What’s the secret behind building lots of houses and winning lots of elections? LDN #169

Liberal Democrat Newswire #169 came out last week, featuring the Lib Dem council leader with one of the best records in the country at building houses, and also one of the best records in the country at winning council election. What’s the secret behind this? Read on to find out.

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I’m looking forward to meeting many readers at the spring Lib Dem conference in York, for which the full agenda has just been published. (It’d be interesting to know how many readers will be coming to conference – do hit reply to let me know yes, not this time, or no.)

That also means nominations are open for the latest Party Awards. Nominate someone amazing here.

As we’re also coming up to candidate nomination time for the local elections, now’s a good time to remember why it’s so important for our party’s success that we stand candidates more often in local elections. This time in England it’s also easier than ever before with the new rules (already in place in Scotland for a while) about only needing two signatures on nomination papers rather than than ten.

More on why it’s important here – and thank you to everyone putting in hard work to find, approve and nominate more candidates.

Best wishes,


P.S. If you missed it, last time’s edition, The Year Ahead for the Liberal Democrats, is here.

PODCAST: How to build homes, and win elections

The latest edition of Never Mind The Bar Charts is set to be one of the most popular episodes ever. Why? Because it’s both about housing – how to get new homes built, even on green fields – and also about winning elections.

Those two things are too often seen as opposites, but Eastleigh Council leader Keith House explained to me how they’ve pulled off doing both – and how doing one helps achieve the other.

Perhaps the most important insight is about how to take the concerns that people express about new developments seriously and engage with them properly. For example, if they say they are worried about the local GP service not being able to cope with new homes, don’t dismiss that as an insincere alibi for nimbyism but instead get the GP service expanded at the same time as, or even before, the new homes are built.

Find out more about how Liberal Democrats in power are making that happen by taking 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.

A very special opportunity beckons this May

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

We have a chance this May to achieve something we’ve only ever managed twice before in our party’s entire history: make it five rounds of local election net gains in a row.

We should be excited about that possibility. Not only for reasons of psephology but also for reasons of power.

Every gain we make will mean more people benefiting from Liberal Democrats in office, and every gain we make will mean more opportunity to turn our policies into action.

Policies such as the great record in Eastleigh of building new houses – and keeping on winning elections.

To keep our run of local election gains going in May we need two things: candidates and teams to help them. The last time this round of seats were up for election, our calculations show that we missed out on several hundred (yes, hundred) further gains because we didn’t have enough candidates in winnable territory.

Centrally, the party is doing more to publicise the opportunities to be a candidate and to encourage more people to think about i., (The data from these surveys ends up in Lighthouse so it’s available to all local parties.)

But nothing quite beats the in person conversation, the chat over coffee, to help more people realise what a great candidate and councillor they would be.

That’s particularly important for potential candidates for under-represented groups, who can need that extra encouragement that our party is a welcoming home for them.

Then we need to get our candidates elected, which is where help from people who don’t have local elections in their own area can be so important. Going to help in person or picking up the phone to make some calls makes the difference in close contests.

If you can help with either of these tasks, please do. There’s also a wide range of free training available to help you make the most of these opportunities.

Working together, we can get more Liberal Democrats elected and get more things done such as turning a disused rubbish tip bequeathed by a Conservative-run council into a successful solar farm, helping our planet and generating income to pay for high quality local services.

The paradox at the heart of British politics

Alongside that local picture, there’s a paradox in our national politics we also need to navigate our way through.

The public increasingly views Brexit negatively. The headline figures show a slow but sustained, long-term trend.

Some of this change comes from long-term demographic trends as those joining the adult population are overall much more pro-European than the average. Some of it too comes from people changing their minds – although much of that is a churn to/from don’t know.

In fact, when YouGov recently asked about how people would vote in a new referendum, there was only a net 1.5% of people switching direct all the way from Leave to Remain. Moreover, those increasing pro-European views are also often quite soft. Put simply, the more that the possible conditions of Britain rejoining the EU are mentioned, the further support drops.

Even so, the overall trends are clearly headed in the right direction given our pro-Europeanism. Yet there is a paradox here. Because while public opinion is increasingly negative about Brexit, public opinion is even more strongly of the view that the most important issues to people, their families and to the country are other topics.

Different pollsters ask these questions in different ways, but the pattern of answers is similar. That pattern matters because, as the last general election showed, however much we might wish the election to be about one issue, in a democracy the voters get to choose what an election is about – and they can choose to make it about something else.

Today the most important issues are the economy, cost of living and health services. These affect people directly, now, in very practical and obvious ways.

Many people face big waits for a GP appointment, can’t get on an NHS dentist waiting list, worry about ambulance times if things do go wrong, and millions are stuck on waiting lists.

Overwhelmingly, the public wants to hear those who seek to lead them concentrating on these issues. Talking about other issues instead can feel at best like missing the point and at worst disrespectful to the immediate pressures and worries they face.

The way to show these voters we understand their lives is to talk about the economy, the NHS, practical issues in their area affecting their lives, and the underlying sense of being taken for granted by the Conservatives.

Party Awards: get your nominations in

With our spring federal conference just around the corner, now is the time to get your nominations in for our Party Awards. We’ll be giving our four awards in York, recognising colleagues who have shown great leadership, newer members who have already made a major contribution to the party, great election campaigners and those who make fantastic contributions behind the scenes.

More details and links to nominate great people you know here.

How Lib Dems improve health and social care provision

Earlier this month I did a local party event with members in Somerset, which is now home to the largest Liberal Democrat group in the country. It’s impressive what the team there is doing with political power, including building a new net zero school and also innovative work with the NHS.

As The Times recently reported:

Health leaders in Somerset recognise that many traditional models of healthcare are not fit for the future. Instead of demanding more from stretched employees or pouring money into hospitals, they believe solutions to the NHS crisis can be found in the village halls, park benches and farmers’ markets at the heart of Somerset’s communities. Patients are kept at home as long as possible, rather than “chucked” somewhere else. And if they do have to be admitted to hospital, it is designed as an experience which should “empower” them…

This focus on keeping patients active and independent pays off: more than half of patients who spend time on the ward go home with a less intensive package of social care support than was originally planned. Patients waiting to be discharged get stronger and are rehabilitated, rather than deteriorating as their muscles waste away…

“We have no right to move people from their own homes and chuck them somewhere else,” says Mel Lock, Somerset’s director of adult social care. “How would you like it if you were whipped into hospital then moved into care and never got home again? You could never pack your bags or say goodbye to your house. Hospitals are there to mend people. People already have a bed — their own bed in their own homes. Let’s get them back there.”

That’s why getting more Liberal Democrats elected is so important.

The Board’s priorities

At our January meeting, the Federal Board has reviewed the core priorities set out in the strategy motion passed by conference earlier this Parliament:

  • Developing a compelling and distinctive narrative

  • Campaigning excellence

  • Improving our record on diversity and inclusion

  • Giving our members and registered supporters an excellent experience

  • Working together as one party

We’ve agreed that these still make sense, and therefore rather than proposing a new framework to conference, we’re concentrating on working with others in the party on the next phase of implementing them.

Other parts of the party, particularly the three state parties for England, Scotland and Wales, have important responsibilities in these areas too and the Board’s plans are deliberately aligned with their priorities. The resources that the state parties allocate are an important part of making a success of the overall strategy.

Our Board agendas for the rest of the year are being planned around these priorities, with the meetings cycling around aspects of each of them to look at. For our February meeting the focus will be on internal communications and then at the meeting after that we will be looking at our approach to improving the party’s record on diversity and inclusion.

Filling party posts

Thank you to everyone who has recently applied for one of the 30+ federal party posts we’re currently filling across various committees and party bodies. At time of writing, these applications and elections are still underway, so watch out in future reports for news of who the new people are along with the York spring conference agenda which includes three proposed new members of the Federal Appeals Panel.

All these sorts of roles are advertised on the party website, in the Work for Us section. Do keep an eye on that page if you might be interested in future opportunities.

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.

Sewage leaks in hospitals: Lib Dems in the news

Lib Dem digging showing how frequently our hospital suffer from sewage leaks has been all over the media, including The Guardian, the BBC and the Daily Mail, showing how the issue is an effective one to raise right across the political spectrum. More details in the party’s press release here. Oh for the days when it was only collapsing roofs that patients and staff had to worry about.

It’s but the latest Lib Dem research-led story about the NHS to get heavy media coverage, with Ed Davey also in the news recently over shocking A&E waiting times, how to fix the NHS and the need to pay social care staff better, while Daisy Cooper has been in the news over the government’s failure even to get planning permission for its promised new hospitals and the missing of cancer diagnosis targets. All this health campaigning is going down well in the Blue Wall.

And sewage keeps on getting covered too. It’s been the cause of one of the most successful Lib Dem tweets, helped by one Gary Lineker and of a Lib Dem success in Parliament, ensuring that water firms will lose access to some public funds unless they plan to stop UK sewage spills.

Ed Davey’s recent Sky interview was described by one of their team as, “You will rarely see a politician give such a raw account of why they think something really matters.” Take a watch here. His message for LGBT History Month is here.

Layla Moran has set out in the media how to rebuild the UK’s relationship with Europe, while Ed Davey has been pointing out how the party has been proved right about the Brexit deal. (For full details of the party’s four-step plan on Europe, see the full policy paper approved by conference.)

The Welsh Liberal Democrats have a new TV film out, as do the Scots.

Wendy Chamberlain has raised questions over Gavin Williamson’s knighthood and Wera Hobhouse wants a ban on forced installations of pre-payment meters. Sarah Olney is on the case about the loss of 4,000 phones given to people on probation. Richard Foord has got to ask his first question at Prime Minister’s Questions.

New Conservative Deputy Chairman Lee Anderson is proving a hit… with Lib Dem campaigners, gifting the party plenty of positive media coverage.

A Cheltenham councillor got into the BBC for his ‘war on wee’ and Wokingham Lib Dems have opened their first permanent office in John Redwood’s constituency.

Colin Ferguson is the new leader of Newcastle Lib Dems, while James Baker is standing down as leader in Calderdale. Solihull Liberal Democrat Paul McCabe is running the London Marathon to raise money for cancer research. Cllr Josh Babarinde was picked by The Voice as one of 23 to watch in 2023.

A former Labour councillor’s case in an election legal battle with Lib Dems has dramatically fallen apart.

Finally, it’s apparently news that the Lib Dems hope to defeat Conservative MPs at the next general election.

Layla Moran tweet about the deadnaming of a murder victim

The Prime Minister’s strange mistake

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

Other things to do with a pothole.

How do local councillors think their own party has performed? See how Lib Dem councillors rate their party compared with how councillors of other parties rate theirs.

Nadine Dorries broke rules – official watchdog.

More scandal hits the MP for Somerton and Frome.

Former Labour MP Jared O’Mara (who defeated Nick Clegg) guilty of expenses fraud.

The strange mistake Rishi Sunak is making.

The strange neglect of the Conservative Party’s London problem.

What political science could learn from a diet book.

Mark Pack speaking in Tunbridge Wells

One of my recent Lib Dem talks, this time with pizza in Tunbridge Wells. Hit reply and let me know if you’d like me to do one in your patch.

What the polls are saying

Latest general election voting intention opinion polls

To give the latest figures some context, here’s an up-to-date poll tracker graph:

Polling graph from Election Maps UK

And here are the issues that the public says are the most important to them:

Ipsos monthly issues tracker

I also write a weekly round-up of political polling, The Week in Polls. Stories since last time include:

Council by-elections round-up

It’s generally been a good run of council by-elections for the Lib Dems since last time, with gains from the Conservatives from Cornwall to Cambridgeshire and from Cheltenham to North Yorkshire. There was a frustratingly narrow loss to the Greens in Bristol but also promising progress against Labour in a northern England by-election. Alas, there are still too many contests without a Lib Dem.

Overall, the picture since May now is of a net +17 Lib Dem gains, catching up on Labour’s +22 and well ahead of the Green’s +7. The Conservatives are down on -42.

Elsewhere, two Liberal Democrat councillors switched to independents in Powys before being joined by a third, and one to the Conservatives in Oadby and Wigston. One has however joined the Lib Dems from independents in Arun and another in Luton.

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

Selections made public since last time include Thom Campion (Berwick-upon-Tweed), Tara Copeland (Leyton and Wanstead), Neil Darby (Preston), Vicky Downie (Wallasey), Paul Edgeworth (Houghton and Sunderland South), Tom Gordon (Harrogate & Knaresborough), Niall Hodson (Sunderland Central), Linda Johnson (Haltemprice & Howden), Angus MacDonald (Ross, Skye and Lochaber), Claire Malcomson (East Surrey), John Milne (Horsham), Edward Morello (West Dorset), Ciaran Morrissey (Washington and Sunderland West), James Sandbach (Ipswich), Martin Sawyer (Northampton North), Jonathan Smith (Tatton) and Stewart Tolley (Northampton South).

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.

And finally…

I have some questions about Jamie Stone’s canvassing technique.

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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