How to persuade voters to change their mind: LDN #163

Liberal Democrat Newswire #163 came out last week, with a look at the latest on Lib Dem general election plans, how to persuade voters to change their minds, what the polls are saying and more.

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.

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The autumn Liberal Democrat federal conference in Brighton is fast approaching, and with it being held both online and offline, I look forward to meeting many readers in person or virtually next month.

The full agenda is now out, including climate change, Europe, nuclear weapons and a keynote speech from Kira Rudik, from one of our sister parties in Ukraine. You can register here.

Before we get to this time’s edition, a warm welcome to Jon Tandy, the former Labour Mayor and Parliamentary candidate, who has just joined the Liberal Democrats.

Best wishes,


P.S. If you missed it, last time’s edition – “Six lessons from Tiverton and Honiton” – is available online here.

How to persuade people

Tom Stafford, a cognitive scientists at the University of Sheffield, has an excellent email newsletter which recently looked at what research tells us about how people change their minds:

“Once you move from viewing minds as objects which need to be shunted by the mechanical forces of evidence and argument, you can see the crucial truth that the answer to “how do minds change?” is “by themselves” (with sidehelpings of “usually slowly” and “by small increments ”).

“The groups that have had some success with changing opinions – such those developing the “Deep Canvassing”* technique for doorstep conversations around polarising issues – focus more on creating rapport and connecting issues to personal experience than on delivering facts or reasons. The forces internal to each mind are more powerful in creating lasting change than any external force.

“Each of us should have the humility to recognise that the best we can do is create fertile circumstances for other people to explore an issue.”

To boil that down to a trite saying: the more you show you dislike to someone, the less persuasive you’ll be.

Or, to give the point the authoritative veneer of an Abraham Lincoln quote, warning fellow temperance campaigners how to (fail) to persuade drinkers of the virtues of temperance:

“If you would win a man to your cause, first convince him that you are his sincere friend..

“[But if you] mark him as one to be shunned and despised, and he will retreat within himself, close all the avenues to his head and his heart.”

You can subscribe to his (Tom’s, not Abraham’s) free email newsletter here.

* I am a sceptic of the fashion for deep canvassing in the US, but for other reasons. When you work out the time and money it takes to persuade a voter via deep canvassing, it looks remarkably inefficient. But that’s an argument for another time. One which I’ll start by telling you how wise you are.

Removing the Conservatives from power

With our Brighton conference approaching (agenda and registration here), I’ve recently written the latest report back to conference on the Board’s work. Here is a slightly expanded and updated version of that report from the party website.

The next general election

With a new Conservative Party leader nearly upon us, the range of plausible dates for the general election is wide open. As it now may well be much sooner than seemed likely at the time of our last conference, the Federal Board has been reviewing our general election plans.

Preparations are being stepped up across the party. The pre-manifesto document being debated at conference is an important part of that as is Ed Davey’s announcement of a major new package to help people with their fuel bills this winter – axing the planned increase in the fuel bill cap and providing extra help to those most in need.

This all makes now an even more important time for us all to be out on the doorsteps, recruiting new members and campaign helpers. There’s been a clear pattern in our recent electoral successes at all levels that building up campaign organisations well in advance of the formal election campaign is a central element to success.

A Membership Incentive Scheme is in place, with generous additional payments to local parties who recruit or renew party members locally, especially if it is done on direct debit.

Thanks in particular to our wonderful three Parliamentary by-election wins in the last year, when that general election comes, we’ll be a key part of the route to removing the Conservatives from government in Westminster.

That makes the Parliamentary seats in the (variously and flexibility defined) Blue Wall an increasingly important focus for us as the next general election polling day nears. But the majority of our councillors, our members and our voters are outside the Blue Wall.

So it’s not only the target seats for the next Westminster election we need to prosper at. We also need to be winning at other levels of election more broadly. We need to continue the sort of breadth in our recovery we saw in May’s local elections – amazing progress against the Conservatives in the Blue Wall and continuing recovery elsewhere, including up against Labour and the nationalists. Both of these tracks need to be successful for us to be a growing, national party.

That’s why the Board has continued to prioritise investment in the breadth of our campaigns officers network, supporting not only Parliamentary target seats but also progress in other areas too. Thank you to all the other parts of the party who have cooperated on this, giving us a much larger network of staff supporting grassroots campaigning than we had before.

Could you be a Returning Officer?

With Parliamentary selections picking up across the country, there has never been a better time to volunteer to be a Liberal Democrat Returning Officer.

Every Parliamentary selection is run by a trained Returning Officer – and although it is not a task for everyone, it’s a really valuable role that we need more volunteers for. Returning Officers need to be organised and methodical, to understand and interpret the rules, solve problems and work constructively with people whose perspectives on a situation may differ.

Does this sound like you or someone you know? If so, please contact / ask them to contact your Regional Candidates Chair in England or state Candidates Chair in Scotland and Wales to discuss the role and the availability of training. If you need putting in touch with the relevant person, just drop me a line.

There’s a training session being run on the Sunday morning at Conference, so now is a great time to get people thinking about this role.

Note that a Returning Officer cannot run selections for the local party of which they are a member, but they can help others so that others can help you.

Treating our staff well

I am glad to report that the Federal Party has been awarded the ‘excellence’ status by the Good Work Standard for how we go beyond legal minimum requirements in looking after staff.

Another important part of treating staff well is taking action when others, such as members, fail to do so. That has been one of the reasons behind the new Code of Conduct for Members and Registered Supporters that the Board is putting to Autumn federal conference for ratification (see details in the main agenda). Disagreement, debate, highlighting things that have gone wrong, pushing people to do their best – these are all very welcome, but when it steps over the line, it’s important we are all willing to step in and take action to stop it.

Improving our data and technology

This has been one of the priorities for our Federal budget in the last two years, as providing our grassroots campaigners across the party with the best online and data tools is an important part of being a successful campaign organisation in the 21st century. It’s also how we can ensure we continue to have a broad-based recovery in our political strength alongside the necessary focus on target seats as each polling day nears.

Our new website tool (Fleet), our new email tool (Targeted Email), our new events tools (Eventcube) and our new online donations tool are all being readied for local parties, and other parts of the party, to be able to start using later this year. These will include much better data integration, so that – for example – email address and petition information flows smoothly between our different tools.

You can find out more here.

Getting better at diversity and inclusion

This is both about putting our values into practice for how we operate as a party, and also about being more successful too – because more diverse and inclusive teams are also more successful teams.

Our new Diversity and Inclusion manager has now started at HQ, reflecting the priority we’re giving to this area of work in the light of the Thornhill Review.

Our federal party HQ has also been accredited with the highest level possible by the disability confident scheme. This demonstrates as an employer we are leading the way in providing a great working environment for those with long-term health conditions.

We recognise that there are many people within the Party that are working on initiatives to improve diversity, this year we have worked on connecting those people and creating a network of knowledge that reaches beyond regions and local parties. This year we feel the biggest change has been the sharing of stories and practical tools that will improve the diversity of our membership.

We have created a central repository of support material, located on the Campaigns Hub. Along with onboarding documents for Diversity Officers, this will help them feel part of a bigger team rather than on their own.

We have a clear plan of action which is reported to the Federal People Development Committee (FPDC) and supports our strategy to focus on disability and race equality. There is still lots to be done.

An appeal over the conduct of the Vice President by-election last year was finally concluded in July, with the appeal being rejected. (This does perhaps also show Conference’s wisdom in voting for a shorter and clearer internal elections appeals process in the spring.) Normally, the Board would do a review after an internal election, but as this was a by-election and now not much time is available until the next internal elections, instead we directed feedback at the Returning Officer team for the next elections. The by-election can then be included in the next full review after this autumn’s elections.

That Returning Officer team will be headed up by David Crowther who the Board appointed over the summer to the new federal Returning Officer post.

The Board has also agreed the following measures to help ensure improving diversity and inclusion is at the heart of the Board’s approach to filling party posts:

“The Federal Board will regularly report to the Federal Council on all the party roles that it has filled, whether by election or appointment, including providing details of measures taken to enhance the party’s diversity, data on the diversity of its appointments and the measures the Board takes to evaluate candidates and to judge their performance before deciding whether or not to re-elect or re-appoint them.”

We’ve adopted this in part because often the Board is filling one post here or two posts there – and so there’s a risk that the pattern across all these appointments is not the one we would want or need.

Complaints process

The volume of complaints in our independent system has continued to fall. After peaking at over 300 in 2020, it is now consistently under 100, and still declining. There is more detail in the Lead Adjudicator’s report to conference and the Board report to conference reports back on the latest changes to the process, based on feedback from both those who run our independent complaints system and from those who have been participants in it.

Thank yous

As Autumn conference sees the final Board report back to Conference of this three-year cycle, now is a good time to thank everyone who has helped the Board do its work on your behalf since the 2019 general election.

Particular personal thanks from me to the two vice chairs for the last three years, Elaine Bagshaw and Jeremy Hargreaves, and to the staff who work most closely with the Board to ensure its smooth operation, especially Jack Coulson, the party’s Company Secretary, Georgia Potter, Executive Assistant to the Chief Executive and President and our Chief Executive, Mike Dixon.

Thank you also to the many members who have responded to our consultations, read our reports, questioned our work at meetings and sent emails of concern (or sometimes praise!). All of those interactions help keep the Board in touch with party members and has made our decision making better. Thank you.

As ever, if you have questions on any of this, or other party matters, do get in touch on president@libdems.org.uk.

Do also get in touch if you’d like to invite me to do a Zoom call with your local party or party body. I’m always keen to do more of these as they’re a great way of hearing from the frontline what is and isn’t working.

Ban bonuses for water firm bosses: Lib Dems in the news

“A lot of Conservative voters are pretty alarmed. They think this government is incoherent, inconsistent and chaotic.” – Ed Davey has been speaking with The Economist. He’s also called for a ban on bonuses for water firm bosses until leaky pipes are fixed. (Don’t get me started on water leaks…)

Layla Moran has criticised Boris Johnson and Chancellor Nadhim Zahawi for both being on holiday at a key economic moment. Munira Wilson is urging the government to act as nine in 10 schools in England are in need of repair. Alistair Carmichael has attacked the Home Office for having four times as many people in PR than it has tackling fraud.

Over 200 affordable homes were delivered last year by Lib Dems in York, while energy efficient affordable homes in Watford have been recognised by the Housing Design Awards. Lib Dem run Cotswold Council has won a prestigious national award for the ‘Crowdfund Cotswolds’ initiative. The council leader appears to be happy. Mike Ross talks of his 20-year journey from being the country’s youngest councillor to leader of Hull Council.

Welsh Liberal Democrat leader, Jane Dodds, has called for Plaid Cymru to remove the whip from the MP for Carmarthen East and Dinefwr after he was cautioned by the police over domestic violence. Scottish Lib Dem leader Alex Cole-Hamilton has, to his credit, been sanctioned by the Russian government.

Simon Hughes has been awarded an Honorary Fellowship of King’s College London. A plaque has been unveiled to honour Dadabhai Naoroji, the first Asian liberal MP.

PODCAST: Conservative Party leadership election: who is going to win, and what does it mean for the Lib Dems?

What are Conservative Party members like? Who are they going to pick for party leader? And what does it mean for the Liberal Democrats?

Find out in the latest episode of Never Mind The Bar Charts, where I teamed up again with the Lib Dem Pod and ace expert, Professor Tim Bale.

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.

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

Increase in energy price cap should be scrapped

In case you missed them first time, here are a selection of posts from my websites since last time:

Lib Dems call for energy price cap increase to be scrapped.

Four in five back a windfall tax on energy and oil companies.

⭐ New plan for cross-party cooperation to secure PR.

Should political parties get off Twitter?

Fewer than a third of voters want more grammar schools.

Early voting pilots show why other reforms should be piloted in future.

What the polls are saying

Latest general election voting intention opinion polls

To give the latest figures some context, here’s the latest poll tracker graph from The i newspaper:

Poll tracker from The i

If you’d like to know more about what the polls are saying, how they work and when to trust – or ignore – them, check out my book Polling UnPacked: the history, uses and abuses of political opinion polls or my new weekly round-up ‘The Week in Polls’.

More Lib Dem progress in council by-elections

Although there were no gains (or losses) for the Lib Dems in principal authority council by-elections since last time, there’s continued to be an increase in the number of Lib Dems candidates and some very promising progress in wards that we were previously a long way off winning. Plus some impressive town/parish council results on top.

All the details here:

These results overall mean the Lib Dems continue to do the best in terms of net gains in by-elections since the May elections – net plus 20 so far. Full details here.

Elsewhere, a Liberal Democrat council member in Tunbridge Wells has left the party.

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.

Can you help?

Liberal Democrat Newswire is provided for free. Thank you so much to all the kind readers who donate to help cover its costs. It’s quick and easy to sign up for a small regular donation with your debit card using GoCardless:

Thank you! (Other donation options, including by PayPal or cheque, are here.)

Selection news

Parliamentary selections made public since last time include Liz Jarvis in Eastleigh.

The party is always in need of more volunteer Returning Officers to help run these selections. Do you know someone who might suit this role?

See all the Liberal Democrat Prospective Parliamentary Candidates (PPCs) selected and announced so far here. If you’ve spotted a selection I’ve missed and which is public, by all means hit reply and let me know.

How the media gets elections wrong

Elections are treated as special moments by the news industry. Additional journalists are allocated to covering the detail of day-by-day political news, coverage is expanded and new features are added. Even special logos and straplines are rolled out. The result, however, is a misleading mess.

Find out why in a free chapter from my book Bad News: what the headlines don’t tell us.

And finally…

The BBC has dug out of its archives footage of me at the 1994 Liberal Democrat conference in Brighton. Possibly because of who else features in it. (I still have the green top, and it still fits, in case you were wondering.)

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

Thank you and best wishes,


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