Most people don’t know last time’s result in their own seats: LDN #151

Liberal Democrat Newswire #151 came out last week, and you can now read it in full below, but if you’d like the convenience of getting it direct by email in future just sign up for it here.

What do you think the phrase ‘Progressive Alliance’ means? People certainly have strong views on whether one would be a good or a bad move, but are people talking about the same thing? Take part in my latest mini online survey and let’s find out (and do feel free to share the link with other Lib Dems). Results next time.

It costs just £1 to register for the Liberal Democrat autumn conference if you’ve never come to one before. So even if you fear being put off within five minutes by my opening speech, now is a great time to try (virtually) attending one for the first time. Registration details for everyone from first times to decades long veterans here. Agenda, with details of all the motions here.

There’s still time to nominate people for the Party Awards, and you can see the fabulous set of winners from the Young Liberals conference awards here.

Not quite as good value but still jolly good value is the special offer on my books for Newswire readers. You can get both Bad News: what the headlines don’t tell us and the new third edition of 101 Ways To Win An Election for just £20 in total from Biteback. Use the code packpromo on checkout to get your special price. Happy reading!

Best wishes,


P.S. If you didn’t yet have the chance to read last time’s edition, you can catch up on it here: 8 lessons from Chesham and Amersham.

In this edition:

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Most voters don’t know the top two in their constituency

Newly published research shows that ahead of the 2019 general election most voters in England and Wales were not able to correctly name the parties that finished first and second at the previous general election in their seat.

Over two-thirds of people knew who the winner was, the others either thinking they did but getting the winner wrong or confessing that they did not know. But fewer than four in ten named the second placed party correctly. Only just over a third (35%) got both the first and second place party right. (I’d expect those numbers to have been somewhat higher in Scotland given the very high proportion of constituency seats won by the SNP in recent elections.)

Knowledge was better the closer the 2019 result had been, but only the most marginal of seats saw more than half getting the second place party right.

Graphs from Mellon academic article on tactical voting

Regular readers will not be surprised at yet more evidence of how limited the public’s attention is to politics. The public pays as much attention to election results as I pay to the pop charts. (They’re still presented by Kid Jensen, yes?)

It’s one of the reasons why bar charts (millimetre perfect, please) are so prevalent in winning Lib Dem campaigns. It may be obvious to political insiders who a contest is between. It requires lots of hard work to make that obvious to the typical voter too.

What’s happening in the party?

Here’s my latest report for Liberal Democrat members and supporters, from the party website:

Only £1 to come to conference

Our autumn federal party conference is being held online in September. There’s a brilliant offer for people who have not come to conference before: you can register for just £1.

Conference will include an important trio of linked debates: on our party’s values, our policy platform and our strategy. Traditionally, we have debated these separately at conference, even years apart. But all three need to fit together in a coherent way – which is one of the lessons from the 2019 election post-mortem. So this time we’re doing things differently.

The values and platform come from our Federal Policy Committee (FPC), while the strategy is being proposed by the Board. It sets out the practical approach which is needed to grow our party and win more elections, securing us more political power to deliver on what we believe.

Among the other conference items is also the latest stage in developing our post-2019 European policy, which you can read about here.

As I mentioned last month, the Board has also put in some important proposals for conference to decide on, including boosting our party bodies with an improved, simpler structure and set of rules. These come from the Party Body Review Group, which has run an extensive consultation with existing party bodies before drawing up the plans.

The full conference agenda and reports to conference booklet are both now out.

Additional support for the Racial Diversity Campaign (RDC)

The RDC, chaired by Ade Adeyemo, works to improve the diversity of our candidates by finding, training and supporting talented people through approval, selection and election.

I’m glad to  report that Ade and our Chief Executive, Mike Dixon, have agreed a £5,000 grant to RDC to support its work through the rest of this year. That’s a crucial time for selections in our most winnable seats. The RDC’s work is an important complement to the Project Stella work to support selected candidates. We need both to succeed.

Pastoral care

Being involved in politics should be fun and rewarding. But it can be stressful and at times any of us may need to turn to others for help or support.

Often that support can best come from colleagues in your local party or a party body you are active in. But sometimes help is needed elsewhere, and so a new piece on the party website sets out the support that is available.

Progress in improving our complaints system

When our new complaints system was introduced, rather than having a quiet start which let it establish itself, it had to deal with a much higher volume of complaints than predicted. Thanks to excellent work by both staff and volunteers, we’ve now had six months in a row where the number of closed complaints has been greater than the number of new ones opened. When the Steering Group reviewed progress in July, the number of open complaints had just fallen under 200 for the first time since the numbers started being tracked.

As that six months includes the big May elections – a time when complaints might be expected to spike – this is a good sign that the problems of volume are being resolved.

Of course, the number of open complaints is not the only way to judge a complaints system and there are other areas that need work too. The Board report to this autumn’s conference includes a report on improvements to the system’s rules. There’s both a foreword setting out the reasons for the changes, explaining how they flow from the consultations with members earlier this year, as well as the details of the new rules.

Our new federal party offices

As I mentioned in previous reports, we’re moving out of the party offices in Great George Street, Westminster. The new offices are better, cheaper and, both recognising the switch to working from home and more party staff being based outside London, smaller.

We’ve now left the old Great George Street offices and the finishing touches are being made to the new ones at 1 Vincent Square, London. There’s no problem continuing to use the old address, such as on posters or old stocks of membership forms, as post is continuing to be re-redirected.  There will be more communication within the party about the new offices as they start to open up for people to use.

A couple of weeks ago I popped into the new space, and it’s going to be such a better working environment for everyone. Saving money is important, but so too is giving staff and volunteers a decent environment to work in. No holes in the floor here.

Nominate someone amazing

Nominations are open for our Party Awards, to be presented at the autumn conference. You’ve got six different categories under which brilliant, dedicated people can be nominated. Please do take a moment to think about nominating someone as these awards are a great way of us all saying thank you to people for amazing contributions. Details are on the party website.

Changes on party committees

Mary Regnier-Wilson has been elected chair of the Federal People Development Committee (FPDC), filling in for Bess Mayhew while Bess is on maternity leave. Congratulations to both Bess and Mary.

Congratulations also to Chris Adams on being elected one of the Federal Conference Committee (FCC) Vice Chairs. He takes over from Nick Da Costa, following Nick’s election as FCC chair.


Our August Steering Group will be looking at our ethical safeguards for donations, progress on the 2022 budget, how we get the best oversight of party technology projects and whether we need to change any of the rules around indemnifying officers and directors of Liberal Democrats Limited for actions they take on behalf of the party.

Feedback on these or any other matters is very welcome. You can get in touch on president@libdems.org.uk.

PODCAST: Lessons from football for political campaigning

With the a new edition of 101 Ways To Win An Election out, I chatted with co-author Ed Maxfield for the latest episode of Never Mind The Bar Charts.

Roaming across Black Lives Matter, William Wilberforce, Matt Hancock, how the music industry is changing and one of the worst answers given in a political debate, we talked about political campaigning, our favourite chapters from our own book and other books we’d recommend.

Take a listen here.

🎧 Find all the episodes of Never Mind The Bar Charts here and sign up for an email notification each time a new episode appears here.

📱 Find Never Mind The Bar Charts on Twitter, give feedback and send in questions or ideas for future shows at @barchartpodcast.

First Lib Dem PPC selection for this Parliament

Bobby Dean is the first Lib Dem Prospective Parliamentary Candidate (PPC) selected for the next general election. He’s been picked in Tom Brake’s former constituency of Carshalton and Wallington.

The party has an extensive range of support available for people from under-represented groups who are thinking of standing for Parliament. So if that’s you, or you know someone who it might be, please do get in touch and I’m happy to point you in the right direction.

Where is the Blue Wall, and how big is it?

In case you missed them first time, here are the key posts from my websites since last time:

🔨 Where is the Blue Wall, and how big is it?

Alistair Carmichael disassociates Lib Dems from Vince Cable’s comments on China.

What does a London Assembly Member do? A day with Hina Bokhari.

Ed Davey calls for ministerial code to be properly enforceable.

🙌 Labour council candidate joins Lib Dems in Harrogate.

Four in five Labour members back electoral reform for Westminster.

Tributes as Newcastle councillor Anita Lower dies.

What the public is saying: voting intention

Latest general election voting intention opinion polls 7 August 2021

What the public is saying: health, economy top their concerns

Regular issue tracking data from both YouGov and Ipsos-MORI finds that people say the two most important issues facing our country are health and the economy.

YouGov’s latest data has them on 50% and 44% respectively, with the pair having been the top two issues all year. The environment has moved up to third, on 33%. Closely tied behind that is immigration on 27% and relations with Europe on 26%. Ipsos-MORI use a different methodology, with an open-ended question rather than YouGov’s use of a list of answers to pick from. But when those answers are collated, they produce a similar picture. Coronavirus is top at 56% (not a separate option with YouGov), followed by the economy on 27% and healthcare on 24%. On its figures, Europe just comes out ahead of the environment – 23% and 21% respectively – and education is also on 21%. Immigration comes out much lower on its figures, at 13%.

Some differences then, but a pattern of health and economy dominant, with the environment and Europe in a less tier of importance to the public at the moment but featuring strongly. Also common across both pollsters is the lowly importance given to housing by the public, 16% with YouGov and 12% with Ipsos-MORI. It’s one of the continuing paradoxes of politics that although housing is one of the easiest topics to get people talking about, it rarely comes out high when people are asked what they think are the most important issues. (An exception being polling for Mayor of London elections, the one set of Mayor elections to be regularly polled.)

What the public is saying: by-elections

There are signs of a boost in council by-election results for the Lib Dems since the Chesham and Amersham Parliamentary by-election:

Meanwhile, Joanna Wright has switched to the Greens in Bath.

To get the full council by-election results every week, sign up for my blog posts digest and to be prepared for a council by-election in your patch, see my 7-step guide to getting ready in advance.

Wisdom from Twitter

Tom Parkin tweet on Labour attitudes to Lib Dems


Liberal Democrats in the news

Pauline Pearce, aka the Hackney Heroine, features in a lovely Newsweek piece written by the person she rescued during the London riots ten years ago.

Leaving aside the journalese in the piece about how it’s up to Ed Davey when and where the party selects Parliamentary candidates, The i had a good write-up of Ed Davey on the party’s plans for the next general election. He also used the Channel 4 Political Slot to explain what’s wrong with the Conservative Party’s housing plans and wrote in The Independent on why we must do more to support carers. He’s also been in the news on Boris Johnson’s failure to keep tree planting promises.

Willie Rennie has stood down as Lib Dem leader in Scotland, giving a fascinating interview to The Scotsman. Alex Cole-Hamilton is in the running to succeed him.

Lib Dem leader in the Lords Dick Newby has been looking at the lessons from recent Parliamentary by-elections for progressive alliances.

Layla Moran has been highlighting the damage to girls’ education from cuts to foreign aid as well as the continuing chaos over border checks and coronavirus. Christine Jardine has been supporting  moves to give more workers rights to flexible working and Wera Hobhouse has been campaigning to make misogyny a hate crime.

Kirsty Williams has talked about the death threats she faced when in office in and her plans after standing down from the Welsh Senedd in May.

Keep your data safe with Backblaze

When I first heard about it, I thought the Backblaze online backup service was just too good to be true. An online backup service which quietly backs up all of your computer all the time, to whatever volume of data and for a mere $6 a month? But that indeed is just what it is. Read on to find out more and sign up for a free trial with my affiliate link…

And finally…

If you enjoyed this newsletter, why not forward to a friend and let them know they can sign-up here for future editions?

Thank you and best wishes,


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