My plan to build a mass grassroots liberal movement

During the leadership contest, Jo Swinson repeatedly made welcome reference to building a grassroots army of liberals to campaign for our values. We certainly need such a force to help overcomes the advantages the Conservatives and Labour benefit from with their friendly media barons, a political system designed for two parties and their big business and trade union funding.

The good news is that we have plenty of the key ingredients already in place: hundreds of thousands of supporters. Not only is our membership at record levels and the new registered supporter scheme steadily growing. But also for every member, we have around another three further people have signed up online to one of our national campaigns. Where local parties have got out and talked to such people, they’re just as willing as members – if not even more willing – to get involved.

We certainly need to keep on increasing the size of this combined members / supporter / national campaign pool. We also need to get much better at mobilising it, and that’s why doing this is the first of my five priorities if I’m elected Party President. The solution is three-fold.

First, giving local parties the tools and templates to help them do more themselves. When, for example, people like myself first talked about how we should make tools such as Connect free at the point of use for local parties so as to encourage their use, it was far from uncontroversial. But we persisted, the change was made – and our weaker local parties benefit now from being able to get stuck in without first being asked to pay up extra money they can struggle to afford.

Second, there is a key role for state and regional parties to act as ‘the local party of last resort’. With several hundred local parties, some are always going to be struggling to do their role. That’s when the rest of the party needs to act as a good colleague. Again, we’ve seen some good progress in the support for local parties from regions and states – such as the great initiative from North West Liberal Democrats to run one online council candidate application form for the region, saving people time on duplicating processes and making it easier for members to get involved. Indeed, it’s such a good idea I’ve been encouraging ALDC to look at how it could become a national one in future.

Third, there will always be some people from whom getting involved in the local party does not suit. Perhaps they are not in long-term accommodation and so do not feel a particular desire to get stuck into one area they may soon leave. Perhaps the local party is great… but does things at times that don’t suit them. Or just perhaps the chemistry doesn’t gell. That’s where the federal party, working with the state parties, has a role – to provide national ways for individual supporters to get active.

We saw in the European elections a huge surge of willingness from people to campaign for us – often going beyond what local parties could cater for. But pressure groups aplenty manage to give individual supporters ways of campaigning, such as by buying centrally sourced leaflets to deliver in their patch. We need to learn from that.

Added together, these three strands add up to a plan to help us punch well above our weight, promoting liberalism in the face of populism. They also readily translate into a clear set of priorities and targets – just what we need so that we fine words in internal election campaigns translate into practical, delivered results.

We’ve got a huge opportunity to build a mass, liberal campaigning movement, one which can help us continue to rejuvenate our council base, boost our presence in devolved bodies and propel us to more MPs than ever before.

Let’s take it.

If this is the approach you support too, please sign up to back my campaign or make a donation at markpack.org.uk/president.



9 responses to “My plan to build a mass grassroots liberal movement”

  1. Mark this all sounds great, from a local party that doesn’t always have the resources and volunteers it really needs!

    One thing I would say though is if we expand these registered supporters and “who has signed up to a campaign” concepts, access to those people must be made available to local parties. Sure I have the membership database, but I have no idea how to access the registered supporters or “supported a campaign” list in my constituency. Connect?

    • Hi Gareth – both these other groups are available via Connect. Easiest way to use them is via the Target Pools in MyCampaign as that brings together leads for recruiting volunteers from all sorts of places.

  2. Whatever happens we are soon to have a General Election. Liberal Democrats have said they will revoke article 50 if voted in . This will sound undemocratic to those who don’t think beyond headlines which is a slight worry. But to those who do they will see it is democratic and truthful as it would only happen if the vote went the way of the liberal democrats in the first place. However I feel that we should already be explaining the advantages of this and extolling the virtues of staying in rather than using every media opportunity that comes Jo Swinson’s way to bash the others. Also to reunite the country we need to be coming up with ways to console those who wanted to leave and ways it would be different if we were to now stay in the EU. Lets be working on a better deal to stay in rather than leaving with no deal. As a GP in central Peterborough I have lost of ideas to do just this but feel I have no way to get my ideas heard. Surely we need to be planning how to win the votes now and appeal to everyone with fresh ways to make a membership of the EU more enticing to everyone.

  3. Mark, I was having some difficulty deciding between you and Richard Kemp, but his withdrawal makes it nice and easy: you’ll be getting my first preference. Posts like this are the reason why.
    I was slightly caught out by Christine Jardine’s appearance in the ring today, but despite her many qualities I feel that having two Scottish women at the top of the party would be a bit much. So I’ll stick with you. 🙂
    Good luck!

  4. I think that the media/our opponents have got the message about the simplicity of our policy and that it is reading well with the public, as they have stopped trying to rubbish it and are just trying to ignore us now.. But Catherine makes an excellent point, we need to have our road-map drawn up as to what we do when we take charge.. if we don’t have a plan it could look as though we don’t think we have a chance.
    Clearly, with everything up in the air, we very definitely DO have a chance of forming the next government, if not being a key player.. so whilst we have a whole raft of cohesive and costed policies(unlike any other party) we still need to sell to the public what we would do with our EU arrangements and the benefits of membership. We could start by publicising the the things that are already in place that the public are never told about, such as regular working meetings in Brussels developing all the things that cooperating with others can deliver.. the general public have little idea of what EU actually does, which was why the fraud of the referendum was so easy to pull off. But certainly some key selling points of what the EU can do for us would be a good move..

  5. Great ideas to support local parties and activity, I hope there is more along those lines. Reduce the admin burden, enable at least one countrywide delivery per year, enable a good quality website and social media set ups at all levels countrywide, which the larger more organised areas will either build on or choose to create something even better and the weaker areas will at least have a good basic online presence to work from and localise.
    A full set of templates for all of the required actions through the year and through each Campaign cycle should also be made available too.

  6. ‘CONNECT is free at the point of use’.

    But only because the cost is compulsory deducted ‘upstream’ from Members subs -only a tiny % of which ever find their way down to Local Party coffers.

    Even those Local Parties who still use EARS or some other system have the cost of CONNECT removed from their Members subs and have no say in the matter.

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