On election as leader of the Liberal Democrats, Tim Farron outlined a vision of a campaigning party that would rebuild by returning to its roots of community activism. The simple call to arms of “pick a ward and win it” summed up that very vision. In essence, what Tim was saying was that the fightback would only be possible if party members were willing to go out and make it happen by electing Liberal Democrats in their local communities.
It is this self-starter attitude that Liberal Democrat Expand agree will be essential to the party rebuilding its local government base as well as providing the springboard needed to pursue a 650 seat strategy.
Whilst “pick a ward and win it” may sound like the perfect remedy to a party that has spent years in campaigning retreat, its simplicity means it ignores the barriers many members face to kicking off their own campaigns.
Part of the problem in the Liberal Democrats is we make the most basic of campaign activities inaccessible. The problem does not lie in the eagerness of members to go out and campaign, but in their inability to access the resources they need to make it happen. Not only do we have a party still split using two different campaigning technologies (Connect and EARS), we have many local parties without the ability to even produce basic literature. Where we do have individuals with the time and ability to put together and design leaflets, we leave the best templates hidden away in obscure Google Drives or behind paywalls.
With so much talent in one party, it beggars belief there is not a system in place where all you would need to do is input some text in a template of your choosing, press order and have your leaflets off to print and sent to a location where they can be collected. Other parties do it, there are people willing to make the technology to deliver it, yet we still appear to shun attempts to open up our campaigning to all. This is something the leadership need to grapple with if they want to open the party up and rebuild nationally.
Despite the present barriers to building an accessible campaigning party, Liberal Democrat Expand believe we can change this. We have three clear demands:
- Open up campaigning resources to all: If you are a paid up member of the party you should have the right to access the templates and resources needed to be a self-starting campaigner in your area. Resisting the culture of gate-keeping has to be at the heart of this.
- A campaigners’ network: A forum hidden away on Facebook simply doesn’t cut it. Clear lines of accountability and contact details for your local and regional campaigns officers should be a requirement in every area.
- Accessible training for all: The party’s online resources are excellent, but not everyone can access them or knows how to. We need to expand our training programmes by bringing them to people’s local communities by tapping into the talents of members across the country.
If we are to become a party where campaigning can be as simple as “pick a ward and win it” then we must remove the barriers that hold our members back from making this a reality.
Originally posted 6 August 2016.
Joshua Dixon is the Co-Founder of Liberal Democrat Expand and was Parliamentary Candidate for Ruislip, Northwood and Pinner Constituency in the 2015 General Election. You can follow him on Twitter at @JoshDixonTweets