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Review of the 2014 European & Local Elections Campaign

July 18, 2014 6:00 PM
Originally published by UK Liberal Democrats

After the elections in May, the Leader tasked a group with reviewing the elections, assessing what worked and what didn't, and produce recommendations to improve our campaigning for the future.

On Monday, the Review Group presented our findings to the Leader and later to the Federal Executive. I am pleased to say that they endorsed both the report and its recommendations, and we will now set about putting them into practice well in advance of next year's elections.

In what was the most-read Party email in some time, more than 700 individual members made representations to the Review Group and almost 2,000 pages of contributions were received by the end of the process. This helped us to produce a 50 page - nearly 20,000 word - report which we presented in fully to the governing bodies of the parties. Here, and on the party website, we share as much as we felt able to without unduly aiding those running against us in future elections.

Concerns raised by members largely fell into three interlinked groups (the three T's):

  • Tories - our association with the Tories in coalition has made it more difficult to appeal to former Labour voters who swung behind us in 2010, and to win soft Labour voters over;
  • Tuition Fees - breaking of the pledge was raised in responses less as something that was raised with activists on the doorstep, and more as a reason as to why some of our messages failed to gain traction;
  • TV Debates (and messaging) - placing ourselves as the direct opponents to UKIP made it difficult to present the core Lib Dem message of membership and reform of the EU, and didn't leave enough space to campaign on the strong records of our MEPs. It also meant that the sheer volume given to the opposition to our core position, in the media and elsewhere, made it difficult for us to retain trust in our key messages.

As a group, we worked to come up with a range of recommendations off the back of these concerns, including improving the dissemination of real-time campaigning lines, establishing a process for canvass responses to feed back into the messaging process, ensuring that campaigning targets and plans are tailored to specific local circumstances rather than being set at a national level, and improving the availability and communication of training and fixes for Connect.

Perhaps most importantly, we made clear that over the next 9 months the party should ensure that we are producing inspiring and motivating messages for our activists and the electorate, and ensuring that our manifesto is centred on Liberal Democrat policy - not a defence of the status quo.

We are very good at beating ourselves up as a Party. We desire innovation, improvement and delivery as part of our natural politics and are not afraid to demand it of ourselves. The road to 2015 will involve tough choices and huge amounts of hard work. The responses reveal that passion, dedication and enthusiasm exist in abundance within the Party. We hope that the recommendations provided to the Leader and the Federal Executive can play a significant role in enabling the Party as a whole to realise its rightful potential.

A fuller report of the review can be found by party members here