On our website, in our blogs and on social media we refer to building a ‘650 Seat Strategy for the Liberal Democrats’. This has led to some questions, from boundary reviews, to areas that the Liberal Democrats do not currently field candidates. Our core message is one of building a campaign that has a message for every voter, with no no go areas. To that extent, the 650 figure is illustrative, rather than literal. We have heard your questions though, so we’ll attempt to answer them here.
In 2011 Parliament passed legislation to reduce the number of MPs from 650 to 600. The Boundary Commission got to work on this, but its work was interrupted by disagreements between the Liberal Democrats and Conservatives in government (and we won’t go into that here…). As the law currently stands, the Commission must produce its review as to how the 600 new Constituencies should look by October 2018.
While it is incredibly likely that there will only be 600 seats in the next General Election (presumably in 2020 if there is not a ‘snap election’ soon), Liberal Democrat Expand’s position is to work to the existing number of seats until that number is officially changed.
We have been inspired by Howard Dean’s ’50 State Strategy’, and want to help the Liberal Democrats build an internal party culture which doesn’t have ‘no go areas’. We want even the smallest local parties to be building up, recruiting new members, talking to new voters, especially people that might previously have been considered ‘not our people’. This won’t necessarily be taking place at the constituency level, but it might be a ward where we have never campaigned before, or in trying to establish a new presence on the Local Council. We need to rebuild and re-establish our party ward-by-ward, and to eschew the culture of target seats hording resources and effort.
This is a message for every voter, and that includes areas where the Liberal Democrats do not currently stand, in Northern Ireland, for example. Liberal Democrat Expand does not have a view on whether the Liberal Democrats should be standing candidates in Northern Ireland. We believe that is a matter for the Northern Ireland Liberal Democrats and the Federal Executive to decide on. But we do have Liberal Democrat supporters in Northern Ireland. We believe those supporters should become members, those members should be ambitious for themselves and the party – whether that means feeding into mainland campaigns through telephone canvassing, campaigning to send Alliance MPs to sit alongside Liberal Democrat MPs in Westminster.
Originally posted 1 August 2016.
Gareth Shelton is the Director of Liberal Democrat Expand. You can follow him on Twitter at @garethalteran