Continuing her series of guest posts for this site, Party President candidate Linda Jack today sets out her plans for the party’s campaign organisation.
Linda Jack: Restore, Renew, Respect – Developing the party
It doesn’t matter how wonderful our message is, it’s getting our message across that matters. Much of that is to do with understanding the electorate and what motivates them, but it is also about how we deploy our resources and ensure we are effective at a local level.
It is absolutely right for the party to continue to focus its efforts on key constituencies where we have a bedrock of support. It has generally been true that once we are established, we are hard to dislodge. For May 2015 many of our well-established local government and MP bases are under threat and this must be our top priority in the run up to the general election.
However we do have another major longer-term problem in constituency development, which will hinder our revival.
Many parliamentary constituencies or county/borough parties are not developing at all. Some have divided factions. Some have only a handful of members. Others have small, sometimes insular, groups of friends, and some appear strong and active but never seem to break through to having any councillors. There are insufficient ‘strongholds of the future’.
We win support through our community politics, but it sometimes needs a helping hand to get going. I have heard tales of new members struggling to find local contacts, joining online, and after attending their first meeting (or before) being given several kilos of leaflets to deliver. This can be de-motivating, especially if there is a feeling that there is a party elite ‘standing on the shoulders of the members’.
My reform proposals include measures to address these problems.
First and foremost we must see each constituency as an opportunity. This may seem obvious, but it is not so. If active members move to a new area, they must be able to find up to date information about their local party. Members and activists need to feel valued, locally and nationally.
Everyone who engages in a political party does so because they want things to change, sometimes that is limited to just wanting support the party they believe can deliver the change they want to see, often they want to do something – which may be more than just delivering leaflets!
There are also virtual communities new members can get involved in – we need to ensure new members receive information about these and about our numerous internal party organisations and how they can get involved. This will help members in ‘desert’ areas to feel more connected to the wider party and will ultimately help to strengthen the party in their area.
We need a solid ongoing and relevant analysis of each and every constituency in order to solve problems and ensure each is properly equipped and supported. And that is not just about resources it’s also about sharing good practice, offering expertise – avoiding reinventing the wheel.
I want to develop a time bank where activists and members can donate their expertise and swap credits for something they may need locally.
Do you have a particular skill in say web or Focus design – will you donate half a day to advise another party? Are you an HR expert, would you donate time to help another party to deal with a difficult internal issue? Do you have an interesting expertise that you would be prepared to go to a party event to talk about? Time could be banked and swapped for something your local party needs , telephone canvassing, delivery, article writing etc.
We also need to recast how regional parties work in order to be the hub that enables effective campaigning on the ground.
Regional conferences that duplicate Federal Spring and Autumn conference activities mean that we are missing opportunities. Problem-solving and addressing regional issues should come first. Regional parties should have a major role in providing feedback on ‘events on the ground’.
Finally, we need a new approach to campaigning on the ground, community politics for the 21st century, enthusing and encouraging all our members to get involved – more on this next time.
You can read Linda Jack’s previous guest posts for this site too:
- Linda Jack sets our her plans for party reform: four problems to fix
- Linda Jack: too many of our members believe they are taken for granted, and that their hard work merely creates opportunities for a party elite
- Linda Jack: four ways to improve Lib Dem policy making