If there is one thing that Liberal Democrats are good at it is bouncing back after a setback!
You will find Liberal Democrats who think the Coalition was our finest hour and those who tell you it was an unmitigated disaster. Some activists you will meet are still angry and grieving for what we lost in 2015. Others are sunk in apathy and despair. But more are waking up to the need to get things moving in the Liberal Democrats.
What makes this even more daunting is that the game itself has changed in this post Brexit Referendum world. The rise of the so-called ‘Alt-Right’, personified in the UK by that cross between a caricature pub bore and racist, sitcom villain, Nigel Farage, is just one symptom of a convulsive change in politics around the globe.
Another is the sight of an unrestrained Tory Government laying waste to Human Rights legislation unrestrained by a dysfunctional and disintegrating Labour Party.
So just how are we going to get back to our winning ways? I suggest there are three key steps that every member can get involved with.
- Keep doing what works.
- Try new and exciting things too.
- Be optimistic and believe we will win in the end.
So what does work?
Talking and listening to local people has always been our strength. Getting out and talking to the public is a fantastic way to understand local issues and find a way to help your community. I want to see regular Focus leaflets written by local activists who understand their communities going through doors across the land. Just as important is to get on doorsteps and talk to local residents. Listen to what people care about locally and help make things better by doing the casework you pick up. Run petitions and issue Press Releases locally.
Get into using social media. Facebook is the key to breaking out of the political forums and talking to that strange person the ‘ordinary member of the public’! I want to see FOCUS street videos each featuring a single issue pop up all over the place. They can be filmed in a morning and be up on the internet and Facebook within a couple of hours – you don’t
need to be Peter Jackson to make one – get out there and have a go!
Lots of new members tell me they want to contribute to Lib Dem policy making. Invite a speaker -remember the MPs, including Tim Farron, are crazy busy and very hard to get hold of – or just get a load of local members together to look at a policy area in detail. After all, this is the Liberal Democrats, you don’t need permission to have discussion!
You may not be a target seat yet, but if you want to build a team of skilled campaigners then ask for a training session. Subjects as varied as fundraising, leaflet design or leadership skills might just catch your eye. You can have a training workshop just for your constituency or invite a few other local parties to join in. ALDC can help or LDHQ can give you the name of an approved trainer in your Region for the subject you want.
You could even host an Inspiration Day or an Engagement Day to help your local Party grow in size and effectiveness.
So how does all this help you believe we will win in the end?
For a start we can celebrate the talent and dedication of our fantastic new members. People who have joined us in the last two years are bringing new skills and new ideas to the Party. Allied to the experience and dedication four existing activists, this is a terrific opportunity to make the Liberal Democrats count in seats that could never have hoped to win in the past.
Getting a Local Party active can give you and your fellow local Liberal Democrats a real buzz. Whatever kind of seat you live in you can generate lots of positive energy and fun. Just look at the amazing team that the brilliant Elaine Bagshaw and her team are building in Tower Hamlets.
Getting out and campaigning with members old and new is addictive… really!
Even better is standing a candidate in a local, election and then winning! The results in local by-elections around the country are inspiring. They are way better than any opinion poll rating for the Party. These real votes in real ballot boxes tell us what the media have yet to notice. We are on the way back.
The Liberal Democrats are winning again. We can believe in ourselves again.
And we will keep that momentum going until we can again place liberalism at the heart of the British political system, where it belongs.
Originally posted 23 September 2016.
Candy Piercy was the Deputy Director of Campaigns for the Liberal Democrats for over ten years and co-authored the party’s review into the 2015 General Election as a member of the Campaigns and Communications Committee. You can follow her on Twitter at @CandyPiercy