In the latest edition of Ad Lib, the new Liberal Democrat Director of Campaigns and Elections Shaun Roberts has outlined his priorities from the party as a campaigning force going forward.
For those who have not received their Ad Lib yet or – worse – not read it (tsk!), he outlines them as follows:
- A focus on winning elections – nothing will grow our organisation and our credibility faster.
- Campaigns that show our identity and deliver change on issues from the economy to public services to EU citizens in the UK and renters’ rights – we will become the best campaigners in Britain again.
- A clear message and narrative about our party that helps build a liberal movement that can win campaigns and elections and deliver change – building a core liberal vote will be at the heart of this.
The emphasis is my own above. While point one is all motherhood and apple pie – you would be hard pressed to find any Liberal Democrats that do not thinking winning elections is important - I think we should cautiously welcome these priorities from the party’s new head of campaigns.
In particular the emphasis on developing our distinctiveness as a party and focusing on developing a core liberal vote – essential if we are to ever hold power alone - are very welcome, and indicative of the direction of travel within the party.
What this does not mean, however, is that we should assume that we are automatically winning the arguments on making the party a radical and distinctive force again.
We should maintain the pressure, through official channels by ensuring that HQ continue to add detail to these plans, and through conference and the Federal Policy Committee to ensure that our democratic processes endorse new and radical approaches to policy.
In particular, what we should want to know from the new Director of Campaigns is:
- What organisational and strategic changes will be made to central campaigning to ensure that developing a distinctive identity maintains central and how will we measure if we are to make a success of it?
- How will we ensure our clear message and narrative is both:
- Unique to our party in a way that 'Stronger Economy, Fairer Society' was not (e.g. Lab/Con supporters thought it applied to their parties).
- Measurable – how can we measure change and whether we are living our values?
- How can we measure the growth of our core vote against what Ryan Coetzee identified as our market – do we junk that market and start over? How do we measure our poll movements, and when should we start to be concerned about a strategy that does not work?
None of these are easy arguments to be had by any means whatsoever, and are questions that will get to the heart of what our new strategy shakes out to be.
If we are to chart a new way forward as a radical party that seeks to grow and recover from 2015, we need to try and address them.