Many thanks to everyone who took part in my latest mini-survey, this time looking at views on the hustings format for the party leadership election.
It’s not a rigorous opinion poll. Rather it’s more like the collected feedback from lots of conversations in the queue for coffee and chocolate biscuits at Liberal Democrat events. Those are useful views to hear and to know, as long as the usual caveats about such data are also born in mind.
The main finding is that, as with my previous survey about the move to online local party meetings, people really liked the use of online hustings in the 2020 party leadership election. As a result, people took part in more hustings than they would have if they had been physical events. It looks like, both from the survey and from the viewership statistics from the hustings, that more people went to at least one hustings, and people also went to more hustings than before too. While in previous physical leadership contests it was pretty unusual for anyone to go to more than one hustings, this time plenty of people took the opportunity to watch more than one.
Engagement with members and supporters, therefore, was both broadened and deepened.
The other notable finding is that new formats we tried out for hustings got the best response. The traditional leadership election hustings format – one hustings per region, questions to all the candidates, no follow-ups allowed – is the format that was least popular.
The more a hustings format changed, the more people liked it.
Yet the old format that worked worst was also the format with the most vocal arguments in its defence ahead of the contest starting. As with the move to party conference online this year, there’s a lesson there about how the party is very good at coming up with long lists of reasons why something new will be a bad idea. Then once it’s seen for real, sentiment switching very quickly to how much better the new way of doing things is. And even sometimes the complaints come in about why such a change was not made sooner.
One final comment: the old-style hustings format is also the format widely used throughout the party for other elections too. I strongly encourage anyone involved in organising any of those to think about how the lessons from the leadership contest can be best applied to them too.
Here are highlights from the survey data:
Sign up to get the latest news and analysis