Let’s make it five in a row (LDN #177)

The October Liberal Democrat Newswire reports on party award winners, the Mid-Bedfordshire by-election, an exciting new pamphlet 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.

Of course, this email has to start with Mid-Bedfordshire. More on that below, but in short – please do come and help if you can. There is still a remarkably large number of soft voters.

I hope many readers enjoyed Liberal Democrat conference in Bournemouth (and here are some fun photos as well as Ed Davey’s closing speech).

Conference passed For A Fair Deal, the party’s pre-manifesto document, which provides an up-to-date overall policy prospectus.

I’ll be at both the Scottish and Welsh conferences in the next few weeks as well as several regional ones in England, so hope to meet more readers there.

Before we get to this time’s edition, if you haven’t yet had a chance to read the last one, Two unexpected things, it is online here.

Happy reading,


P.S. I also do a weekly email about polling, The Week in Polls. It comes in free and paid-for versions, and any Lib Dem Newswire reader can get a 60 day free trial of the paid-for version with this special link.

Let’s make it five in a row

Here’s my latest report for Liberal Democrat members and supporters. These reports also appear on the party website.

You know what would be even better than four record book rewriting Parliamentary by-election wins in a row? Five.

That’s the opportunity we have with the Mid Bedfordshire by-election and our great candidate, Emma Holland-Lindsay. The issues that are big on the doorsteps are ones that will be familiar to us from campaigning all around the country – people feeling taken for granted by the Conservatives, worried about the cost of living and angry about the state of the NHS. And they think sewage should be sent to treatment plants rather than into our rivers and onto our beaches.

Polling day is 19 October and it’s absolutely one of those contests where people on the ground, talking to voters and visiting their letterboxes, will determine the outcome. It might have been a rock solid safe Conservative seat in the past, but no more!

What Have the Liberals Ever Done For Us?

That’s the title of an excellent new publication from the Liberal Democrat History Group. It comes with a preface by Ed Davey in which he says, “When you need to put your feet up after door-knocking, or to energise yourself for the next delivery round, read it to remember what we stand for and what we have done with the votes that people have lent us – and be inspired to campaign for even greater achievements in the future.”

More information about the new booklet is here and you can watch the launch event with Layla Moran, Sarah Olney, Wendy Chamberlain and Liz Barker here.

Bournemouth Conference

Many thanks to everyone who helped make such a success of our autumn conference, especially everyone who has contributed to our pre-manifesto, For A Fair Deal. That now gives us both a clear up-to-date prospectus of our overall policies and also (in the second chapter) sets our clearly our vision for the country.

If you missed out on our conference – or want to relive moments of it – you can (re)watch all the action on our website.

Conference kindly agreed the Board report, confirming the appointment of Tom Hood to the Federal Appeals Panel (FAP), and also passed our motion on the party’s finances for the next year. This froze our minimum membership subscriptions in recognition of the cost of living crisis and also included an agreed settlement with our three state parties on our mutual financial positions.

Answers to questions for the Board that were not taken in person at Bournemouth due to the time limits will appear on the party website as part of the conference reporting.

Our Party Awards winners

One of the best parts of the President’s role at our conferences is handing out our Party Awards to recognise the work of amazing colleagues around the country.

Our Bournemouth winners were:

The President’s Award – Caroline Pidgeon

First elected to the London Assembly in 2008 and serving ever since, Caroline announced last Autumn that she would be standing down next May. Having also served as a councillor in Southwark for many years, and also as the Lib Dem Mayoral candidate in 2016, Caroline was and is an absolute prizefighter.

The Harriet Smith Liberal Democrat Distinguished Service Award – Simon Mackenzie

Awarded to a Party Member showing outstanding commitment and service to the Party, Simon’s innovative solutions for processing the marked electoral register have saved thousands of hours of manual data entry. He is also a long-time activist for the party in Stratford-on-Avon, giving us a winning edge against our competitors in so many ways.

The Belinda Eyre-Brook Award – Millie Earl

Awarded to an individual who has shown outstanding dedication to our elected representatives in their local areas, Millie is recognised as an exceptional multi-tasking, multi-skilled and unflappable campaigner, who always manages to be kind and caring. Without her the Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole campaign of 2023 would not have got near to the impressive 13 gains they achieved – and leadership of the council.

The Dadabhai Naoroji Award – Oadby & Wigston Lib Dems

Awarded to the local party which has done the most to improve our diversity and inclusion, this award rightly goes to Oadby & Wigston Lib Dems. A fantastic outreach programme plus local election wins mean the council is now led by our first ever non-white female council leader, Cllr Samia Haq.

The David Penhaligon Award – Liverpool Lib Dems

Liverpool Lib Dems gained four seats in the May City Council elections and they have gained dozens of new members since. They topped the Lib Dem league tables for this quarter’s recruitment, with the majority being young female members. They are rightful winners of this award for the local party with the most impressive membership recruitment and involvement of their members and supporters

The Patsy Calton Award (awarded by Liberal Democrat Women) – Vikki Slade

Vikki is the leader of Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council, which we took control of in May and where she is now leading the team cleaning up the mess left by the Conservatives. She is also our candidate for Mid Dorset and Poole, deputy chair of both the Local Infrastructure and Net Zero Board at the LGA, and the Lib Dem Campaign for Gender Balance. This all makes Vikki a worthy winner of this award which recognises exceptional women in the party.

In news of other awards, congratulations to Rebecca Cave, one of the members of our Federal Audit and Scrutiny Committee (FASC) who won the John Stokdyk Outstanding Contribution Award at the 2023 Accounting Excellence Awards.

Congratulations also to our deputy leader Daisy Cooper whose health campaigning has been recognised with the Parliamentary award for access to dentistry by the Association of Dental Groups.

Other Board business

Two of the big items for our November meeting will be reviewing the detailed proposed figures for our 2024 budget and also taking a look at the governance arrangements for the next general election. This was a big area of concern for our 2019 election review, and although I am sure we’ve made very good progress since then, given the damage if we get this wrong, it’s wise to have a fresh look at our plans.

We also hope to receive by then a report from the Federal Audit and Scrutiny Committee (FASC) looking at the issues around the number of vacancies we’ve had on the Federal Appeals Panel (FAP). If FASC recommends any formal rules changes, that will need to come to conference, and doubtless we’ll have a debate about whether to try to to do that quickly or wait till after the general election.

My December report will include more details of what we decide on these and other issues.

Have questions on this report, or other party matters? Then please drop me a line 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.

Josh Babarinde

Meet the inspirational star who wants to be an MP

I’ve been honoured to have many great guests on Never Mind The Bar Charts but wow… my latest guest really blew me away with his moving life story and with the thought of just how exciting it would be to see him on the national political stage.

Come take a listen and meet Josh Babarinde from Eastbourne.

And don’t forget the previous episode, Values or the economy – what’s driving our politics? with Professor Paula Surridge.

🎧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

What’s the role for policy in winning elections?

For an IPPR fringe meeting at our Bournemouth conference, on the theme of what policy agenda would best appeal to the Blue Wall, I took the chance to talk about the role of policy more generally in election campaigning. You can either watch what I actually said, or read what I intended to say:

Thank you for the invite and it’s great to see think tanks, high quality newspapers and pollsters engaging once again so much more with the Lib Dems at this conference.

The best answer to that question, about what policy agenda the party needs, is to think about the role of policy in election campaigns specifically.

There are many important roles for policy in politics – for getting governing right, for being prepared in case you find yourself with a share of power, for being able to answer questions from the public consistently and clearly, and others.

But for winning votes specifically, the role of policy is often misunderstood. People often talk about it as if policy is the plot when in fact policy provides the props.

Let’s explain that.

There’s an idealised version of politics where people sit down with manifestos side by side, scoring up each page as they go and making a decision at the end on who to vote for based on which manifesto scored best.

But reality is very different. Reality is partly about a public which – for all sorts of good reasons – doesn’t spend that much time thinking about politics. A public among whom, for example, more than 8 in 10 couldn’t name a Conservative election slogan half way through the 2017 election campaign.

Rather, what matters hugely for winning over votes are competence and empathy – can you lot get things done and do you lot understand people like me?

That was true even with Boris Johnson, not the most plausible poster-boy for ‘people vote for competence’ you might think.

But that was the – dishonest – promise of his 2019 campaign – that he understood how fed up people were with the Brexit saga and that he was the one to cut through it all and get it over with, with his oven ready deal and his bulldozer driving photo op.

Reality of course caught up with him, but even his election win in the interim supports that point about how appearing to score well on competency and empathy are central to winning.

Which is why the role of policy is as a support, as the props to illustrate the plot.

Winning elections isn’t about a search for the magic match-winning policy that will have voters swooning.

Rather it’s about using policies to illustrate that empathy and that competence.

Policies are the vital and important props rather than the plot itself.

So for the Lib Dems that means the policy agenda that will work best – indeed, looking at the Parliamentary by-elections, is working best – is one that focus on those top concerns of people – cost of living and NHS in particular – and provides credible, tangible examples of how we’d make things better.

It’s why although there is so much to fix about the NHS, focusing on access to GPs makes sense. It’d be an immediate, practical improvement that shows an understanding of the difficulties ordinary people face and backed up by our policy team’s detailed work on GP recruitment and retention statistics to show how we can deliver it.

That’s the route to showing competence, expressing empathy – and winning elections.

Tragedy in the Middle East: Lib Dems in the news

The Middle East has tragically been dominating the headlines recently. Ed Davey spoke at the Vigil for Israel (watch here) and both Layla Moran and Alistair Carmichael set out the party’s approach to achieving peace in newspaper columns.

He’s also been writing about the SNP while Daisy Cooper revealed that nearly 4.5 million children in England were not seen by an NHS dentist in the last year, part of a worrying NHS picture which also includes rising waiting lists.

Sarah Olney is calling for an increase in apprenticeship pay and isn’t happy about the pay-off for Liz Truss. Christine Jardine wants to change the law on assisted dying and Tim Farron is angry at increases in water bills while directors get big bonuses.

Wendy Chamberlain features in a handy Channel 4 round-up of Lib Dem conference. It mentions the Lib Dem pledge for free social care in England that Ed Davey has also been pushing.

New data shows Wera Hobhouse is in the top five for House of Commons contributions on mental health while Alistair Carmichael is on the case about increasing court backlogs.

Alex Cole-Hamilton is calling for action on faulty concrete in schools and Jane Dodds has accused the Home Secretary of putting lives at risk.

Lib Dem-run South Cambridgeshire is successfully using bright pink bins for electrical goods recycling and Kent councillor Antony Hook has been profiled in the local press.

Brian Paddick is now a non-executive director for the Met Police and Tim Farron is running a half marathon in memory of his late cousin.

The surprising TV habit of Lib Dem voters

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

GB News viewers as likely as ITV News viewers to support the Lib Dems: “All the caveats about this only being one poll apply, of course. Though the sample sizes for the cross-tabs are very chunky, giving them more reliability than usual…”

A mystery at the heart of British politics: “There’s an odd role-reversal between the Conservative and Labour Parties when you look at their internal politics…”

Even 2019 Conservative voters are not keen on Suella Braverman: “Striking approval ratings from Savanta for Conservative Home Secretary, Suella Braverman…”

The growing importance of housing to Lib Dems: “For very dull reasons I stumbled on what I’d written about the mood in the Liberal Democrats after the party’s 2015 autumn Federal Party conference…”

A very special bar chart: “So much that is so… interesting about this bar chart of constitutions…”

What the polls are saying

Latest general election opinion polls table

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

Voting intentions graph from ElectionMapsUK

Here are the issues that the public says are the most important to them:

Ipsos monthly issues tracker

While here are the trends behind that data:

Ipsos issues trends graph

Four insights from new British Social Attitudes survey

The annual British Social Attitudes (BSA) survey – which I briefly did a little bit of promotional work for a few years back – has the time, budget and expertise to be a gold standard annual piece of research. In particular, it has the time and money to persistently track down people to get a high quality, truly representative sample.

So what does it tell us? Find out here in one of the recent editions of my weekly polling newsletter, The Week in Polls.

Quarterly by-election statistics

Council by-elections round-up

Contests since last time have seen Lib Dem seat gains from both Labour and the Conservatives, a new second place in a ward in the PM’s own constituency, some Labour holds in London but also a big swing to the Lib Dems from Labour in London, as well as a successful defence in Cheltenham.

These contests bring the running tally of seat changes since the main May elections to Lib Dem +10, Green +3, Labour -1, Conservative -13. For more details, see my local by-elections scorecard here.

Elsewhere, a West Oxfordshire councillor has joined Labour.

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 but isn’t free to run. 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:

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Selection news

Westminster Parliament selections made public since last time include Hitchin: Chris Lucas, Islington North: Vikas Aggarwal, Maidstone and The Weald: David Naghi, Sevenoaks: Richard Streatfeild, Reading West & Mid Berkshire: Helen Belcher, Sittingbourne and Sheppey: Frances Kneller, Solihull: Ade Adeyemo, Streatham and Croydon North: Claire Bonham and Suffolk Coastal: Julia Ewart.

Simon De Deney has been selected for the Mayor of Hackney by-election.

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…

This is what delivery heaven looks like.

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

Thank you and best wishes,


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