners confirmed

In case you missed them the first time around, here are the highlights from my blogs over the last month:

Spot any stories which you think I should be covering? Do drop me an email – always appreciated.

Jo Waltham

Liberal Democrat selection news

Selections of Prospective Parliamentary Candidates (PPCs) since last time have included Jo Waltham (Devizes, pictured above), Rick Eling (Ludlow) and John Timperley (Tiverton and Honiton).

You can check on all the selections which have been made public in the prospective candidate list on my website.

As ever tips on omissions from that list much appreciated; please let me know privately as sometimes a name isn’t yet listed because the local party hasn’t yet press released it.

What the voters are saying

The polls have seen a definite slip in the Conservative position in the last few weeks, caused not by a rise in support for Labour but rather by a continuing fragmentation of support to other parties. In fact, since November last year, Labour’s support has been slowly but steadily slipping, down by around four points on average whilst the Conservatives are down by around a point and with a smattering of other parties – Lib Dems, Greens and Ukip – all nudging up.

Lib Dem ratings remain around just about breaking into double figures consistently, although under the surface there is plenty of potential as the party/leader ratings for Lib Dems now better than Conservatives and Labour.

It’s notable that where pollsters ask about both the Liberal Democrats and TIG/Change UK, it looks like this pulls in more support from other parties rather than simply seeing TIG cannibalise the Lib Dems. Taking the three pollsters who have run simultaneous surveys with both TIG include and excluded from voting intention questions, the results have been:

  • Delta Poll, March: 7% with TIG, 7% without TIG / TIG on 9%
  • Delta Poll, February: 5% with TIG, 6% without TIG / TIG on 11%
  • Opinium, February: 7% with TIG, 9% without TIG / TIG on 5%
  • YouGov, February: 7% with TIG, 10% without TIG / TIG on 14%

As for the full voting intention figures, here are the latest from each party…

Voting intention polls scorecard as of 7 April 2019

To get updates about voting intention opinion polls, sign up for Polling UnPacked.

Although the last month has been short of Liberal Democrat seat gains, the vote share changes point to a promising pattern for the party ahead over this May’s big round of local elections:

Outside of elections, the Liberal Democrat local government base has grown further thanks to the continuing trend of councillors switching to the party, with recruits in Woking (causing the Conservatives to lose their council majority) and Chichester.

In Sunderland, a Lib Dem who was suspended following allegations of sharing offensive social media posts is quitting the council and in Eastbourne a councillor has quit over claims of bullying. A well-known former Lib Dem district and county councillor, Ros Keyes, has joined the Greens.

The strangest council move does not involve the Liberal Democrats, but rather the councillor who left the Green Party over anti-Semitism and joined the Conservatives.

Round of council by-election results so far in 2019 - 8 April

To get the full council by-election results every week, sign up for my blog posts digest and to be prepared for a council by-election in your patch, see my 7-step guide to getting ready in advance.

Thank you for reading

Hope you’ve liked this format of a shorter set of stories but a longer video. Do let me know!

Best wishes till next time,


P.S. Up for a bit of extra campaigning to keep Britain in the EU? Check out How To Revoke Article 50 and share it with your friends.

What did you think of this edition?

I really value the views of readers as it helps me decide what to include in future editions.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

All comments and data you submit with them will be handled in line with the privacy and moderation policies.