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.

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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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