Having criticised the dullness of the previous round of emails to party members from the candidates to be the next Liberal Democrat President, it’s fair to say the latest round is much better (reproduced in full below).
Much better, but… what is there really in the emails below that will persuade anyone to switch their votes?
If all three candidates think they’re comfortably ahead (and of course they might all think that even though logically they can’t be) then the emails are good, safe options to confirm their position.
But if any of them thinks they really need to win over extra voters, what’s the special point of difference in their messages that really has a chance of making a member think not merely ‘hey, they sound pretty good’ but also ‘and they sound so much better than the others that I’ll switch my vote’?
Almost all the sentences in almost all the emails could have come from any of them. None of them have done the job that Ed and I made the title of Chapter 16 in 101 Ways To Win An Election: “Define the election as being for a job your candidate and only your candidate can do”.
Leaving aside the technical blemishes (Sal is the only candidate to include a web address for more information – useful in a low-information contest like this one – yet she is also the one of the three who didn’t personalise the email), that’s the messaging hole at their heart.
That’s not all bad – none of the three is saying they’ve got an expertise in messaging that the emails would belie, and frankly I’d rather have a President who concentrated on those parts of the job that only a President can do (leading much needed reforms of the party though their chairing of the Federal Executive) than one who presented themselves as the party’s messaging saviour.
Nor is it easy to carve out a winning messaging in an internal contest like this (which is one of the reasons why one of the two election campaigns I’ve run which I’m proudest of was an internal contest too – Lynne Featherstone’s selection campaign for the 2000 GLA elections).
But even so, it’s surprising that even at the end all three seem to be struggling to find the points which really distinguish themselves from their rivals.
Voting in the contest closes at noon on Wednesday 26 November and you can read about their two previous rounds of emails here and here.
Please join me in the revival of the Party we love
Dear fellow Liberal Democrat,
I have found it inspiring and enjoyable meeting so many members over the last few months. Their interest, commitment and determination has been a joy. I have been on the campaign trail, including at a number of social events, at Federal Conference and the 14 hustings around the country. I have travelled up and down the UK from farthest Aberdeen to Aberystwyth and from Newcastle to Exeter.
Thank you for your time, your views and your suggestions for the future of the party. You’ve told me that you find the party remote – apart from plenty of emails! – and needs to make members feel more valued.
If you haven’t already voted, there are only a couple of days left to do it. Ballot papers have to be returned by midday on Wednesday 26 November. You can also vote online by following the instructions on your ballot paper.
I am standing to be President of the Liberal Democrats because I care about Liberal values. I care about the future of the Lib Dems and the role we play in politics in the UK. Most important of all, I care about making our Party democratic transparent and accountable to all our members. We all know that we face a very challenging time ahead. I believe as your President that I can make a real difference and help rebuild the Party to be a strong and effective Liberal voice in British politics.
A strong Liberal Democratic party is needed now as never before. We must lead the way, standing up to UKIP and the Eurosceptics. We must counter the slide to the right by the Tories and Labour. We must speak up for liberty, social justice and for Europe.
In the last 40 years since I joined the Liberals, I have done many things from deliverer, councillor, parliamentary candidate for Watford. I am now a backbencher in the House of Lords, as well as serving on Federal Policy Committee, Federal Conference Committee and Chairing the Diversity Engagement Group until March this year. I’ve also had experience outside the party, managing and leading organisations in business, charities and local government.
That’s why I am prepared for anything that the General Election throws at us next year. I will be ready to start our Liberal Democrat revival, helping the party grow in members, councillors and MPs again. I have outlined my action plan for the first 6 months on my website at www.salbrinton.co.uk.
Together we can and will bring the Lib Dems back to winning ways. Please give me your first preference vote and join me in the revival of the party we love.
Fighting in the toughest of circumstances for the future of our party.
I want to take this opportunity to thank those I have met on the campaign trail for their hospitality and support. I have been blown away by the level of commitment of our activists. The media is telling us that it is ‘game over’ for the party but I see something different. I see resilient and committed activists, councillors, MPs, AMs and MSPs, and our one MEP, fighting in the toughest of circumstances for the future of our party.
I want to lead our members in that fight. I want to breathe life back into depressed local parties and help every member experience winning.
We are less than six months away from a General Election that will define the future of our party. Commentators expect us to bury our heads in the sand, I will lead us into battle. We have excellent local MPs and a strong track record in local government to defend. We can and we must. As your President, I would move quickly to help raise an army of candidates and activists so that we can put up a strong fight.
If we find ourselves headed into coalition again, I will ensure the voice of Liberal Democrat members and councillors is heard by those leading the negotiations. Whatever the outcome of the election, I will ensure that our party is – and is seen to be – a strong political force for individual freedom, social justice and localism.
And over the next two years, we must reform and we must re-launch our party. As your President, I would lead a process to overhaul our structures to improve accountability in decision-making, professionalise disciplinary processes and give more support to the regions in order that we continue to grow our smaller parties.
I would also seek to launch a new, ambitious and inclusive nation-wide leadership scheme that will help us grow so that within 20 years we wipe out black holes, be as diverse as the UK, and re-build and empower our local government base and membership from community level up.
You still have a few days to cast your vote in the most important internal election this party has seen for four years.
This is your vote. Your voice. Your President. Please give me your first preference vote.
A huge honour meeting so many committed and hard working members
It has been a huge honour meeting so many committed and hard working members over the past few months: thank you for everything you do for the party.
I have travelled the length and breadth of the country campaigning with fellow Liberal Democrats on the doorstep, in parliamentary by-elections and council by-elections. I’ve taken part in many action days and helped in the Scottish Referendum. I have also attended many official and unofficial hustings and social events over the last few weeks. I have visited strong areas and not so strong seats. Targeting is essential but we should never dismiss any area as not being worthy of a visit. We must value our members in non-winnable seats and target seats alike.
What has struck me more than anything is the commitment of our members and the sheer dedication they have to our party. The pundits might be writing us off but they don’t take into account the resilience of our members not to give in and to continue to fight for Liberal Democrat values.
I also have that resilience and a capacity for hardwork, the qualities our new President will need over the next few months. I also have the experience as a successful campaigner and media performer. We may very well have a highly confused political situation after the General Election and may be in discussion with one or more other parties. We need a President that is beholden to no one, who is not associated with any party factions and who has experience as a former MP and MEP.
It is clear many members understand the need for the party to review and reform its structure, immediately after the General Election, I will initiate that process but will ensure it is inclusive and all members’ views are sought.
There are just a few days left to vote: the polls close on Wednesday at midday, if you have not yet voted, I invite your support. As President I intend listening to your views and will be your voice in communicating them to the centre. If you have voted, Thank you.