Liberal Democrat Newswire #26: major changes to staffing at party HQ

Edition #26 of Liberal Democrat Newswire came out last week, looking at the major changes being made to the Liberal Democrat HQ operation in Great George Street. You can now also read it in full below.

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Mark Pack

Special edition: party HQ restructured

Welcome to the 26th edition of my newsletter about the Liberal Democrats, a special mid-month extra reporting on the big changes being made at Liberal Democrat HQ in Great George Street.

Thanks for reading,


Big changes at Great George Street

Great George Street receptionI’d commented before that Liberal Democrat Chief Executive Tim Gordon has make a good impression since starting the job, but that judgments wouldn’t mean much until his first big, difficult decision. Well, he can now be judged as this week he unveiled a major restructuring of the staffing at the party’s Great George Street HQ.

This is not one of those cases where cuts are dressed up as a restructure, for overall staffing costs will stay roughly the same. Instead it is an attempt to make more out of what there is.

There will now be five directorates:

  • Elections and Field (strategic seats, member and supporter development, candidates, diversity and training, call centre), headed by Hilary Stephenson, also newly promoted to Deputy Chief Executive
  • Political Communication (media, internal communications, ground communications, strategic research, policy and international), headed up by Tim Snowball
  • Commercial (fundraising and conferences), headed up by Tim Gordon himself
  • Finance and Operations (finance, payroll, HR, compliance, HQ admin), headed up by Nigel Bliss
  • Digital (digital campaigns, the Connect database, digital infrastructure, digital content, data), for which the party is recruiting externally to find a head

All the directorate heads in place so far are therefore also all people who were already senior managers at HQ. The structure beneath them is however very different.

The old Campaigns Department, more recently Elections and Skills, has in effect been split into two, as has the old Membership Services team. Parts of both are together in the new Elections and Field team – a logical move as membership and local campaigning infrastructure are so closely inter-related.

Meanwhile, another part of the old Campaigns Department is now in with the media team in the Political Communication directorate. It’s been a long-standing complaint and worry that the party’s messaging is not consistent enough, so again there is a clear logic to bringing together those who deal with journalists and those who deal with letterboxes.

The risk, of course, is that without one joined-up membership team and without one joined-up target seats team, a different sets of divisions and lack of co-ordination rise up to take the place of the old problems. That the party is now in one modern, open-plan office makes that much less likely than the very bitty building spread over several floors and with many small rooms in which I used to work when at party HQ. The real test will be how the staff take to the structure and so far the mood music from staff at HQ is positive.

Notable amongst those taking the chance of the restructure to look for a change in career rather than go for one of the new posts is David Loxton, long-standing head of the party’s membership operations and an often unsung hero who led the turnaround of the membership team. He also oversaw a long overdue modernisation of the party’s membership IT from a database that was based on a system to track American helicopter spare parts during the Vietnam war to a rather more modern one.

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Farewell, Liberal Democrat News

Liberal Democrat News front pageThe HQ reshuffle also sees the axing of the party’s weekly newspaper, Liberal Democrat News. It has increasingly struggled in the face of twin pressures: higher postage costs making its business model hard to sustain, whilst the speed with which news passes round on the internet made the idea of a weekly publication increasingly unsuitable.

A weekly cycle has become too slow to be a provider of breaking news, whilst also too frequent to allow for much in the way of more reflective and diverse content as the small team was kept so busy simply getting a newspaper out each week.

In 2011, the newspaper made a loss of £43,708. That was a continuation of a regular pattern of loss-making, even with the captive market of advertisement income for parliamentary candidate selections. That advertising income made its overall figures look better but was simply a transfer of money from one part of the party to another.

Following the retirement of the newspaper’s editor, Deirdre Razzall, it will therefore be replaced with a new party magazine. A new job is already being advertised to produce it.

There are many people in party HQ who have to try to work miracles with sparse resources, especially the party’s newspaper team, producing Liberal Democrat News and its predecessors on a shoestring for decades. All the more impressive if you have ever looked at the range of raw materials sent them; the press releases and photos available to choose from have not always been of the best quality, shall we say. Events have, however, overtaken their valiant efforts.

Are you a Lib Dem conference rep?

Mark Pack's FPC manifestoDuring this week, Liberal Democrat voting conference reps are receiving voting packs for the party’s federal committees. I am standing for the Federal Policy Committee (FPC), so if you are a voting rep please read on…

I think I’ve got the necessary mix of policy expertise and practical campaign understanding that we need at the heart of our policy process. Policy expertise because our policies need to deliver the right outcomes, and practical campaign understanding because our policies need to be able to withstand the fire of an election.

Here’s what some other people have said about me:

“Influential and highly respected” – Andrew Marr
“One of the party’s key thinkers on campaigning” – Daily Telegraph

You can read my manifesto here and you can read more about my views, including the four policies I would put on the front of our 2015 manifesto, here.

101 Ways To Win An Election: have you bought it yet?

101 Ways To Win An Election - book cover

Its 308 pacy pages cheerfully zig-zag between marketing manual, self-help book, and campaigning A-Z — with dollops of political history, pop-psychology, and behavioural economics thrown in for good measure – Stephen Tall

101 Ways To Win An Election is available:

Happy reading!

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