How the Liberal Democrat general election plans are getting more optimistic

Yesterday I dismissed one media report on Liberal Democrat preparations for the next general election as being mostly a mix of speculation and error, but there is another one in the weekend’s media that is rather more accurate.

The Observer reports:

The Liberal Democrats are drawing up an aggressive new election strategy targeting more Conservative seats, including that of foreign secretary Dominic Raab amid alarm among senior Tories about the threat posed by Jo Swinson’s party.

Research by the Lib Dems conducted over the summer has convinced officials to rip up the party’s existing plans and adopt a more ambitious targeting strategy.

Indeed, followers of me on social media indeed may have seen earlier in the year that I was off to Esher to do a training session with our most excellent PPC, Monica Harding, on how to win a Parliamentary seat. There is a great team building up there and the behaviour of the MP is making it much easier to win over Conservatives given how many of them are also Remainers.

You don’t need to see party research to see how much the opportunities for Liberal Democrat gains have increased. The public opinion polls, research from the People’s Vote campaign and by-election results tell that story too.

The Observer adds:

[The political opportunity has] prompted a scramble to raise the resources necessary to fight a more combative campaign. Swinson is understood to have begun a drive to win over new donors, including former Tory and Labour backers.

True again, and it’s been heartening (if a little stressful on the diary!), the number of times even I’ve been rolled out to talk with potential donors in the last few weeks.

There is a massive financial challenge for the party to be able to resource campaigning on a scale that matches the party’s political opportunities. But it isn’t only a financial challenge. Mobilising the volunteer resources too – especially the hundreds of thousands who have signed national petitions but are not yet engaged by local parties – is a big part of that. As is learning the lessons from why the party’s surge in the polls in 2010 didn’t translate into gaining seats at that general election.

More on that and the other things the party needs to get right in the latest edition of Liberal Democrat Newswire, which you can read here.

7 responses to “How the Liberal Democrat general election plans are getting more optimistic”

  1. Looking at the details of the recent YouGov poll (https://d25d2506sfb94s.cloudfront.net/cumulus_uploads/document/8i9x45cenq/TheTimes_190806_VI_Trackers_w.pdf) the thing that hit me about our support was that (unlike Labour and Tories) it is dramatically skewed towards ABC1 voters. Have you (or anyone else) done much analysis into the underlying reasons for this? Seems to me we are unlikely to make much more headway if we can’t move away from being a party of the educated elite.
    Con 30 33 48% 52%
    Lab 20 24 45% 55%
    Lib Dem 26 14 65% 35%
    SNP 4 5 44% 56%
    Plaid Cymru 1 0 100% 0%
    Brexit Party 12 17 41% 59%
    Green 8 5 62% 38%
    Other 1 1 50% 50%

    Have you (or anyone else) done any investigation into the reasons for this

    • Karl Marx might be some help. He shows that “it’s always the economy stupid” and as the economy changes new dominant classes emerge. Now that about half of young people get some sort of tertiary education the so called “educated elite” is becoming the new dominant mass class – and left-centre parties are the natural representatives of that class. The LibDems need to recognise that they are now where the action is and embrace it – which Mark’s story shows we are doing. Here is our core vote, with knobs on. But we don’t want a dictatorship of the tertiariat. We need to build alliances to the left and centre of that core to achieve stable, liberal, democratic majority government.

  2. On that point, level of education was a good predictor of how people would vote in the referendum and no doubt still is on Brexit. So our stress on opposing Brexit will inevitably have skewed our support further. Nonetheless, the point is well-made. There is a danger of well-educated, in-the-know people sending messages that work with similar people. Even at the local level, we’re probably less good at getting through to working-class voters (who don’t exactly correspond with basically educated ones, but there’s obviously a strong link) than was the Liberal Party of the 1970s and 80s. The welcome stress on building a core vote also has dangers here if we’re lured by what Connect can do well into thinking in terms of a core vote defined by social characteristics rather than by values and views.

    On underperformance in 2010, Mark has made the point that we lost hard-headed caution and targeted too widely too late for it to work. I expect that lesson has been learnt. But from memory, there was another point. There seemed to be no plan for how to develop the campaign, if we did make an early breakthrough. OK, successful campaigns keep banging on about the same few issues – but they also give an impression of progress by changing method and emphasis. For example, the local campaign suddenly produces a load more posters going up or messages from the Focus team are largely replaced by pictured local residents saying the same things. Perceptive commentators in 2010 spotted a lack of any such development in our national campaign. People were listening and we had nothing to say that seemed different.

  3. many of those who are not in the ‘educated elite’ that David refers to would certainly aspire to better education for themselves/peers/children, so it is essential that we get back to promoting investment in education, smaller class sizes, pupil premium, teaching assistants…

  4. On another note (from the fascinating discussion above), I hope that the party has developed a line on what will inevitably be the Tory cry that the real threat to Britain is a Labour/SNP coalition (now looking more likely or at least an aspiration given the shadow chancellor’s recent remarks about a referendum). So a vote for a Lib Dem in a Conservative/LD marginal makes that ‘appalling’ possibility more likely. This was a real factor, as I recall, in the 2015 election and may have accounted, partially at least, for the meltdown of the LD vote.

  5. I agree with David that we need to attract a wider range of support. There are plenty of issues that we should be campaigning on including the need for more affordable/social homes and for improvements in health provision. also, maybe it would be helpful to have a few more Candidates from a Working Class background.

  6. James, agree with you that this was a huge factor in the 2015GE which the Lib Dem strategists had no answer to. The Tory strategy will once again in England be that only they can save us all from the Corbyn & Salmond bogeyman!

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