Two suggestions for general election feedback

Party members should now have received two emails with a link to the party’s initial election debrief survey (one before Christmas from Sal Brinton and Ed Davey and one this week).

If you don’t think you received the emails, then:

  • Try searching both your inbox and other email folders, including spam, for “I am honoured to be taking up post from the start of this year as President of the Liberal Democrats”, which is one of the sentences on the email from myself; and
  • If that doesn’t work, try the steps here.

In addition to the many submissions already to the survey (thank you!), a fair number of people have emailed me direct. Which prompts two thoughts about what helps make the difference when it comes to high-quality feedback, aside from the obvious that evidence is better than assertion.

First, make sure the criteria by which you are judging something a failure are really the right criteria to use.

A good example of this is political slogans. Here, for example, is a slogan that is easy to categorise as devoid of policy and something anyone could say: “Hope”. Which was also one of the most successful political slogans of this century so far.

Or if there’s a campaign tactic that was used in your seat but also in seats that we won, think carefully about whether it really was a cause of defeat in your seat – or whether you’re missing something else that was different between seats we won and lost.

The really useful criteria to use are those which distinguish success from failure.

Second, don’t assume that if you change one thing, nothing else will happen in response.

The problem with most Labour election postmortems...

There's a mistake being made by many of the Labour 2019 general election postmortems which the Liberal Democrats should learn from too. more

For example, you might think (and perhaps rightly) that the Lib Dems should have said something different on issue X. But you can only sensibly try to judge that such a change would have worked if you also factor in what other parties, the media and voters would have done in response to that change.

For example, if the party hadn’t said X, would Conservative-leaning newspapers have not then attacked the party – or would they instead have found some other grounds for attacking the party? Perhaps that still would have been better off, but you can only sensibly come to that conclusion if you take into account what the knock-on actions are likely to have been.

Likewise, if the party said A or did B in an effort, for example, to overcome the regular problem that many people don’t vote Lib Dem because they think the Lib Dems aren’t going to win, then if you want to argue against A or B, remember to take into account whether that problem they were trying to fix would have as a result been even bigger. We should only drop A and B if we can come up with a better solution or a way to side-step the issue completely.

I’ve been fairly abstract in the examples because I don’t want to prejudge what the feedback and then the independent election review will find – and I’m sure they will find much that we can do differently and do better next time around. Feedback will be crucial to that, and high-quality, carefully thought out feedback all the more.


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8 responses to “Two suggestions for general election feedback”

  1. Surely the decision to support a general election must rank among the most disastrous political judgments. What did our masters think we could gain from it. We already had a hung parliament, in which the Tories could not get any deal done.

    Realistically, how could it be possible to improve on this, even by quadrupling the number of seats won. If we waited long enough, the Tories would have had to take a gamble on a referendum or be seen as totally impotent. That would have been our moment to pounce, and banish Brexit.

    Any review of performance, including the obsequious pressure on the new leader to believe she could become prime minister, has to start from that position.

    • Is your first paragraph correct, Jonathan? You say the Tories could not get any deal done, but they had just won a vote to start getting the Withdrawal Agreement Bill through Parliament. Which does sort of then answer your second paragraph – how could we improve on a Parliament in which there was a majority to vote through Brexit? By having a general election (and of course by hoping for a better result than we ended up with). What’s your reason therefore for that key assumption – that there was no way the Tories could get a Brexit bill through the old Parliament?

  2. All fair points Mark. Of course there will be very few who will have a clear view of what worked well in other places but rebounded locally. It’ll certainly be an interesting job for those who do try to weigh these things up. Presumably the initial responses will be reviewed. Comments like the above added to the results of the initial responses can then be packaged to inform a harder look and second round of questions.

    • I think the key thing here is credibility. Revoke article 50 if we won a majority was not seen as credible so was dismissed by many people and may have damaged our whole credibility. Even though Labour played silly b***, I think it was wrong to stand against every Labour candidate. We could have been selective here and stood aside for pro EU candidates where it made some sense. Let’s not be too hard on us, we were squeezed by the two big parties and it would have been hard to change that. Where we failed to do was to get pro EU Tories / Labour to vote for us in sufficient numbers in seats we could have won.

  3. A couple of points. On slogans: they may or may not convey policy: “Hope” and “Bollocks to Brexit” both worked: the former indicates no policy, but the latter does. They need to be punchy and memorable: this should be obvious, but evidently isn’t always. Does a Liberal Democrat slogan convey something distinctively Liberal, or at least something we may more convincingly claim than the others can? “HOPE” would. Hope, rather than optimism, is characteristic of Liberals. I can’t see that “DEMAND BETTER” or A BRIGHTER FUTURE” met this (the latter doesn’t indicate how this brighter future should be achieved, whereas HOPE is saying, “YOU hope – and then we can achieve”. DEMAND BETTER does say we want major change, but just demanding is not enough. Compare with “TAKE POWER – VOTE LIBERAL”.

    On your point elsewhere about looking behind mistakes for the reasons for the mistakes: this is absolutely right, but the further you get from the raw experience of the campaign, the more debatable points are and the more likely to be what people thought anyway.

  4. Hi Mark. Hope you can help. I have definitely not received the second e mail. I have taken all the steps you advised but it is not appearing. I responded to the pre-Christmas feedback & am keen to go into more detail. Can you suggest how I can request for the survey to be e mailed to me. Thank you.

    • Can you drop me an email (mark.pack@libdemnewswire.com) with details of your email address and your local party? I can then pass on to the right people to get things checked.

  5. Good Day. Having been a member of the party or one of its predecessors for this did come over as the worst campaign we have run since 1987. Then Roy Jenkins the SDP Leader lost his seat and we had a net loss of one MP and we were running a poorly focused campaign alongside non- agreement amongst the leaders. We were also experiencing then another surge of Tory popularism designed to debilitate the less able in our society.
    In 2019, we did not seem to have a dynamic well run campaign which considered agreed options and tactics. Instead, we came over as Lemming like and appeared to rush into the headlights having not considered best policy priorities and citizen needs/wants. We seemed to be sadly more focused on social media than its worth and did not have an adequate and well-run target seat strategy nationally. Can we this time agree a plan for the future about regenerating and building Britain for all its people rather than suck it and see. Previous reviews have not been good, can we be honest and come up with a plan for growth, people and the future
    Think we should give Jo a medal for being our Hara-Kiri Pilot against impossible obstacles given the General Election Campaign Plan and adopting easily standard camapigning tactics.

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