To mark the start of 2012, I’m running a series of posts over consecutive days on the main challenges for the Liberal Democrats in 2012. I’ve already written about the four priorities for the party’s new Chief Executive, Tim Gordon, but as the Liberal Democrats are more than just the one man whilst he has four, this series sets out six for the party.
Quite simply, too many Liberal Democrat ministers have too low a profile. If low profiles came despite working hard to get coverage and to communicate, that might be excusable. After all, that was the fate of some very hard working shadow ministers before 2010.
That excuse does not apply – for those with low profiles not only do not secure media coverage, they do not make use of the channels of communication open to them, such as emails to party members of guest posts on Lib Dem Voice.
If you are not getting much coverage and not even taking the easiest steps, there is no-one to blame but yourself.
Of course ministers are busy and being a minister adds even more time pressures to the already horrendously crowded diaries of conscientious politicians. But you can be a minister and communicate, even if you have to cut your cloth a little to suit the changed circumstances.
Lynne Featherstone is a good example of this, having understandably cut back some of her online activity since becoming a minister yet still ensuring a good level of communication through simple steps such as making sure all her local newspaper columns continue to go up on her website and so out via Twitter and Facebook too.
Yet what The Observer wrote a year ago still applies:
[Lib Dem ministers] have put in surprisingly impressive performances. The dilemma is that much of this work is invisible to all but the most avid Whitehall watchers and this allows their Conservative cabinet ministers to take the credit.
The need for more and better communications applies more widely through the party of course – and not just nationally, given how shockingly infrequent and poor some local party newsletters are or the highly intermittent, at best, use of emails in some local parties.
After all, if the party isn’t providing supporters with good information via electronic means, they’ll simply get their news about us from Guido Fawkes instead.
Whilst I would like to think that the quickly growing readership and sky-high open rates for my own monthly email newsletter about the Liberal Democrats are something to do with the work I put into it, it certainly also reflects the appetite there is for more and better communication.
Just as there are many local party stars, there are many in ministerial ranks and elsewhere in the party. Many, but not enough. In 2012 that needs to change.
You can read the full set of challenges here.